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The MRT route in Minnesota has been designated as the state's first U.S. Bike Route. By clicking the link below, you will be taken to a Minnesota Department of Transportation (MNDOT) Maps website link of the route developed by MNDOT. Detailed and specific maps and route information are available and downloadable.

As the Minnesota DOT changes the route in the future, updates to the maps will automatically be available through clicking the link above. These maps are a quick and easy way to see the portion of the MRT developed by state officials and local bicycling organizations.

Minnesota, long known for its avid bicycling and outdoor activities, is a near perfect cyclist's destination for a day, a week, a month or longer. During your adventure, be sure to visit the Mississippi River National River and Recreation Area. This fantastic and protected section of Mississippi River offers a host of recreational activities for outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds.


Resources & Links

  • Minnesota DOT -- The Minnesota Department of Transportation.
  • Twin Cities Bicycle Club -- a large and active local cycling club.
  • Minnesota Bike Map -- highways, bikeable roads and off-road trails, such as rails-to-trails.
  • DNR State Trails
  • Mississippi Valley Partners -- information on communities along the river in southeastern Minnesota and southwestern Wisconsin.
  • Mississippi River Parkway Commission has information on many towns, amenities, and services suitable for bicyclists touring in Minnesota. Find info on accommodations and other services at these Convention and Visitors Bureau web sites (these towns are about one day's ride apart):
    • Bemidji
    • Grand Rapids
    • Brainerd
    • Little Falls
    • St. Cloud
    • Red Wing
    • Winona
    • Lake City

Sense of Place

The MRT begins at Itasca State Park, a Mecca for bicyclists and the location of the headwaters of the great river. Itasca Park contains over 20 miles of paved biking trails, giving riders unsurpassed experiences traveling through the pines and birch of Minnesota's North Woods.

After it leaves the park, the MRT winds north along the river, traversing county roads, to the city of Bemidji. Here the main trail connects to a number of city and regional trails, providing for as much or as little recreational sightseeing as the bicyclist desires. From Bemidji, the MRT heads southeast along the Paul Bunyan Trail, a state-developed rail-trail conversion. This 100 mile long paved trail takes the cyclist from the north woods into the farming and lake country around Brainerd. This is resort country in Minnesota, with fishing spots and golf courses seemingly around every bend in the road.

From Brainerd, the MRT follows county roads, some with marked bike lanes and some with paved shoulders, through the small cities of Little Falls and St. Cloud. These towns, along with other smaller communities along the river, offer all the services and conveniences bicyclists need, along with an important cross-section of Minnesota's historic places and diverse natural areas. The river here is much bigger than its northern origins, and several of the river towns still have important industrial and commercial connections to the river.

South of St. Cloud, the density of community settlement increases greatly, as the rider approaches the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Towns intersperse with farms, and occasional wooded areas remain, as the MRT follows the river to the birthplace of Minnesota.

Minneapolis and St. Paul are both river cities, and the MRT route through this major urban area captures all the vibrancy and beauty the cities have to offer. Here the bicyclist passes St. Anthony Falls, the only waterfall on the Mississippi and the source of power that made Minneapolis the world's leader in flour milling for half a century. Downtown St. Paul remains an important river and rail transportation center, continuing to build on traditions dating back to James J. Hill, the "Empire Builder" who connected the northwest with his Great Northern rails. But the MRT in the Twin Cities is quiet as well as lively. The hundreds of miles of recreational trails through the cities connect nearly a dozen city parks and natural areas; the MRT is a spine that bicyclists can take to any kind of environment they seek.

South of St. Paul, the MRT passes through several smaller cities before coming to Lake Pepin, a dramatic widening of the river that signals that we're in a different kind of landscape. South of Lake Pepin, the river, by now assuming the look of greatness, and bluffs dominate the landscape. Small cities like Wabasha and Winona offer respite and services, but this is river country.


Take Note

Designation or identification of the Mississippi River Trail is not a guarantee that the route will be safe for all riders under all conditions. The Mississippi River Trail descriptions are intended at this point for use by experienced long-distance bicyclists. Users ride at their own risk, and understand that they will commonly be sharing the road with motorized vehicular traffic. No liability, expressed or implied, is assumed by Mississippi River Trail Inc. for any result occasioned by use of these descriptive documents.

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