An Overnight from Bloomington, Minnesota to William O’Brien State Park

My 100-mile, round-trip excursion from Bloomington, Minnesota to William O’Brien State Park on paved road and trails.

Bicycle Adventurers: Solo adventure

When: April 2017

Accommodations: Camping at William O’Brien State Park

Distance: 100 miles in two days

Bonus tip for this adventure:

  • The town of Marine on St. Croix, Minnesota is located 2.5 miles from the park. It’s small, but has a general store with a deli, coffee shop, bakery, and a bar. All three food groups are covered here!
  • William O’Brien State Park has a bike tune-up station.
     

Day One

A strong tailwind pushed me north on my way out of Minneapolis. I chose to go through Minneapolis’ Chain of Lakes district of the Grand Rounds Scenic Byway, a greenspace circling the city.

Ride details: Ride around Lake Harriet and Lake Calhoun before taking the Cedar Lake trail to the perimeter of downtown Minneapolis. Ride past the Minnesota Twins Target Field before hopping on the Mississippi River trail for five miles. Cross the river into St. Paul and follow historic Summit Ave. with its designated bike lane. Once you hit the state capitol building, head east for a mile and get on the Bruce Vento trail and go north for five miles. Turn right on the Gateway Trail for the next 15 miles. Your last stop for food and beverage will be the gas station located next to the giant snowman in North St. Paul. Now the trail gets remote and very scenic with many lakes and forest until you hit the exit at Pine Point Park — bathroom and bike tune-up station located here. The trail is in excellent condition.

The final 15 miles are on backcountry roads: lightly traveled and freshly paved with wide shoulders. You’ll finish your ride with a mile-long downhill toward the St. Croix River. Be sure to grab some food and beverage in Marine on St. Croix, and from there, it’s just a short trip to William O’Brien State Park, mostly on a bike trail.

Day Two

Being the only non-RV or car camper in the park draws attention, and you’ll find people walking into your campsite to ask about your ride. It’s impressive how minimalist bikepacking is compared to the others in the campground, and it’s definitely the best way to experience the trip.

Return details: Riding home, I was able to find some alternative back roads leading to the Gateway Trail which were equally great. Instead of going home through Minneapolis, I chose to cross the Mississippi River in downtown St. Paul. Bike trails led me along the Mississippi to the Minnesota River junction where I followed that trail all the way into Bloomington just east of the Mall of America. Cross the Minnesota River on the Interstate 494 bike path. It is separated from the road with a concrete barrier.

The whole trip can be done in 24 hours, and it’s a great escape from the city into one of the most scenic areas of Minnesota.

Your favorite local bike shop? Flanders Brothers Cycle in Minneapolis, Minnesota

Bike overnight tips and tricks?

  • Pack wool and down clothing for Minnesota trips in April. Overnight temperatures were in the 30s. 
  • Park staff will drive firewood to your site if you ask.

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HOW ABOUT YOU? Inspire others by submitting your own bike overnight adventure!

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