Pathways to Afton

Late last summer my boyfriend and I rode out to Afton State Park from St. Paul, Minnesota. We had a taken a much longer Adventure Cycling trip earlier in the summer, which required a long drive, much planning, and a lot more gear. For this trip we took only a fraction of what we needed for our Idaho adventure, and it worked out great! 

I had my trunk bag with the stove, fuel, dishes, and food, and Derek brought the tent, a change of clothes, and our sleeping pads and bags. 

We rode from downtown across the Mississippi River on the Robert Street Bridge toward South St. Paul and over the 494 Bridge. Then we followed segments of the newly marked Mississippi River Trail through Cottage Grove for a few miles until we hit the hill for 21st Street. This has a bike path/sidewalk that goes all the way to the state park. 

Once we got to the park and rode down to the waterfront, we realized it was going to be a steep hike of about a quarter mile to get to the walk-in sites. Derek made a good effort to ride up, but I decided to walk it. 

The ride was about 25 miles long, including a few miles of scenic riding within the park.

Once we were settled in at the park we found some saws and free, cut-it-yourself firewood, which worked out perfectly to cook our hobo dinners. 

After touring around some of the hiking trails and the riverfront, I took a nap in the sun while Derek fround a park bench and read his book.

On our way home the next day we headed to Stillwater for some burgers at the Freight House, and then went back to St. Paul along the Gateway Trail. We had also planned to ride around Lake Elmo, but a storm rolled in and we cut our return trip short and got home only slightly wet!

Get more information about bike overnights.

Tip for this adventure: The route is on bike lanes or bike paths from start to finish. I would recommend it for families wanting to camp and who are towing small kids in the trailer. There is one hill coming out of the river valley up to the state park, but overall it's a very tame ride, with nice new pavement and low traffic for long stretches. Cost is $18 (remember your checkbook or exact change) to camp at Afton, and the sites are nicely spaced apart. 

Favorite local bike shop: I take my bikes to Omnium in Cathedral Hill. Scott, the lead mechanic, and Dan, one of the owners, are always friendly and helpful. Sometimes they even share their pastries and coffee from the Cheeky Monkey across the street.

4 responses so far ↓

Bryant - Nov 24, 2014 at 8:16 PM

I did this ride in 2011. Nice ride, but the hills near Afton did a little ass-kicking on me. The camping was really nice. I think I might have been in the same spot!

Emily - May 11, 2015 at 2:20 AM

I found this very helpful. What a joy to read. Thanks.

Brad - Jun 23, 2015 at 9:15 PM

Can you elaborate on which street/highway had a bike path from the metro all the way to Afton state park?

michelle - Aug 14, 2015 at 9:57 PM

Do you need a reservation or will they accept any bike camper for day-of sites??

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