Minnesota River Bottoms
From MORC Wiki
|Trail Name:||Minnesota River Bottoms|
|Length:||11 miles (one way)|
|Lap:||45-90 min each way|
|Physically:||Beginner to Moderate|
Getting ThereRiver Bottom Access Points. The most popular entrance points [due to the size of the parking lots] are at Bloomington Ferry Road (West end), Lyndale Ave (central), and Indian Mounds Elementary School (East end).
Bloomington Ferry Road Access Point (West end): From Hwy 169, exit at Old Shakopee Rd. Head east on Old Shakopee until Bloomington Ferry Road. Head south on Bloomington Ferry. At the first stop sign, turn right and follow the road south. In about 3 blocks look for the Bloomington Ferry signs pointing to the right. Turn right, head down the hill, and park. The trail starts to the left of the information kiosk.
Lyndale Ave Access Point (central): From 35W, exit at 106th St. Head east on 106th until Lyndale Ave. Head south on Lyndale Ave. Lyndale Ave dead-ends at a parking lot. Park here; the trail heads out in both directions from the south end of the lot.
Indian Mounds Elementary School Access Point (East end): From 35W, exit at 98th St. Head east on 98th until Portland Ave. After the stoplight at Portland, start looking to the right for the brown information sign that points to Martin Luther Manor, and Indian Mounds. Turn right here (98th St.) Take 98th a few blocks east until 11th Avenue. Turn south on 11th. Park in the school parking lot, which will be on your left. To pickup the trail, head south on 11th Ave. for a couple blocks and watch for the trail head on your left. You'll see the gravel doubletrack heading down the hill past the 'Caution Drop Off' sign.
Trail Conditions: Depending on the season, the trail conditions vary quite a bit. Early in the spring things are usually pretty sandy, especially if the trail was flooded out by the winter thaw. Once summer arrives expect the field grass to grow over eye level, and the stinging nettles to come out in abundance... and you can't forget the mosquitoes. It's generally a good idea to not stand in one spot for too long or you'll be an unwilling blood donor. The trail is usually in the best shape in the fall as the grass and weeds have died or been trimmed back and the sand is packed down. Additionally, you don't have to worry about bugs or blind corners from overgrown foliage. Winter brings a little unpredictability to the trail. If it's a light snow winter, expect a packed singletrack for the whole trail.
Trail Etiquette: Please keep in mind that both the single and doubletrack paths are two-way the entire length of the trail. Also, this is multi-purpose trail, and there are usually quite a few walkers/runners [including their pets]. Most of the walkers are responsive and appreciate a kind "bike back", but keep in mind that bikers must yield to pedestrians. It's also common courtesy to slow down and pass with caution. These small behaviors help us maintain good relations with both the public and Hennepin County.
Trail Description: The below description outlines the details of the trail starting from Bloomington Ferry Rd. (west end) to Indian Mounds (east end).
From the parking lot, the trail dives into the woods to the east of the information kiosk, and it's nearly 11 miles of singletrack until you reach the other end. The first bit of the trail heads south following the river wandering through forest and field. Throughout the trail you have a good look at the river activity as the trail never ventures far from shore. A couple miles into the ride, the trail enters Isaak Walton League property. This is private property, but they are generous enough to let us ride through. Let's observe good trail etiquette by sticking on one line so we keep the trail narrow.
There are a few spurs the head off away from the river. A few of these dead end into nothing, but a couple are fun alternates. If it looks like the trail is tapering off into nothing, turn around -- the trail is heading onto private property.
Option 1) MORC has put in a raft that you can pull yourself across on. Good luck not getting devoured in mosquito season, especially if you have to wait for someone else to cross. The raft gets pulled late in the fall, and put back in the spring. During the winter, the creek freezes solid and can be ridden on. PLEASE CHECK FIRST BEFORE CROSSING.
Option 2) In November of 2009, MORC built a walking bridge that utilizes an existing tree that fell from one side of the creek to the other. The bridge is roughly two feet wide, which is perfect for a person and their bike.
After the creek crossing, the trail continues east and widens into a doubletrack, eventually turning into a dirt road. Though not well known, there is a great singletrack path that hugs the river in this area. The trail is marked [poorly] with some red and green spray paint on trees where the trail starts [which is roughly 150 yards into the doubletrack]. It is a tight/fast trail with lots of sharp turns and trees. The trail ends about half-way down the dirt road. Whether you take this singletrack path, or simply stay with the main trail, the dirt road will eventually cross under 35W and hit the Lyndale parking lot.
The trail continues east, and about 50 yards in, it forks. Either way gets you to the same point, but veering right (closest to the river) takes you on an intermediate singletrack; heading left keeps you on a beginner doubletrack. Next up, you'll run into a gravel road that's about 1/4th of a mile. Follow this road until it starts to head north, then keep your eyes open for the trail to pickup again going east. It's not that difficult to miss, but you'll know you went too far if you start to make a long gradual climb up the gravel road. As you enter the trail at this location, it immediately forks. Be sure to take the left (north) path; the right path takes you into Eagan.
At this point, the trail takes on a different personality. It's mostly singletrack from here on in, and there are plenty of small/medium climbs as the trail heads up onto the bluff. Be careful in this area because of the high speeds and the poor sight lines. Also, the trail has a tendency to fork in many directions in this section. Mostly all of them take you to the same location, but as stated before, if the trail looks like it dissipates or is heading towards a dead end, simply turn around and get on a different trail. Many of the trails also head to the tops of the bluffs to various access points. It might take a couple times to become familiar with the trail network, but hey, that's what mountain biking is all about.
If you stick with the north trails, you'll make a couple medium sized climbs that will take you to various picnic tables and resting areas. Feel free to catch your breath, as you're not quite there yet. At the first picnic table, head down the trail to the east of the 'to Lyndale' sign. Next, you'll pop up at an old city park. The parking lot is still there, but it's closed to traffic and there is grass growing up everywhere.
From the parking lot, head out east along the treeline, go past a few picnic tables and fire pits, and head into the woods. Stick with the main trail until you get to a creek. This is the end of the line. Any further east and you run into off-limits land. The Feds will (and have) confiscate your bike if they catch you in the wildlife preserve. Head left up the hill following the creek. After crossing the creek a couple times, you'll hit the crushed rock doubletrack. Take this up to the top of the bluff. You're there. This section of the River Bottom ends here. There's more, but it's located east of Cedar (77), and on the south side of the river in Eagan.
It's important to note that even though the trails look like they continue east past the creek, those are walking trails only. Once you reach the creek, simply follow it north to the top of the bluff. There are no trail signs that indicate the end of the mountain biking trails, so use the creek as a reference.
This is a pretty fun trail. It's got a lot of distance, and a good amount of variety. Kind of flat, unless you're on the east end. Watch out for hammerheads that won't yield the trail to their mother. If you're into night riding, this is a great trail. Expect to see LOTS of deer and other spooky glowing eyes. There are more advanced trails in the area, but if you're looking for variety, or are taking someone who isn't very adept at mountain biking, this is a great trail.