COVID-19 put a wrench into our family’s traditional summer plans. Gone were the favorite summer camps and closed were many community swimming pools. So what else could we do? The light bulb went off: We could bike.
We weren’t alone in our sudden flash of inspiration. Since bike shops were deemed essential during Minnesota’s shelter-in-place order, they were swamped.
“It has made things pretty crazy,” Amy Patee, marketing coordinator of ERIK’s Bike Shop, says. “People who have never biked before are coming to buy their first bike. Those who haven’t ridden in years are choosing to dust off the bike in their garage and bring it in for a tune-up. Biking is something you can easily do alone or at a safe social distance with others. It’s a great stress reliever, a way to get exercise and it’s fun.”
Over the past few months, we’ve gone through miles of trails with two tweens, one of whom has special needs. What we’ve found are two gems of trails: Lake Minnetonka Regional Trail and Dakota Rail.
Dakota Rail Regional Trail
Dakota Rail Trail stretches 30 miles, a fair chunk of it along the north shore of Lake Minnetonka. It starts in Wayzata and is scenic, but the first few miles wind through parklands that are interrupted by residential roads and driveways. While the scenery is pleasant, prepare for a plethora of stop signs along the route. The momentary pauses are worth it for the view while crossing the Arcola Bridge, providing a panoramic view of Crystal and Smith’s Bays. The waterfront views continue for about nine miles. If you want a straight shot ride with no stop signs, park in Mound and continue on to the charming small towns of Mayer, New Germany and Lester Prairie. A good place to stop for food is about halfway through the trail in Spring Park at Minnetonka Drive In. A staple since 1961, cyclists are often tickled to find the restaurant has a special speakerphone for ordering. Carhops bring food to your picnic table. For those who don’t want fast food, venture a few miles down the trail to stop in St. Bonifacius for fresh and organic food at St. Boni Bistro.
Family-Friendly Roundtrip on Dakota Rail Trail:
Where to Park: There’s a small lot tucked away near the Wayzata post office. It’s at the intersection of Brown Road and N. Shore Drive in Wayzata.
Start: Ride toward Minnetonka Beach. You will cross the bridge over Crystal Bay. End: Eat lunch at Minnetonka Drive-In in Spring Park. Turn around and go back after eating or continue on for mini golf at Big Stone Mini Golf in Minnetrista.
Lake Minnetonka Regional Trail
This trail spans more than 15 miles from Hopkins all the way to Carver Park Reserve in Waconia. It grazes Lake Minnetonka’s southern shoreline. If you’re feeling ambitious, haul a tent to camp at Carver Park Reserve. It’s an unpaved trail, but is easily traversable by any bike thanks to the crushed limestone. While there are various sights to see on the trail such as Lowry Nature Center and Grimm Farm Historic Site, COVID-19 may cause closures.
The trail is full of culinary delights, so start out with a small breakfast.
Some bikers like to bookend their trip with a beer, starting with a pint at LTD Brewing in Hopkins and finishing with another glass at Excelsior Brewing in Excelsior. If beer isn’t your thing and you would prefer to relax by the lake, Maynards dock is your ideal bet. For dessert, pick up a delicious treat from Adele’s Frozen Custard. If you find yourself biking beyond Excelsior, stop in Victoria for some axe throwing at Victoria Burrow.
Stops along the way:
4658 Shoreline Drive, Spring Park
St. Boni Bistro
8516 Kennedy Memorial Drive, St. Bonifacius
Gale Woods Farm
7210 County Road 110W, Minnetrista
Big Stone Mini Golf
7110 County Road 110W, Minnetrista
Adele’s Frozen Custard
800 Excelsior Blvd., Excelsior
685 Excelsior Blvd., Excelsior
Excelsior Brewing Company
421 Third St., Excelsior
7999 Victoria Drive, Victoria