The Best Minneapolis Bike Trails for Families

Bikes against a wooden fence - Twin Cities Bike Trails - Family Fun Twin Cities

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Fill up your tires, strap on a helmet and get ready to hit the trail! Minneapolis is a wonderful city to explore by bike, filled with parks, lakes, and an exciting downtown riverfront. Planning to bring the kids along? Perfect. Biking is a fun and healthy way for families to spend time together outdoors. We’ve sketched out four of our favorite Minneapolis bike trails that incorporate classic cityscapes with kid-pleasing attractions.

2023 Passport Program

The past few summers the Minneapolis Grand Rounds Bi-Way system has offered QR codes at sites along the route. Bikers can stop and scan the codes at the various stops throughout the season and try to reach as many of the destinations as possible. Back this summer, stops include:

Minneapolis Bike Trails Along the Mississippi River

West River Parkway Bike Trail (part of the Minneapolis Grand Rounds)

Start: Lake Street-Marshall Bridge, Minneapolis
End: Bike either north along West River Parkway from Lake Street to the Stone Arch Bridge in downtown Minneapolis or south from Lake Street to MINNEHAHA FALLS REGIONAL PARK.
Distance: These two Minneapolis bike trail segments are about 4.5 miles one-way.

best minneapolis bike trails

The bike ride

North of Lake Street to the Stone Arch Bridge is a nice glide down and close along the river, but it’s a challenging haul back up again for little (and, often, not-so-little) legs. South of Lake Street to Minnehaha Falls is a flat, easy pedal that should draw no complaints and can be done in about 20 minutes.

Safety first!

Make sure to caution young bikers in advance that this is a very popular trail and to be prepared for much passing on the left hand side.

Points of interest along the trail

The West River Parkway route is packed with things to do and see and is one of our favorite Minneapolis bike trails. Heading north, it’s exciting to bike across the historic STONE ARCH BRIDGE. Pictured above, it is closed to vehicle traffic and reserved for pedestrians and cyclists. Pause at the ST ANTHONY FALLS VISITOR CENTER (we even took one of their free tours) and at MILL RUINS PARK. Or you could spend a whole afternoon at the super kid-friendly MILL CITY MUSEUM located smack on the bike trail. Coast in on a Saturday morning between 9am & 1pm for a snack at the MILL CITY FARMERS MARKET.

Heading south on West River Parkway from Lake Street, you’ll soon encounter spots to cool off on a summer’s day. WABUN PICNIC AREA, with my children’s favorite elaborate splashy wading pool and playground, makes for an ideal lunch spot. Or pedal past and reach the thundering falls of MINNEHAHA REGIONAL PARK where you can descend to the creek and wade away.

best minneapolis bike trails

More family fun near the bike trail

At the Minnehaha Falls Regional Park junction, the Minnesota Valley State Trail heads south out of the park and makes haste for Fort Snelling. At about the halfway point lies a hidden gem called COLDWATER SPRING. Jump off the trail and have a look at this historically significant natural spring. Then continue on your way to explore the river bottoms of FORT SNELLING STATE PARK.

See also related posts:

Minneapolis Bike Trails Around the Lakes

Minneapolis Chain of Lakes bike trail

Start: As this is a loop bike trail, you could pick any spot along it to base out of. We recommend choosing a start/finish point where you’ll enjoy spending time after your bike ride. For instance, if you finish a summer ride on BDE MAKA SKA there are several beaches on the lake to cool off at. Or if you feel like an evening ride, the LAKE HARRIET PARK Band Shell hosts music & movies select nights during the summer. You can follow their schedule on the Minneapolis parks page or we post it on our FAMILY FUN CALENDAR.

Distance: To pedal the entire Chain of Lakes bike loop (also, notably, along the Minneapolis Grand Rounds) you’re looking at investing roughly 10 miles of trail. But this is an adjustable ride – each lake loop is only about 3 miles long. Pick the lake with the most attractions that interest your family (see below for ideas).

best minneapolis bike trails

The bike ride

To cycle the Chain of Lakes loop, for us, is to feel in sync with the heartbeat of Minneapolis. The bike trail coasts easily around three lovely lakes – Lake of the Isles, Bde Maka Ska & Lake Harriet – and keeps in view the downtown skyline and parks Minneapolis is famous for. There are designated trails for bikers and walkers and traffic is required to go in one direction. Signage and connecting trails between the lakes are good.

Safety first!

Keep in mind that the lake loops are very popular, particularly Bde Maka Ska. Little cyclers may have better luck on quieter Lake Harriet or around Lake of the Isles.

Points of interest along the bike trail

There are more places you could pull your bike over on this loop trail than one could possibly fit into an afternoon with kids. Some tried-and-true suggestions around Bde Maka Ska include The BAKKEN MUSEUM (hair-raising electrical exhibits and other fun stuff) and the 32ND STREET BEACH (with a shallow, guarded beach and playground). Kid-pleasing attractions around Lake Harriet are the COMO-HARRIET STREETCAR LINE (our kids loved the trolley rides!), LAKE HARRIET PARK & BANDSHELL (stop for a treat at Bread & Pickle) and the LYNDALE PARK ROSE GARDEN.

Minneapolis Bike Trails Through the Parks

Theodore Wirth Regional Park

Start: THEODORE WIRTH Golf Course & Winter Rec Center parking lot – you can park and jump directly onto the Grand Rounds Trail (more formally known as the GRAND ROUNDS SCENIC BYWAY SYSTEM). Technically, then, this bike trail begins in St Louis Park, but it will bring you south through Theodore Wirth Regional Park into Minneapolis for a splashy finish. 1301 Theodore Wirth Pkwy, Minneapolis, MN 55422.
End: CEDAR LAKE POINT BEACH in Minneapolis. Cedar Lake Pkwy, Minneapolis, MN 55416.
Distance: 2.5 miles one-way.

best minneapolis bike trails

The bike ride

This Minneapolis bike trail is fairly short to accommodate attractions within or near lovely THEODORE WIRTH REGIONAL PARK. The Grand Rounds Trail hugs Theodore Wirth Pkwy very closely but has its own well-marked bike path. You will cross over at Cedar Lake Road to pick up the last short section to the beach. The trail is good for all abilities.

Points of interest along the bike trail

There are two beaches located along this bike trail that we can personally attest are sandy, clean and great for a dip on a warm day. If you’re seeking a full-scale family gathering, pick WIRTH LAKE BEACH. There is space to picnic and grill plus a large playground and a bathhouse. CEDAR LAKE POINT BEACH, at the end of the line, is more scenic, but has no amenities.

Other spots to consider along the trail: the bike path skirts right alongside the ELOISE BUTLER WILDFLOWER GARDEN & BIRD SANCTUARY and the QUAKING BOG (you’ll have to hop off the bike and hike the trails if interested in exploring further – bring your bike locks). Both are quiet oases you might be surprised to find in the middle of the Twin Cities Metro.

Minneapolis Bike Trails Through the City

Midtown Greenway

Start: West River Parkway & E 27th Street – you can park on the street and hop right on the start of the MIDTOWN GREENWAY bike trail near the Mississippi River.
End: LAKE OF THE ISLES PARK (the isthmus between Lake of the Isles & Bde Maka Ska lakes). The official trail continues about another mile to Chowen Avenue, then is absorbed into the Cedar Lake Regional Trail.
Distance: This bike trail stretch is 10 miles round-trip.

best minneapolis bike trails

The bike ride

Perfectly flat and smooth the entire trip except for a small segment that scales the bridge over Hwy 55. This is a well-traveled Minneapolis bike trail on the weekend and you will find all abilities biking, strolling and inline skating. There is a two-way lane for wheels and a separate lane for walkers.

Safety first!

Full disclosure: We have not biked this with kids. And if we did, we decided we would bring the teens first. My (adult) biking companion observed that it may be a bike trail best fit for older kids due to the many bikers traveling at high speed. Perhaps pick a weekday to give it a go.

Points of interest along the trail

As for scenery and stop-offs, this bike trail is 100% urban – meaning you’ll be traveling through residential neighborhoods, industrial pockets, and very close to Lake Street & Nicollet if you’d like to pop off the trail to dine on “Eat Street”. We enjoyed all the public art, community gardens and green gathering spaces to stretch out along the bike trail. If you plan to finish the one-way trip at Lake of the Isles Park you’re within reach of several fun family attractions (see the Minneapolis Chain of Lakes bike trail entry for inspiration).

Is there a Minneapolis bike trail you love to ride with your family and think should be added to this list? Thanks for the heads up. Let us know in the comments!

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