The Best Minneapolis Bike Trails for Families

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.

Minneapolis bike trails along the Mississippi River

 

West River Parkway Bike Trail

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 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. 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

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 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.

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 its 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

 

See also: 

More family fun

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.

 


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 to cool off at. Or if you feel like an evening ride, the Lake Harriet Band Shell hosts music & movies select nights during the summer.

Distance: To pedal the entire Chain of Lakes bike loop 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.

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. 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

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 (trolley rides!), Lake Harriet Band Shell Park (stop for a treat at Bread & Pickle) and the Lyndale Park Rose Garden.

See also:


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). 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.

End: Cedar Lake Point Beach in Minneapolis.

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

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 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.

See also:


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. Full disclosure: I have not biked this with my kids. And if I did, I would bring my 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

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!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top