Biking the Trails and Backroads

Ride with your friends! Take your kids! Grab your soulmate! Round up your club!

Biking the Trails and Backroads

If you have a bicycle, of whatever type, bring it on up to Cass County. Do we ever have great places for you to ride!Looking for a leisurely ride along creeks, meadows and wetlands teeming with rare songbirds and wildflowers. We can take care of you. Or a no-holds-barred ride down a steep logging trail, way, way back in the woods. We can take care of you there. Or a marathon ride through neighborly towns, along scenic lakeshores and across breathtaking countryside. We can take care of you there as well.

Ride with your friends! Take your kids! Grab your soulmate! Round up your club! Or just set out on that great adventure you've always dreamed about and discover the sights, sounds and smells of the true northwoods that you thought vanished decades ago. Come on up! Everyone is welcome and assured memories that will last well past your return if not a lifetime.

Paved Trails

You may have heard about the recently paved Paul Bunyan State Recreational Trail. It has quickly emerged as a bikers haven, attracting thousands of riders from everywhere, and we mean everywhere, even overseas. We, as well as some highly touted travel writers, think Cass County has one of the most scenic portions of the trail now paved - the 8 mile long, Backus to Hackensack segment. But wait until you see the 4 mile stretch north of Walker along Kabekona Bay that is scheduled for paving in 2001.

Also, while most think the Paul Bunyan Trail ends in Hackensack, it certainly doesn't, not by a long shot. Take the unpaved, but easily biked trail north of Hackensack for a few miles to Co.Rd.50 or even further to Shingobee Twp Rd.13 and then swing east to the wide paved shoulders of Hwy 371 for a beautiful, clear shot through the Chippewa National Forest and across Shingobee Bay into Walker. North of Walker, again pick up the wide paved shoulders of Hwy 371, and until the Paul Bunyan is paved through the Kabekona Valley, consider biking parallel Co.Rd.38 to Benedict for a beautiful ride along Kabekona Bay.

West of Benedict again take the gravel trail through the beautiful, unspoiled country-side all the way to Bemidji. In Bemidji, pick up the final segment (again paved) that takes you well beyond beautiful Bemidji State Park. Not to be overlooked is the gorgeous Heartland State Recreational Trail, repaved between Park Rapids and Walker in 1997. For 6 miles southwest of Walker, the trail follows a most beautiful chain of lakes and passes quietly through glorious undulating glacial moraines and forest areas before continuing another 15 miles to Park Rapids.

North of Walker the unpaved, but still bikeable trail combines for a short distance with the Paul Bunyan Trail before splitting and heading across beautiful Kabekona Narrows to Cass Lake 20 miles to the north. This latter stretch to the north is schedule for paving in 1999. Another great Cass County bike trail is the U.S.Forest Service's Mi-Ge-Zi Trail ("Mi-Ge-Zi" is Ojibway for soaring eagle). This is a little used but beautiful "T-shaped" trail that traverses the eastern shore of Cass Lake and Pike Bay with a very scenic spur that runs directly between the two into the City of Cass Lake; the spur provides panoramic views across both water bodies, terminating in the city at a wonderful scenic MN/DoT wayside/rest stop on the southwestern shore of Cass Lake.

Already paved is a 3 mile long segment along the east shore of Pike Bay, leading into the Forest Service's gorgeous Norway Beach Recreation Area on Cass Lake. The segment leading into the City of Cass Lake and the remainder of the other following the Pike Bay shoreline is scheduled for paving in 2000. The latter will connect to the already paved Heartland - Mi-Ge-Zi Connector Trail leading south of the City, resulting in a paved bike trail totalling surrounding pretty Pike Bay.

The Mi-Ge-Zi riding experience can also be extended by biking under the tall pines and passed the historic log buildings along the 3 mile network of paved roads around the Norway Beach Recreation Area. The Mi-Ge-Zi Trail further connects to an even more extensive, 30-mile long network of designated, unpaved, scenic forest roads in the Chippewa National Forest to the east and south of Norway Beach (check with the Forest Service for a map of their designated route).

Backroads For Biking

And that's just for starters! Those with heavier-duty backroad or good touring equipment are discovering our expansive network (over 400 miles) of backroads and woodland trails. These include scenic touring options that circle or loop out from population centers or "point-to-point" options between fun locations. The routes listed below, where paved, are suggested not just for their scenic qualities, but where traffic volumes are low or where road shoulders are paved to at least a 3 foot width, thereby minimizing conflict with high speed, high volume, motorized traffic. Special warnings are noted where such conflicts are unavoidable for a short distance.

• Great River Road Tour (with optional loop): A great, 40 mile long (one-way), scenic wilderness tour with multiple opportunities to experience unspoiled portions of the Mississippi River and the Chippewa National Forest. You can choose to start on the west end in the City of Cass Lake (at the MNDoT wayside) or at the U.S.Forest Service's gorgeous Norway Beach Recreation Area). Or you can choose to start on the east end at the Lake Winnibigoshish Recreation Area (at the Mississippi River Dam). Except for a 4-8 mile long stretch at the very west end, the entire route follows a series of paved backroads, constituting Cass County's portion of the "Great River Road". Both Co.Rds. 9 and 91 offer 3 foot paved shoulders, while the 2 mile long portion of low traffic volume Co.Rd.10 does not. The route also includes portions of high volume, but very scenic US Hwy 2 (but the presence of traffic volume on those stretches is moderated by 6 foot wide paved shoulders). The route offers a terrific side trip via paved Forest Rd. 2171 to and beyond the scenic Mississippi River bridge, where the three counties of Cass, Beltrami and Itasca converge, and the bridge crosses a scenic portion of the Mississippi used by 18th and 19th century explorers seeking the source of this great river. The entire route is characterized by little roadside development and miles of unbroken, pristine, northwoods wilderness. Excellent camping is provided at Norway Beach with wonderful, classic, rustic resorts around the Lake "Winnie" dam. The one-way route can be closed into a loop by using US 2 between Cass Lake and Co.Rd. 9; the highway remains wonderfully scenic along this entire stretch. Because of high traffic volumes along US 2, and ocassional traffic along the other roads, the route is not recommended for young children.

• Leech Lake Scenic Tour: A great, 6 mile long, scenic route along the southwestern shoreline of Leech Lake, following the paved shoulder of Hwy 371 from the wayside on Shingobee Island in Shingobee Bay through the City of Walker to the wayside on Walker Bay at Kabekona Narrows. The tour provides great sweeping vistas over Leech Lake as well as access to Walker's shopping, restaurants, lodging and terrific lakefront park. Note: use of the Hwy 371 shoulder north of Walker is recommended as the Heartland Trail along the lake north of the city will be paved this summer. Because of the high traffic volumes along Hwy 371, this route is not suitable for children, despite its 6 foot wide paved shoulders.

• The Woodtick Trail: The Woodtick Trail offers the perfect day's outing along one of the Chippewa National Forest's most scenic and history laden, graveled forest roads. It runs for 16 miles from the Paul Bunyan Trail at its intersection with Co.Rd.50, six miles north of Hackensack, to the wide, paved shoulders of Co.Rd.5, five miles west of Longville. It offers numerous points of interest along the way (an annotated tour guide and map is available from the Forest Service) with undeveloped lakeshores, marshlands, wildlife habitats, deserted farmsteads and ghost towns, even remnants of turn of the century logging operations strung out along its route. A complete one-way, 25 mile long, Hackensack-to- Longville run (or vice versa) is ideal for those looking for some serious exercise, with still time enough for browsing the local shops and a quality meal from any one of the many restaurants in either town. (The Woodtick Trail is just one of the many designated bike trails offered by the Forest Service that laces the National Forest.) Note: while the tour route is shared with low volume motorized traffic, caution should still be exercised.

• The Boy River Chain of "Family Lakes" Tour (with optional loop): One of Cass County's greatest lakeshore tours, following Co.Rd.5 for 18 miles along the Boy River Chain of Lakes between Hackensack and Longville. Provides many opportunities to approach various lakeshores (Webb, Kid, Child, Baby, Man, Woman and Girl Lakes), as well as direct access to many classic "northwoods" style resorts along the route. Can be converted into a loop tour when combined with the Paul Bunyan Trail corridor north of Hackensack and the Woodtick Trail tour route above. Although Co.Rd.5 provides 6 foot wide paved shoulders along its entire length, this route is not suitable for young children.

• The Gull Lake Tour: A beautiful route along Co.Rds.77 and 70, touring the Gull Lake lakeshore and the Pillsbury State Forest from the Gull Narrows at the lake's north point to the Gull River Dam Recreation Area at the lake's outlet on its southeastern shore. The tour route visits a number of interesting landmaks and points-of-interest along the way, including the scenic backroads of quaint Lake Shore, the historic log Sherwood Forest Lodge and the imported log Swedish Timber House (both in Lake Shore), the magnificent vistas from the old forest ranger look-out tower on the lake's high point at Ski Gull, a blue heron rookery just west of Pine Beach, the historic resorts and gorgeous golf courses of Pine Beach, and the scenic swimming beach, campgrounds, dam area and historic Indian Mounds of the Army Corps of Engineer's recreation area at the Gull River Dam. Except for the last 2 miles of Co.Rd.77 through Lake Shore and the last mile of Co.Rd.70 in the Gull Dam Recreation Area, the route provides 3 foot paved shoulders throughout. (A connecting, paved and very scenic, backroad is highly recommended that parallels about a mile and a half of the unshouldered portion of Co.Rd.77 in Lake Shore. The unshouldered stretch of Co.Rd.70 at the Gull River Dam is posted for very low speeds, presenting little hazard for bikers.) This route is not suitable for young children.

• The "Rural Classic" Tour (Southern Cass Couny): A one-way, 12 mile, tour offering a most classic, and fast disappearing, representation of rural, agricultural Cass County at its most endearing. The tour route travels paved Co.Rd.24 (no paved shoulders are provided) between MN Hwy 64 and Co.Rd.1. It offers gently rolling country-side with woods, lakes and ponds, large expanses of open horse and cattle pastures, quaint farm ruins, and very little vehicular traffic with which to contend (the eastern 2/3 of the route is the most scenic). The route accesses one of the best paved roads for biking in southern Cass County with many opportunities to just stop a spell and soak up satisfying views of rural landscapes without interference from traffic or development.

• The Great Remer Circle Tour (Remer area): A great 50-70 mile long marathon series of (mostly) graveled forest roads surrounding the City of Remer in east central Cass County, traveling through breath-taking portions of the Chippewa National, Remer and Land O'Lakes State Forests. Directions: Starting in downtown Remer following Hwy 200 west to the intersection of Co.Rd.129, then following Co.Rd.129 south then west then south again to the intersection of Co.Rd.7, then following Co.Rd.7 east to the intersection of Hwy 6, then following Hwy 6 south a very short distance to the intersection of Co.Rd.161, then following Co.Rd.161 east to the intersection of Co.Rd.57, then following Co.Rd.57 north to the intersection of Hwy 200, then following Hwy 200 four miles northwest to the intersection of Co.Rd.132, then following Co.Rd.132 east then north then west to the intersection of Hwy 6, then following Hwy 6 one half mile northwest to the intersection of Forest Rd 2112, then north on Forest Rd 2112 to the intersection of Co.Rd.65, then following Co.Rd.65 east to the intersection of Co.Rd.4, then following Co.Rd.4 south to the intersection of Co.Rd.53, then following Co.Rd.53 southwest to to intersection of Hwy 200, then following Hwy 200 east back into Remer. Caution is encouraged on all county roads along the tour route; with the exception of Co.Rd.7, all lack paved shoulders, although they are infrequently traveled. Extreme caution is also highly recommended along the 4 mile long portion of Hwy 200 and the 1/2 mile long portion of Hwy 6 east of Remer; neither provide paved shoulders and are heavily trafficed. The 10 mile segment of Hwy 200 west of Remer, provides 6 foot wide paved shoulders however. The tour route offers primitive campsites and access to the North Country Trail (great for mountain biking) in the vicinity of Boy River/Mabel Lake on the route's western edge, resort lodging around Thunder Lake south of Remer, and great shopping, restaurants, lodging and other services in Remer. The route can be shorten by continuing south along Co.Rd.4 back into Remer, or extended by biking to Schoolcraft Park east along Co.Rd.65 from Lake Vermillion and then north on Co.Rd.74 to the park entrance; Schoolcraft State Park offers excellent camping alongside a very scenic portion of the Mississippi River.

• Gadbolt Lake Circle Tour (stand-alone tour or optional extender to the Woodtick Trail Tour): A very scenic, 6-7 mile, unpaved backroad loop route that can be biked separately or as an extender to the Woodtick Trail Tour (listed above). Starting at the intersection of Co.Rds.50 and 71, then following Co.Rd.50 north to the intersection of Bass Lake Rd (a bit further to access the Shingobee River and the North Country Trail), then following Bass Lake Rd south to the intersection of Co.Rd.71, then following Co.Rd.71 along the northern shoreline of Ten Mile Lake back to the point of beginning. The route provides access to the beautiful Shingobee River Valley, the North Country National Trail (good for extended mountain biking) at the Shingobee River, and the lakeshores of beautiful Bass, Portage and Gadbolt Lakes. The route connects to the Woodtick Trail Tour one and a half miles to the east via Co.Rd.50.

• The Scenic Forest Circle Tour (Hackensack area - a stand-alone tour or optional extender to the Woodtick Trail Tour): This 16 mile loop offers access to some very scenic lakeshores as well as, north of Co.Rd.50, some of the most beautiful portions of the southern part of the Chippewa National Forest. It uses an unpaved, but scenic and little-visited portion of the Paul Bunyan Trail north of Hackensack, passing the lakeshores of Ten Mile and Portage Lakes. It also twice crosses the North Country Trail (great for mountain biking) and visits the very pretty Lake Erin Nature Area. Directions: Starting from Hackensack, following the Paul Bunyan Trail north passed Ten Mile and Portage Lakes to Shingobee Twp Rd 13, then following the township road east one-half mile to Hwy 371, then following Hwy 371 south passed the Lake Erin Nature Area to Co.Rd.50, then following Co.Rd.50 a very short distance back to the Paul Bunyan Trail, then following the trail back south into Hackensack. All portions of the route are unpaved, with the exception of the segment along Hwy 371; that portion provides 6 foot wide paved shoulders. The route connects to the Woodtick Trail Tour just across Hwy 371 at the intersection of Co.Rd.50.

• The Birch Lake Circle Tour (Hackensack area): A beautiful, quiet backroad tour surrounding pretty Birch Lake just west of Hackensack. The 16 mile long tour uses a collection of paved backroads, with the exception of a 2 mile graveled stretch at its extreme western edge, while providing ample views of lakes and woodlands along the way. Directions: Starting in Hackensack following the Paul Bunyan Trail south to the intersection of Co.Rd.40, then following Co.Rd.40 west to the intersection of Hiram Twp Rd __, then following the township road north then west then north again to the intersection of Co.Rd.6, then following Co.Rd.6 east back to the Paul Bunyan Trail, then following the trail south back into Hackensack. Caution is urged on the county road portions of the route as they lack paved shoulders; all paved route portions, with the exception of Co.Rd.6, are little traveled however. This route is not suitable for younger children.

• Upper Gull Lake Circle Tour (Lake Shore area): A wonderful, easy, 20 mile long, paved scenic tour route with many special attractions along the way. Starting at the Gull Narrows in the City of Lakeshore, then following Co.Rd.78 to Ridge Road just across the Lake Margaret bridge, then following Ridge Rd. through quaint Fritz Loven Park to Co.Rd.29 (a small segment through the park is unpaved), then following Co.Rd.29 across the top of Upper Gull Lake to Roy Lake Rd, then following Roy Lake Rd. along the lakeshore and across Hwy 371 to either the Paul Bunyan Trail or Lower Cullen Lake Rd, then following either south into Nisswa and across Hwy 371 to Hazelwood Dr, then following Hazelwood Dr to Lower Roy Lake Rd, then following Lower Roy Lake Rd to the Grand View Golf Course and Co.Rd.77, then following Co.Rd.77 back into the City of Lakeshore. (The City of Lakeshore offers a very nice paved wayside just east of the Gull Narrows bridge.) Although only Co.Rds 77, 78 and 29 offer paved shoulders, the other roads usually experience little traffic. (Extra caution should still be exercised; this route is not suitable for younger children.) Provides access to restaurants and lodging in Lakeshore and Nisswa.

• The Pillsbury State Forest Great Circle Tour: A beautifully rugged, 16 mile long, mostly unpaved backroad tour through Minnesota's oldest state forest. Starting from the intersection of Co.Rd.77 and Beauty Lake Rd, then following Beauty Lake Rd west to the intersection of Co.Rd.1, then following Co.Rd.1 south to the intersection of Hwy 210, then following Hwy 210 east one-half mile to Pillager and Co.Rd.1South but turning north, then following that gravel road north and then east about two and one-half miles to the intersection of Pillsbury Forest Rd, then following Pillsbury Forest Rd north back to Co.Rd.77, then following Co.Rd.77 north back to the point of beginning. The tour provides many interesting and very scenic points along its route, including numerous scenic lakes along Beauty Lake Rd, a beautiful scenic overlook and very pretty Pillager Lake and wayside along Co.Rd.1, and breathtaking old growth pines along Pillsbury Forest Rd. The gravel forest roads provide numerous intersecting points with forest trails, ideal for mountain biking side trips. The City of Pillager provides restaurants and good antiqueing opportunities. All paved portions provide at least 3 foot paved shoulders. This route is not suitable for young children.

• The Greater Gull Lake Marathon Tour: A 43 mile long, challenging tour through some of the most scenic attractions of southern Cass County. Starting from the intersection of Co.Rd.77 and Co.Rd.15, then following Co.Rd.15 west to the intersection of Co.Rd.1, then following Co.Rd.1 south to the intersection of the Rock Lake Campground Rd, then following the campground road west to the campground, then retracing the campground road east back to the intersection of Co.Rd.1, then following Co.Rd.1 south to the intersection of Hwy 210, then following Hwy 210 east to the intersection of Co.Rd.36, then following Co.Rd.36 south to the Gull River Bridge, then retracing Co.Rd.36 north back to the intersection of MN Hwy 210, then following MN Hwy 210 east to the intersection of Co.Rd.18, then following Co.Rd.18 north to the intersection of Co.Rd.77, then following Co.Rd.77 east to the intersection of Co.Rd.70, then following Co.Rd.70 north to the Gull River Dam Recreation Area, then retracing Co.Rd. 70 south back to the intersection of Co.Rd.77, then following Co.Rd.77 back to the point of beginning at the intersection of Co.Rd.15. The tour provides many scenic points along its route, including the highest, and most spectacular, overlook in southern Cass County (half mile east of the point of beginning), another beautiful scenic overlook - across the Pillsbury State Forest - and very pretty views of Rock and Pillager Lakes (all along Co.Rd.1), the scenic, historic confluence of the Gull and Crow Wing Rivers (on Co.Rd.36), the dramatic vistas to Brainerd and across the Crow Wing Valley (on Co.Rd.18), a quaint, rustic recreation area with its Indian Mounds, trails and beach (at the Gull River Dam) and the great resorts of the Pine Beach Recreation Area on the south shore of Gull Lake. All roads along the route are paved and provide from 2 - 6 foot paved shoulders (except for the Rock Lake Campground Rd). The route also provides access to the City of Pillager with its restaurants and good antiqueing opportunities. This route is not suitable for young children.

South County

MN Hwy 210; from Co.Rd.1North east to the Crow Wing County line (6 foot shoulders)Co.Rd.1; from MN 210 north to Co.Rd.34 (6 foot shoulders)Co.Rd.15; from Co.Rd.77 at Gull Lake to Co.Rd.1 (3 foot shoulders)Co.Rd.18; from Co.Rd.77 in the Pine Beach Recreation Area south to MN Hwy 210 (4 foot shoulders)Co.Rd.29; from Co.Rd.78 east across the top of Upper Gull Lake to MN Hwy 371 (3 to 4 foot shoulders)Co.Rd.36; from MN Hwy 210 south to the Gull River Bridge at the confluence of the Crow Wing River (3 foot shoulders)Co.Rd.70; from Co.Rd.77 to the Gull River Dam Recreation Area (3 foot shoulders)Co.Rd.77; from the Crow Wing County Line west and north around Gull Lake to the south city limits of the City of Lake Shore (3 foot shoulders) and then from the Gull Lake Narrows in the City of Lake Shore east to the Crow Wing County Line (6 foot shoulders).

Mid County

Co.Rd.1; from the City of Pine River east to Crow Wing County Line (6 foot shoulders)Co.Rd.2; from the City of Pine River west to Co.Rd.25 (6 foot shoulders)Co.Rd.5; from City of Hackensack east along the Boy River Chain of Lakes to the City of Longville (6 foot shoulders)Co.Rd.7; from Ridgewood Golf Course (5 miles east of Longville) east to MN Hwy 6 (3 foot shoulders)Co.Rd.11; from Co.Rd.5 at Baby Lake along the south shore of Woman Lake to MN Hwy 84 (3 foot shoulders)Co.Rd.44; from Hwy 371 north to MN Hwy 84 (3 foot shoulders)Co.Rd.45; from MN Hwy 371 east and north along the shore of Pleasant Lake to Co.Rd.5 (3 foot shoulders)MN Hwy 200; from MN Hwy 84 east to the City of Remer (6 foot shoulders).

North County

US Hwy 2 (portions are designated parts of the Great River Road system); from the Beltrami County Line east to the Itasca County Line (6 foot shoulders)Co.Rd.91 (a designated part of the Great River Road system); from Co.Rd.10 east to US 2 (4 foot shoulders)Co.Rd.9 (a designated part of the Great River Road system); from US 2 northeast across the Lake "Winnie" Dam to MN Hwy 49 (4 foot shoulders)Forest Rd. 2132 (Sucker Bay Road); for 9 miles south of US Hwy 2 (3 foot shoulders)Co.Rd.63; from Co.Rd.8 to Co.Rd.4 (2 foot shoulders).

Trans County

MN Hwy 371; from the Crow Wing County Line north to the City of Cass Lake (6 foot shoulders).

Mountain Biking Trails

Is a graded trail or back road too tame for your tastes? Well, try one of our many rollicking, interconnected logging trails, way, way back in the deep woods. The best one to check out first is the Deerfield Trail which starts northwest of Backus and Pine Mountain Lake and the heads north through the Foothills State Forest to just west of Hackensack - it's a trip and a half! (Be careful though! You may want to check with local forest management officials - see the Local Information page - before venturing out. Some of the backwoods trails may still be used by loggers, or frequented by ATV's and backroad four-wheelers.)Looking for a dedicated mountain biking trail? Cass County offers three trail areas specially set aside for mountain bikes, including the Cut Lake Recreation Trail (trail map) west of Pine River, the Hiram Recreation Trail (trail map) west of Hackensack (both in the Foothills State Forest), and the Portage Hills' trail system (trail map) near the Deep Portage Environmental Learning Center (in the steep moraines southwest of Longville).Perhaps the biggest challenge for mountain bikers is a fourth trail option, Cass County's 60-mile long portion of the transcontinental North Country National Scenic Trail.

The most gorgeous segment of the trail runs through the Shingobee Recreation Area, south of Walker, but all of it is beautiful, scenic and wild. While the trail must be shared with hikers (appropriate care and riding etiquette is therefore required), it is off-limits to all motorized vehicles.For a more thorough listing of many more backroad and off-road trail riding options, click on the Hiking and Backpacking page. All of the trails listed on that Web page offer and are available for great backwoods biking experiences. They also list places you can go for more information to help you select the bike route best suited to your equipment and riding objectives.

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