Minnesota Department of Transportation

511 Travel Info

U.S. Bicycle Route 45

Mississippi River Trail

Plan a visit

Getting there

Things to do and see

Travel and tourism

Along the route

Accessibility

The majority of the Mississippi River Trail is located on low use roadways and upon road shoulders. However, significant off-road trail segments exist. Outstate, it is possible to travel approximately 100 miles between Cass Lake and Brainerd utilizing the Heartland State Trail and the Paul Bunyan State Trail that are managed by the Department of Natural Resources. These trails, constructed largely upon abandoned railroad grades, are relatively flat and constructed with accessibility considerations important to a wide variety of the users. Even though we know that many trail segments within the Twin Cities are accessible, a comprehensive segment by segment assessment is presently unavailable.

Communities along the route

Visitor information from some of the largest communities along the MRT (in downstream order):

Parks, locks and dams

Segments of the Mississippi River Trail

Mississippi Headwaters

Itasca to Bemidji
Tiptoe across the mighty river's humble source in Itasca State Park. Hear the call of the loon and watch bald eagles soar above the majestic virgin pines along Wilderness Drive. Visit Bemidji, first city on the Mississippi, and capture a photo memory with legendary lumberjack, Paul Bunyan and his faithful pal, Babe.

Mississippi Northwoods

Bemidji to Grand Rapids
Experience nature in the whisper of the pines and the crisp northwoods air. At Cass Lake riders must choose one of the two route alternatives when traveling on to Brainerd.

  • The "Explorer's On-Road Route" is predominately located on road shoulders and low-use roads. Plan for 20-miles of hard packed gravel roads between Palisade and Aitkin.
  • The "Family-Friendly State Trail Route" which is located on the Paul Bunyan and Heartland State Trails, (Cass Lake to Brainerd) provides loads of hospitality, picturesque lakes and a number of tourism attractions.
Mississippi Crossings

Grand Rapids to Little Falls
This area plays host to thousands of vacationers each year who bike, golf, fish, bird or simply seek respite. Allow Grand Rapids, Aitkin, the towns of Cuyuna Range, Brainerd and Little Falls be your host. Also, check out the many miles of mountain bike trails in Cuyuna State Park, which opened in 2011.

Scenic Mississippi

Little Falls to Elk River
"Wild and Scenic River" is the designation given to this pristine section of Minnesota's Mississippi. The river here is ideal for canoeing, picnicking and fishing. Remarkable main street architecture, historic museums, the boyhood home of aviator Charles Lindbergh, lovely parks, magnificent gardens and scenic rural farmscapes provide a backdrop for a relaxing river experience.

Metro Mississippi

Ramsey to Hastings
Abundant parkland and trails invite you to the riverfront renaissance taking place in both Minneapolis and St. Paul and throughout the Metro region. Enjoy theater, major sports venues, museums, concerts, fine dining and shopping. Experience thoughtfully preserved riverfront parks, historic sites, the falls of St. Anthony and the first of the Upper Mississippi's working lock and dams.

Mississippi Bluffs

Hastings to the Iowa border
Bring binoculars to bluff country because the river vistas are remarkable and the wildlife viewing, especially birding. Follow the river through more than a dozen charming river towns complete with historic main streets, riverboats, unique shopping, museums and warm hospitality.

Weather

It gets cold and snowy during a Minnesota winter, and weather can be warm and sometimes humid in summer (yes, with a few mosquitoes). As a guide, here is average temperature and precipitation data for the northern and southern parts of the MRT. MRT use is highest during spring, summer, and fall when the weather is most comfortable. In winter, some paved trail segments share the space with cross country skiers, so the snow is not plowed.

Bemidji (Northern Minnesota, Degrees in Fahrenheit)

 

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Avg. High

14°

20°

34°

50°

64°

74°

78°

76°

65°

54°

34°

18°

Avg. Low

-8°

-4°

10°

28°

40°

51°

56°

54°

44°

32°

17°

Mean

22°

38°

54°

64°

68°

65°

54°

44°

26°

Avg. Precip.

0.6 in

0.5 in

0.9 in

1.9 in

3.0 in

3.8 in

3.7 in

3.4 in

2.7 in

2.0 in

0.8 in

0.7 in

Winona (Southern Minnesota, Degrees in Fahrenheit)

 

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Avg. High

24°

30°

42°

58°

71°

80°

85°

81°

74°

61°

44°

28°

Avg. Low

21°

34°

45°

55°

61°

57°

48°

37°

25°

11°

Mean

14°

20°

32°

47°

58°

68°

74°

70°

61°

50°

35°

20°

Avg. Precip.

1.3 in

0.9 in

1.8 in

2.9 in

3.8 in

4.3 in

4.1 in

4.3 in

4.0 in

2.4 in

1.8 in

1.3 in

Temperature and precipitation information for other Minnesota cities

Emergency phone numbers

The standard emergency number in all areas is 911. Cellular phone coverage is generally available, but might be spotty in some locations within the Mississippi Headwaters and Mississippi Northwoods destination areas. As with many trips, it's a good idea to let someone know of your plans and route ahead of time.