MRT Road SignWoman biking on MRT

Mississippi River Trail

Trip Preparations

The MRT offers opportunities for visitors to bicycle short loops of an hour or less as well as trips along the full length of the Mississippi River. 

 

Bicyclist and Route Profile
The MRT has something for everyone within Minnesota—but not all segments are appropriate for all types of users

The on-road segments are suitable for experienced bicyclists comfortable sharing the road with traffic.  There are some segments—mostly in the Twin Cities—where the on-road segments are on dedicated bike lanes.  The Apple Blossom Scenic Drive alternative route in the Mississippi Bluffs near La Crescent has the most physically challenging climb within the MRT.

 

The off-road segments on paths and trails are generally suitable for bicyclists of all abilities including bicyclists new to long distance touring (including younger family members).  Keep in mind you will likely have contact with automobile traffic, but typically only at intersections and trail crossings and between the route and your lodging. 

 

Where do I Fit In?
Bicyclists vary widely in their abilities and preferences for a riding environment. These definitions are compiled from MnDOT and other sources:

  • Type A ( Advanced) – Advanced cyclists are confident bikers, who can navigate heavy or high speed traffic. These riders often travel at speeds over 14 mph. In a route, advanced cyclists typically seek directness, speed, and minimal interference. Because they often move at high speeds, they may prefer to be on road and to avoid sharing paths with pedestrians, strollers, dogs, and other slower moving users.
  • Type B (Basic) – Most people fall into the basic cyclist category.  Basic cyclists are comfortable interacting with some traffic, but  prefer some separation from motor vehicles. These riders are often teenagers, or new or occasional adult riders who understand basic bike safety and ride at speeds front 8-14 mph. Basic cyclists will
    look for routes that are either shared use paths, or on roads with lower traffic volumes, lower speeds, or provisions such as bike lanes and wide, paved shoulders.
  • Type C (Children, Off-road) – These cyclists may be children or inexperienced riders who are uncomfortable mixing with traffic. They feel safest on paved bicycle trails, very low volume residential streets or streets that are clearly marked and designed to accommodate bicyclists, or with supervision on slightly busier routes.

 

 

Suggestion:
Get a sense of what riding 10 to 20 miles feels like either locally or on a segment of the MRT.  Utilize a local off road trail and compare that with your ability to ride with vehicular traffic. 


A safe place to start would be to bicycle on trails in your local areas or some or all of the off-road MRT segments in the Twin Cities or between Cass Lake and Brainerd (routed upon the popular Heartland and Paul Bunyan State Trails). 

  

How do I Prepare?
Make a list of what you need to do and follow it!  In the rush to purchase some items you will need on the trip, do not ignore the need for some training.  Adventure Cycling anticipates many questions as for those embarking  on their first bicycle tour in its Bike Touring 101 .

 

Basic Equipment
The Minnesota MRT travels through the two largest cities in the state as well as through segments that are very rural with few services.  No matter how long or how far you plan to ride, we recommend you are always prepared for changing conditions.  We suggest you always carry necessities such as drinking water, tools, and proper clothing.  Adventure Cycling Association, one of North America’s bicycle travel organizations, has developed a complete list of what to take and how to pack.

 

Most bicycles will work just fine for bicycling the entire length of the MRT.  Those riding the two gravel sections in Aitkin County within the Mississippi Crossings Destination Area may want tires suited for a gravel road (wider than narrow racing/road bike tires). 

 

Before you ride, at minimum, always perform a safety check, to make sure your bicycle is in safe working order.  We recommend the League of American Bicyclists’ A, B, C quick-check.  If you don't perform your own maintenance, take the bike to your local bike shop for a safety check and tune-up.

 

Shipping Your Bicycle

Weather

It gets cold and snowy during a Minnesota winter, and weather can be warm and sometimes humid in summer (and 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 and Preparations
The standard emergency number in all areas is 911.  Cellular phone coverage is generally available, but might be spotty in a few 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.