Summer cycling: A road trip for experts

Categories: Cycling
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Photo by Daniel Murphy
If you're looking for a little more bang than our intermediate trip has to offer, think about taking our expert trip to Carver Park Reserve camping grounds in Victoria. This ride, which utilizes the same paths as our intermediate one, adds 10 extra miles each direction (which may not seem like much, but the end of the route is mostly hills).

Carver Park is the second largest park reserve in the Three Rivers Park District, and offers nine miles of beautiful biking trails, several lakes, camping grounds, picnic areas, and even a nature center, making it a great destination to spend the weekend after a long ride.

Campground reservations range in price from $14.50 a night for a small personal site, to as much as $40 a night for a large group campsite. Tip: pool money together with your friends if you want more privacy offered in the group campsites.

Expert Trip: Carver Park Reserve
Trails: Midtown Greenway, Cedar Lake Trail, Minnesota River Bluffs LRT, Lake Minnetonka LRT
Distance: 31 miles
Estimated Time: 2 hours, 45 minutes

How to prepare:

Here's a recap from our intermediate trip, which should become common sense for anyone biking long-distance trips:

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. July is hot and humid, and sweat will pour from you in torrents.

Most of the trip up to Carver Park is populated with stops where you can grab a drink, but bring your own water for those periods you're unable to find an outside source.

Make sure your bike is in good enough shape to handle the trip. All basic maintenance needs should be met. If you're unsure, just bring your bike into a shop and ask. Most of all, make sure your wheels are good, and that your bike is freshly greased. It's a very long walk home, so bring a patch kit or a couple spare tubes, and don't forget a bike pump. Patching up that flat will do no good if you haven't a method to inflate it.

Finally, when you get to your campsite, you'll be far from any store or restaurant, so make sure to bring food, camping gear, a lighter or matches, bug spray, and, of course, as much cheap beer as you can carry. Try and split up the larger items between friends so everyone's loads are even.

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Photo by Daniel Murphy
How to get there:

If you took our intermediate trip, this route will be a breeze, since you'll be taking the exact same trails. For the sake of simplicity, we suggest you make your way to the Midtown Greenway and start from there.

Take the Greenway past Lake Calhoun until it turns into Cedar Lake Trail. Continue on this path for a little over four miles, all the way into Hopkins. Once in Hopkins, head south just before Cedar Lake Trail veers hard to the north (look for the intersection that directs you toward the Minnesota River Bluffs LRT and the Depot Coffee House).

From there, hop on the Minnesota River Bluffs LRT, heading west until you reach Fifth Avenue South, which you'll take north into downtown Hopkins. Once you hit Mainstreet, you can head straight west onto the Minnetonka LRT (the entrance is just off Sixth Avenue South).Take the Minnetonka LRT, made of hard packed limestone, for roughly 15 miles.

This is where the trip gets a little tricky. The trails that lead into Carver Park are unnamed, so pay attention to signs directing you there. While on the Minnetonka LRT, you'll run into the entrance almost immediately after passing Park Drive. Take a right here, heading north into Carver Park Reserve. You'll know you're on the right path because it'll be one of the most beautiful bike trails you've ever seen, with great rolling hills, green pastures, and deeply wooded groves.

Once you're on the trails inside the reserve, make your way to your specific campground by using the maps they provide at each intersection (don't be afraid to use your smartphone, too). The maps are pretty easy to read, and the roads aren't too confusing -- just make sure you don't relieve yourself on any of the fences surrounding the trails, they're electrified.


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Photo by Daniel Murphy
What to do there:

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Photo by Daniel Murphy
Once you've found your campground and set up your tents, feel free to explore the reserve. There are nine miles of beautifully paved biking trails, and up to 22 miles of unpaved hiking trails. If you packed away any fishing gear, unload it and head to one of the several lakes in the area (some even have specific fishing piers). Or, throw on your swimsuits and head to the beach on Lake Auburn.

The Lowry Nature Center is up by Crosby Lake, and over in the Springview Group Campsite, rumor has it there's an area for archery. If you're hungry, there are grills for cooking in the parks, as well as picnic tables.

As night rolls in, cozy up around a fire pit and tell stories while sharing beer. Just make sure you pack away your food safely before you fall asleep, as there are plenty of hungry animals around (it is a wildlife reserve, after all), and you'll want some breakfast before the long trip home.

Carver Park Reserve

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