Summer cycling: A road trip for intermediates

Categories: Cycling
7ExcelsiorBay.jpg
Photo by Daniel Murphy
If our beginners' trip was too easy, consider taking our intermediate trip to Lake Minnetonka this summer utilizing some of our favorite trails. En route, stop by Hidden Beach or Lake Calhoun. But don't dawdle there for too long, as the big destination is at the end of the trail. Lake Minnetonka (meaning "great water") puts both of those lakes to shame just by the sheer size of it.
 
In addition, with several places to eat, hang out, and even watch a movie, the extra time and mileage this trip takes is well worth the effort, and makes for a fantastic day-long excursion.

Intermediate Trip: Lake Minnetonka/Excelsior Brewery
Trails: West River Parkway, Cedar Lake Trail, Kenilworth Trail, Midtown Greenway, Minnesota River Bluffs LRT, Lake Minnetonka LRT
Distance: 21 miles
Estimated Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

How to prepare:

Hydrate properly for this trip, especially if it's a particularly hot day. There are places along the way offering food and water, but you'll want to bring a bottle with you as there will be several miles in between stops through parts of the trip.

The gaps between bike shops on this adventure, particularly when you leave Minneapolis, are much farther apart as well. Make sure your bike is in the right condition. You'll want all the basic maintenance needs met: good wheels and tires, working breaks and shifters, greased moving parts. Half the route will be on limestone that can get into nooks and crannies, so don't ride a dry bike. If you're not sure if your bike is ready for this trip, just bring it into a shop and ask. Make sure to bring a patch kit or spare tube and a pump in case you get a flat as well. If you don't, you may have to walk up to eight miles to fix a simple busted tire.

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Photo by Daniel Murphy
How to get there:

Depending on where you're coming from, we suggest two routes.

Coming from Northeast or the U of M:

If you're coming from the Stone Arch Bridge, you can take West River Parkway to the Cedar Lake Trail, heading southwest. Take that to Kenilworth Trail if you want to make a side trip to Hidden Beach (you'll recognize the railroad crossing), or Lake Calhoun, which is just a few more miles south on the trail. Afterward, continue on Kenilworth until it hits the Midtown Greenway. Hang a right there, and continue heading southwest until it turns into the Cedar Lake Trail.

Coming from Uptown or downtown

If you're starting further west, or if you're coming from downtown Minneapolis, we suggest you skip ahead and hop right on the Greenway, heading toward Lake Calhoun. A little after the lake, the Greenway merges into the Cedar Lake Trail. Continue on for a little over four miles all the way into Hopkins.

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Photo by Daniel Murphy
Once you've taken the Cedar Lake Trail into Hopkins, head south just before the trail veers hard to the north (pay attention to an intersection that directs you toward the Minnesota River Bluffs LRT). You'll know you're in the right spot if you're near the Depot Coffee House. Head inside and recharge with a cold press and a sandwich, as you're halfway there.

From the Depot, hop on the Minnesota River Bluffs LRT to Fifth Avenue South, and head 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). Or you can keep along Mainstreet for some good, old-fashioned suburban fun: There are restaurants, bars, antique stores, and even a dollar theater.

Once you've entered the Minnetonka LRT, you'll take that the rest of the way until you reach Excelsior Bay. You'll know you're on the right trail because it's made of hard-packed limestone gravel. Don't worry, it's hard enough for skinny tires.

Collage_intermediate_2.jpg
Photo by Daniel Murphy
What to do there:

Lake Minnetonka is huge and has many bays and beaches. We suggest setting up camp on Excelsior Bay (note the extremely clear water). Take a dip or rent a kayak, then head into town for food, drinks, or ice cream. If you're feeling homesick, there's even a Sebastian Joe's stand just off the lake.

If you're travelling with an of-age crew, don't forget to check out the brand new Excelsior Brewery. The brewery is open to the public every weekend, when anywhere from 200 to 300 people show up to drink in the garage-like atmosphere, according to co-owner John Click. Make sure to try their award-winning Big Island Blond. Tip: If you ride in wearing an Excelsior Brewing Company biking jersey, your first pint is free.

Next trip: Carver Park Reserve (expert)

Pack as much camping gear and cheap beer onto your bike as you can. Our next trip takes you to the beautiful camping grounds of the Carver Park Reserve in Victoria. This trip is a little over 30 miles out of Minneapolis, full of rolling hills, and far enough away from civilization that you'll need to carry all your essentials with you. Be prepared.

Do you have suggestions for a good summer bike trip? Let us know in the comments below.
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