By Trent Jonas
Minnesota is widely regarded as one of the best trail states in the country. Folks who love to off-road will be ecstatic to learn that more than 1,000 miles of the state’s trails are open to ATVs. Whatever terrain you crave, Minnesota is sure to have a trail that will tickle your off-road fancy. Here’s a handful of our favorites.
The Spider Lake Trails area was voted the “Best ATV Trail” in the state by viewers of Twin Cities CBS affiliate, WCCO—and for good reason. The 26 miles of trails trace the shorelines of lakes and ponds and trek along ridgelines as they traverse the forests northwest of the Brainerd Lakes area. The combination of smooth, sandy trails and rocky, hilly tracks makes Spider Lake Trails a perfect place for beginning ATV riders, as well as more experienced off-roaders. Unlike most of Minnesota’s ATV trails, Spider Lake is open year-round. A trail permit is required.
The Fourtown-Grygla Trail, named for the two towns in Northwestern Minnesota where it can be can be accessed, is 170 miles of easy-to-ride but varying terrain. The trail system is privately maintained by a local club but most of the rights-of-way are on Beltrami County land, trails, and roads. The trails run past fields and farmland, along streams, and through forested areas. The trail system is relatively level throughout and offers few obstacles, making for suitable riding for everyone. A trail permit may be required for some parts of the system.
The Northwoods Regional ATV Trail System contains more than 200 miles of uninterrupted trails designed for minimal environmental impact. The well-maintained trails wind past lakes and rivers, along streams, through swamps lined with ashes and willows, and across boggy oak savannahs. The area the system covers is the size of the state of Delaware and encompasses oak and maple forests, pine growths, and stands of birch and aspens. Six Aitkin County communities are connected with the trail and welcoming to off-road ATV riders. Trail permits are required.
More than 100 miles of connected trails winding across two counties and through several state forests give the Forest Riders Trail its name. The terrain varies from easy to moderately difficult as the trails leave smooth and flat ground into rougher, more hilly sections. Lakes and streams, and marshes and ponds punctuate the pine and hardwood forests that the trails wind through. Camping is available in Two Inlets State Forest and Itasca State Park is nearby. A private club maintains this public trail system, and permits are required.
At only 13 miles, the Snake Creek Trail in Southeast Minnesota is relatively short—but what it lacks in length it makes up for in scenery. The trail climbs 300 vertical feet as it ascends the Mississippi River bluffs along the Snake Creek valley in the Richard J. Dover Memorial Hardwood State Forest. The trail is generally easy riding but exposed bedrock and limestone outcroppings offer a bit of a challenge along some portions of the trail. Make time to stop at the scenic overlooks along the trail and enjoy the vistas across Southeast Minnesota’s Blufflands and the Mississippi River Valley. The trail is maintained by the DNR and permits are required.
*Note: Age restrictions, special licenses, and other requirements for off highway vehicles vary from state to state. Before heading out on your OHV, please consult your local regulations.