ATV Off-Roading Adventure at Soo Line South Trail

ATV Off-Roading Adventure at Soo Line South Trail

Minnesota has more than 1,000 miles of state-designated ATV trails that cover all sorts of terrain, from deep North Woods forest to rolling prarie landscapes. With all these trails to choose from, it’s hard to pick out just one on which to spend a day riding. But there is one trail that covers more than 100 diagonal miles in a southwesterly/northeasterly direction, crossing wetlands, passing through state forests and parks, skirting dozens of streams, rivers and lakes: The Soo Line South Trail. Having so much to see and do on a single trail helps to make for a perfect day on your ATV.

1. Old Creamery Café, Rice, MN

Get an early start toward the trailhead, which is located just north of Royalton on US-10. On your way, stop in at the Old Creamery Café in Rice for coffee and a breakfast meal that will fuel your stamina for the trail. The Old Creamery has been a community fixture for more than 30 years and is a favorite among both locals and tourists. Located in a former dairy creamery (hence the name), the café serves up scratch-made dishes seven days a week. Try one of their sunrise steams—served with eggs and toast—or a three-egg, build-your-own omelet. They open at 6:30 a.m. every day but Sunday, when they start serving at 7 a.m.

2. Soo Line South Trail

If you travel the length of the Soo Line South Trail from the trailhead near Royalton, you’ll traverse several Minnesota counties, and more than 100 miles, before you reach the Wisconsin border. The Soo Line Trail, itself, is an easy ride with few challenges, making it a great ride for riders of all skill levels. Experienced riders looking for more of a challenge needn’t fret, though. There are several connected loops along the way that offer more technical off-roading experiences. Look for the Foxy Loop Trail, the Red Top Trails, the Solana Loop, and the Soo Pits Trails, as you make your way northeast, past the Rum River and Solana State Forests, Father Hennepin and Moose Lake State Parks, as well as the edge of Mille Lacs Lake—one of the state’s biggest. Contact the Minnesota DNR for a trail pass.

3. Farm Market Café, Onamia, MN

After you get to the trailhead, park, unload your ATVs, and ride the first 30 miles or so, you’ll find yourself in Mille Lacs Lake country. You may not see the big round monster in the middle of Minnesota, but you’ll feel its presence on your left as you ride through the flat, reedy wetlands, past smaller lakes and ponds that fringe it. You may also be hungry. The Farm Market Café is located just off the trail in Onamia, and it’s a great place to grab lunch, whether you plan to eat it in the restaurant or to take it with you for a picnic farther up the trail. The café is owned by producers and specializes in delicious fare made from locally-sourced, seasonal ingredients. The homemade chicken and noodles will keep you warm all day.

4. Moose Lake Depot & Fires of 1918 Museum, Moose Lake, MN

As you ride through Moose Lake, be sure to visit the Moose Lake Depot & Fires of 1918 Museum. A former Soo Line Depot (which is why it’s located so close to the trail), the museum recounts the history of the area’s railroads, and displays several period pieces from the early 20th century. The museum also memorializes the devastating forest fires of 1918, which burned a quarter-million acres, destroyed 38 towns, and killed 453 people. This event permanently scarred a large part of Northeast Minnesota and is worth learning a little more about.

5. Hanging Horn Lakeside Resort, Moose Lake, MN

After passing through Moose Lake, take a short, northward detour on County 13 toward Hanging Horn Lake and the lakeside resort that shares its name. This is the place where you’ll relax with the sunset, shake off some of the trail dust, then settle in and wake up with gorgeous North Woods views. The resort has a restaurant where you can relax and replenish after a full day on the trail. A former youth camp, the resort offers hiking trails and a swimming beach (in season, of course) where you can get your land legs back and stretch out your body. In the morning you can do it all again—in the other direction.