By Melanie Radzicki Mcmanus
Bicycling is a great way to enjoy the outdoors and take in some impressive scenery. And Southern Minnesota is laced with inviting trails for you to explore. Take the Sakatah Singing Hills State Trail, which connects the towns of Mankato and Faribault. Created on a former railroad bed, the 39- mile, multiuse path provides a level ride along the Minnesota River and through pretty Sakatah Lake State Park. Other choices are the Root River and Harmony-Preston Valley State Trails in southeastern Minnesota. Winding 60 miles through the state’s hilly bluff country, you’ll definitely encounter some climbs. But the views will be worth it, as the trails unspool along the scenic Root River.
You’ll be pedaling through several historic towns, too, so there are plenty of opportunities to rest and grab some refreshments.
To take in a little history during your excursion, try the Casey Jones State Trail, a nearly 20-mile path connecting Currie and Pipestone in the state’s southwestern corner. In addition to riding past tallgrass prairie remnants, wooded ravines and Lake Shetek, you’ll be within easy access of Pipestone National Monument and Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Walnut Grove home.
Mankato’s Red Jacket Trail is a pleasant amble that begins south of town and runs 13 miles to the outskirts of Rapidan. The paved trail showcases woodlands and meadows, where wildlife is often spotted, plus the Mount Kato Ski Area. You’ll also get to pedal across the Red Jacket Trestle, a former railroad bridge that sits 80 feet above the Le Sueur River. n your visit at exploresouthernminnesota.com
WHEN IT’S WINE O’CLOCK …
Three select spots for wine-tasting are Grandview Valley Winery, Morgan Creek Vineyards and Round Lake Vineyards & Winery. Grandview Valley makes most of its wine using its own grapes. Sip your favorite varietal while noshing on homemade crab rangoon or a Reuben pizza. Every Friday evening from May through October, it’s Winedown for the Weekend at Morgan Creek. During the event, you’ll enjoy Neapolitan pizzettes and Swiss raclettes while sipping wine and listening to classical and jazz tunes. Round Lake’s bistro allows you to pair its wines with a bacon-wrapped filet, coconut shrimp or even a bison T-bone.
SAMPLE SOME SUDS
Southern Minnesota is home to several dozen breweries, so you have plenty of options for suds sampling. New Ulm’s August Schell Brewing Company, founded in 1860, is the state’s oldest brewery. Take a tour before heading to the bier halle for sampling. Waseca’s Half Pint Brew Co. is Minnesota’s first farm brewery and taproom. Enjoy one of its eight tap beers with pizza delivered by neighboring Pleasant Grove Pizza Farm. At Island City Brewing Co. in downtown Winona, sip some brews while playing trivia or bingo.
Plan your visit at exploresouthernminnesota.com