Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge By Bike

Jun 11, 2024Biking

The Minnesota River State Trail will someday connect Ortonville, MN with Le Sueur via Granite Falls and Mankato following its namesake river for over 150 miles. Currently, three unconnected segments exist. The southernmost stretch of five miles takes off from the outskirts of Montevideo and travels south to Wegdahl. A three-mile piece starts at the town of Milan and heads west to Milan Beach Resort on Lac Qui Parle Lake. In Ortonville, the northern terminus, a 2.2-mile section links the city with Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge starting at the Minnesota River headwaters at Riverside Park. It travels along the river, past granite outcroppings and joins with paved and unpaved roads inside the refuge.

Leaving from Ortonville you can ride a 12-mile lollipop-shaped route including the refuge’s five-mile auto tour route, but be prepared for a one-mile unpaved section to get there. The refuge is home to Minnesota’s rarest plants, the ball cactus, but you’re more likely to see prickly pear cacti growing in clusters on the granite outcroppings rising from the prairie. Along the way you’ll have opportunities to go for some short interpretive walks, too.

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I’m Jan, the publisher of Minnesota Trails Magazine. I’m looking for that one trail, the next ride, a new discovery and other reasons never to sit still in Minnesota.

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