MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

A bicycle trail and two state parks

A variety of scenery makes for a great day in southeast Minnesota.

Great River Ridge Trail in Minnesota.

© Beth Gauper

South of Elgin, the new Great River Ridge State Trail is lovely.

Ah, the smell of creosote in spring.

On a gorgeous day in May, itís hard to resist checking out a new bicycle trail, especially when the neighborhood includes two state parks famous for their wildflowers.

Thatís how we found ourselves in southeast Minnesota on the Great River Ridge State Trail, riding over a maniacally winding creek on dozens of freshly timbered bridges.

First, we drove to little Carley State Park, where white pines line a sunken bowl in the middle of farmland. Thousands of bluebells and clouds of false rue anemone covered an oxbow in the North Branch of the Whitewater River, but we were the only ones on the trails.

That wasnít the case at neighboring Whitewater State Park, famous in May for its fly fishing, morel mushrooms and wildflowers and year-round for its hiking. We scoped out the flowers on the path to the walk-in campsites ó lots of wild ginger and three shades of violets ó then climbed up to Inspiration Point and over to Chimney Rock on a trail lined with spectacular overlooks.

Whitewater is just 11 miles east of the southern trailhead of the paved Great River Ridge, and the eight-mile stretch from Eyota to Elgin was beautiful, curvy and partly shaded. The five miles from Elgin to Plainview follow the highway and are slightly uphill.

Great River Ridge isnít really a destination in itself, but it's great when combined with visits to Carley and Whitewater state parks.

For more destinations, see our Bicycling stories.

  Last updated on March 11, 2015