Your Official Travel Guide for Biking the Luce Line State Trail

Welcome to Your Official Travel Guide for Biking the Luce Line State Trail. In this short inspirational post, I will tell you everything you need to know about biking the Luce Line State Trail so that you can pretend you’ve actually done it yourself. I’m doing the biking for you, so you can enjoy the wonders of the great State of Minnesota without leaving your comfortable living room. In this post, you will read all about the features of the trail, survival tips for beginners, and sights you should expect to see along the way. If you’d like, you can move your feet up and down in a pedaling motion while you read to help foster the illusion of physical activity.

The Luce Line State Trail is about 63 miles long, and only goes as far east as Plymouth. But Three Rivers Park District manages the rest of the same rail-to-trail corridor, where it is called the Luce Line Regional Trail, for an additional 9 miles. Same difference, except that the Three Rivers portion is paved, and the DNR portion is unpaved. Big Difference. By the time you start biking from your home in South Minneapolis, the trip will be about 82 miles each direction. Here is a map of your entire vicarious journey.

You will leave your home early on a Saturday morning with a singular goal in mind: to ride a bicycle to the wonderful metropolis of Cosmos. You plan to camp overnight at Thompson Lake near Cosmos, and make the return journey the following day.

The paved trails will be easy going at first, and when the trails transition to crushed limestone, you will laugh at the universe’s attempt to thwart your plan. Crushed limestone is an excellent bicycling surface. You will quickly reach the town of Watertown. Here is what you will see:

A couple of little trails in Watertown.

Downtown Watertown.

You will want to stop at the small grocery store and buy several apples, beef jerkey, and some sodas. Do not skimp on the sodas.

Buy Apples Here.

Next, you will continue on the luxurious crushed limestone trail to reach the slightly-less bustling berg called Winsted. Upon closer inspection, you will discover that it appears to be a fine town, and you will daydream about eating pizza on a bench next to Winsted Lake. Do not let your mind get carried away. You have a lot of cycling ahead of you and there is no pizza (there should be pizza).

Winsted Skyline.

Some park next to Winsted Lake.

As you continue on your journey, you will get momentarily lost as you try to find your way to the trail on the other side of town. You will quietly curse the City of Winsted for not providing a continuous trail through the city, or at least providing some cheap and simple wayfinding signs directing cyclists towards the trail. When you do find the trail, your spirits will sink a bit as you realize you have reached the end of the crushed limestone surface. The trail is now barely a gravel road. It is here that you will realize that the Luce Line State Trail is really more of a snowmobile trail than a biking trail, which is why you have never really heard cycling enthusiasts talk about what a great trail it is. The world will make more sense for a few short moments before reality sinks in that you will have to continue the rest of your journey on a gravel road. You will not be properly equipped. You will take photos of yourself and your travel companions at this time.

Trail is more or less a gravel road.

Jazz Hands.

This part of the journey will be slow-going, as cycling on gravel is hard, and it will be a very hot day. You will start to drag a bit, and you will begin to run low on water. As you approach the town of Spring Lake, you will plan to stop for a water break. To your complete surprise, you will find that the trail passes right by a municipal swimming pool. Rejoice! You will park your bikes outside, ask the 15-year-old sitting at the front desk for permission, and proceed to fill your water bottles in the sink. While they’re not looking, you will also stand in the shower which will feel heavenly when you get back on the bike and head towards Hutchinson.

Hutchinson will come soon enough, and you will be ready to stop for lunch. You will find a mexican restaurant, and you will eat burritos. Do not skimp on the burritos.

Eat Burritos.

After lunch, you will spend a few minutes checking out the City of Hutchinson, and you will be pleasantly surprised by its pleasant surprises.

Downtown Hutchinson.

You will buy several more apples, some crackers, and more sodas at The Fresh Place.

The Fresh Place

On your way out of town, you will pass by this neat little part of the river where all these rocks dam up the river to make a little lake thing. You will like it, as well as the lovely little park in town on the edge of the river. You will sort of wish you were just staying there for the night. But you have set a goal (!) to vicariously travel to Cosmos, and you are too determined to stop short of your goal.

Hutchinson City Park.

Your journey will continue on a rapidly deteriorating trail until you reach the small town of Cedar Mills.

Cedar Mills City Hall.

At this point, the trail will be completely impassable for bikes, and you will have to travel along the shoulder of Highway 7 to reach your final destination of Cosmos.

Huzzah! Victory is yours, vicarious traver! You have done it! You have reached the city of Cosmos without leaving the comfort of your home!

You will observe the following scenes within the City of Cosmos:

Cosmos City Park.

Cosmos Lions Water Fountain.

Cosmos.

Welcome to Cosmos.

At this point, you will be very tired, and after taking a few minutes to catch your breath, you will proceed the final mile to Thompson Lake, your planned destination for the evening. You will have grand visions of a cool, clear oasis perfect for swimming and camping. As you enter the park, you will be optimistic. The grass is green, freshly mowed and well cared for. The gazebos and shelters will look inviting.

Unfortunately, you will quickly discover that Thompson Lake looks like a lousy place to go swimming. It’s shallow, murky, and full of greenery. Also bugs and mosquitos everywhere. Your spirits will sink, and the thought of spending the night here fighting the mosquitos will not be a pleasant.

You are momentarily distracted, however, by the tallest slide you’ve ever seen, a sure safety hazard that is one poorly-balanced child away from a lawsuit that bankrupts the entire County. You will ask yourself if parents really let their kids play on it. Seriously, though, look at this thing. It is simultaneously badass and terrifying.

Tallest Slide Ever.

Surface is hot.

At this point, you will have to make a difficult decision. You will be dead tired, but you also do not want to spend the night at Thompson Lake, or in the Cosmos City Park. You will decide to bike the additional 18 miles back to Hutchinson to stay at the adorable lakeside campground you saw earlier. The one with a beautifully inviting lake, flushing toilets, and heated showers. It will be worth the 18 miles, plus you’ll get to claim you biked 100+ miles in one day, something you will have never done before.

The return trip home the next day will be less eventful. Since most of the Luce Line State Trail isn’t paved, you’ll decide to detour slightly sough and ride the Dakota Rail Regional Trail instead. You’ll enjoy the smooth paved surface, and the new scenery, and you’ll enjoy a lovely dip in Lake Waconia on the way home.

Lake Waconia.

Dakota Rail Trail.

Huzzah! You’ve don’t it, vicarious traveler! You’ve conquered the Luce Line State Trail. Feel free to print this post, sign your initials to the bottom, and hang it on your refrigerator to remind you of your accomplishments! Good job, weary traveler. Time for a nap.

 

2 comments to Your Official Travel Guide for Biking the Luce Line State Trail

  • Julie

    That looks like a fun trip. It was also a trip down memory lane for me. I haven’t biked the trial but it is my old stomping grounds. I have used the Lions water fountain, gone down the giant slide (both have been there since I was a kid), swam in Lake Waconia, and I have hung out in Watertown, Hutchinson, and Winsted. Norwood didn’t have that much to do so we had to go other places for entertainment.

  • Holly Weik

    Excellent trip, and well written post–I am vicariously interested in riding the route during a (ahem!) cooler season. Plus you have a fine looking fellow cyclist along!