The mountain bike trails at the River Bend Nature Center in Faribault

Last week I went for a night ride from downtown Faribault to the nearby River Bend Nature Center (RBNC). Earlier this year I rode a few of the trails at RBNC but mainly the wide, well-traveled ones.  I didn’t really see it as a good place for mountain biking. But I was wrong.  I rode a single track trail to get to RBNC that was very fun, even though I only had a weak handlebar light.  And once there, I discovered many other fun single tracks that I had no idea existed.

So I went back this week in the daylight to get a better idea of what I’d just experienced.  (My apologies for the semi-lousy photos. I took them with my smartphone.)

IMG_20120102_163130 IMG_20120102_163232 mountain bike trails at River Bend Nature Center
The best mountain bike trail from downtown to RBNC begins at the eastern edge of Teepee Tonka Park, underneath the Hwy 60 viaduct that crosses over the Straight River at the southeast corner of downtown Faribault. There’s another route, the recreational trail that begins at the southern edge of the park on the west side of the river but if you take that, you’ll miss the fun stuff.  See this City of Faribault Parks and Trails map (PDF) for more detail.

Right photo above: within a few yards, you have the option of taking the lower trail that goes along the river (intermediate difficulty) or the upper trail along the bluff (advanced/expert).

mountain bike trails at River Bend Nature Center IMG_20120102_163726 IMG_20120102_163934
The lower trail has several well-constructed bridges over the creek beds.

mountain bike trails at River Bend Nature Center IMG_20120102_164355 IMG_20120102_164550
The lower trail has the potential for lots of technical areas, with many logs and rocky creek beds.  I say ‘potential’ because with a few exceptions, the technical stuff is in ‘raw’ form, ie, not constructed to make it rideable or interesting for most riders.

mountain bike trails at River Bend Nature Center IMG_20120102_162555 IMG_20120102_162155
The upper trail has some fun ups and downs, and is solidly constructed with rocks and logs along the steeper parts to prevent erosion. While not too difficult technically, the trail is narrow in many places, along some steep drop-offs and thus would be a little freaky for an intermediate rider.

tunnel along the mountain bike trails at River Bend Nature Center IMG_20120102_163920 IMG_20120102_163717
There are some fun tunnels to explore.

Next time out, I’ll try to find more of the single-track trails in the heart of the park.  But I’m thrilled to find out how much RBNC has to offer, as it’s only 15 minutes from my house in Northfield.

Update 9:40 PMA screengrab of part of the RBNC map with indicators in yellow where the trails start at the north end of the park.

Correction April 13:  the yellow arrow now indicates where the River Bend property line is. I’ve added a purple arrow to indicate where the single track trail actually begins.




  1. Tim Wegner said:

    Those trails really look like a lot of fun. Are they recognized by the land managers as legal because if they are these trails should be listed on the MORC website. Looks like the locals have really been working hard to build a fun system of trails.

    January 4, 2012
  2. Griff Wigley said:

    Tim, I assume the RBNC managers are supportive of the trails because of the permanent bridge structures on their property.

    The City of Faribault trails map points to a portion of the trail (red line “city trail”) with the wording “River Bend – TeepeeTonka Park Connection.”

    The RBNC website doesn’t mention mountain biking specifically but #18 on their rules and regulations page says:

    it shall be unlawful to… Operate a bicycle except on official trails and in designated areas;

    I’ll try to find out more.

    January 4, 2012
  3. Rob Newport said:

    These trails are not recognized by the land managers as legal trails. They were all put in by a very few local people.

    January 4, 2012
  4. Griff Wigley said:

    Rob, I’m assuming you’re referring to the trails I blogged about/photographed above? If so, do the land managers just ‘allow’ them to remain?

    It sounds like mountain biking is allowed but I guess it’s not clear which trails they mean when they say “official trails/designated areas.”

    I’ll try to contact RBNC staff or board members to find out more.

    January 4, 2012
  5. Rob Newport said:

    Here is a map of the “official trails/designated areas.”

    Any of the “single track” you rode is not an “official trail/designated area.”

    January 5, 2012
  6. Griff Wigley said:

    Thanks for that map link, Rob… and for the phone chat yesterday. It’s good to have the background and a better understanding of how ‘delicate’ the situation is.

    With that in mind and with no pressure from anyone, I’ve edited the blog post above a bit. If anyone is curious about the changes, contact me.

    January 6, 2012
  7. Griff Wigley said:

    I had coffee this morning with two area community leaders who are also mountain bikers. They’re both very familiar with River Bend, ride there regularly, and one is an active volunteer there.

    They are also both very interested in the Rice County Parks Comprehensive Plan that’s currently in draft.

    More to come.

    January 13, 2012

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