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.)
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).
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.
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.
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 PM:
A 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.