BEST BIKE TRAIL - 2005
You end up at the bottom of a steeply raked field filled with blackbirds and horses. There's a river valley spread out far below you in the distance, an old church steeple climbing up from the greenery. It's a certain kind of sturdy American beauty you see here, the kind of image you might find in the photo calendar of a small-town college. It might be Utopia. It might also be Shakopee. And you can't help but feel astonished to realize that you can bike here on a protected path all the way from downtown Minneapolis. The pleasures of the Cedar Lake Trail are already known to most city cyclists: the wildflower prairies, the coffee break at the railroad depot in Hopkins. But this is generally where most urban souls loop back home. Riding a few blocks through the streets of Hopkins deposits you on a 10-foot-wide, packed limestone trail, which snakes 11-odd miles along the old St. Louis and Minneapolis railway. This path takes you first through schoolyards and backyards, then by parks and lakes, and ultimately right through the pretty heart of exurbia. Here's your chance to sneak into the gated Bearpath community, which the SW LRT trail bisects. It's also your chance to bike through bogs and farm fields, until you find yourself on a scenic crossing, perched high above the Minnesota River Valley. Ambitious souls can follow a few arteries to rural county Highway 13 and the northern arm of the LRT trail system in Victoria--which leads back to Hopkins and Minneapolis (some 43 miles round-trip). Cut out of work early on a weekday afternoon and you can be out in the country, down by the river, on the shores of Lake Minnetonka, and back by dinner--without ever having stepped on the gas pedal.