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Northstar Train and Bike Exploration: Anoka, Elm Creek Park Reserve, Coon Rapids Dam Park, Mississippi River Trail, and back to Minneapolis.
Sunday, August 21
Northstar commuter train from Target Center station (beginning of the line, located next to the last light rail stop) to Anoka station; one way trip, biking back to Target Center station. Check Metrotransit.org, route #888 for current schedules and prices. Other resources we used are google bike, an online booklet of maps: “Northstar, You, Your Bike”, available for a fee at www.bikeverywhere.com, and the Twin Cities Bike Map, which bike shops carry. The map here is intended to primarily get you out of Anoka and to Elm Creek Park. At the Anoka station be sure to cross the tracks and head south, ie perpendicular to the tracks, the rest should be obvious.
How long: Train ride – about 25 minutes. Bike ride back to Target Center in downtown – about 3 1/2 to 4 hours actual riding time at a recreational pace; we clocked 32 miles including a wide loop through Elm Creek Park Reserve.
The train – easy to access, plenty of room for bikes on weekends; two bike slots per each of 3 train cars, but room in the seating area for more. Bicyclists must take bikes down to the platforms either on the escalator or elevator from the entry level where you pay. Payment is via machine and depends on the distance you are traveling. One way adult fare to Anoka at this time was $3.
*Note* – The inconvenient factor with the Northstar is that there are few trains, unlike with the light rail. If you plan to do a round trip, you must plan carefully to make the return train. Visiting Elm Creek Park and returning to take the train in Anoka is possible (you arrive in Anoka a little after 11am and the return train is at 3:02 pm (Sunday schedule).
The bike ride – no major hills or problems, but the distance could deter some. There is much trail riding, well marked in Elm Creek Park and from there on the bike corridor to the dam. The Mississippi River trail comes and goes; when in doubt, head toward the river! Even where road signs indicate a dead end, you usually pick up the bike trail. We crossed the river to the East bank at the Camden bridge, then back to the West bank at the Plymouth Bridge.
Yes! A beautiful route, and the five of us had a beautiful day too. Taking the train one way leaves you free to explore without worrying about making it to the return train.