Northstar Train plus Bike: Loop from Anoka Station to Coon Rapids Station

Transit to Green Space outings are a series launched by the Land Use and Transportation committee of the Sierra Club North Star Chapter in an ongoing exploration of ways to reach our parks and natural areas without cars.

When:
Sunday, Nov.6. Northbound train at 10:40am from Target station in downtown Minneapolis to Anoka; return on southbound train at 3:06pm from Coon Rapids.

Where:
Anoka – Elm Creek Park Reserve – Rush Creek Regional Trail – Coon Rapids Dam Park – Coon Rapids Station

How long:
Train ride to Anoka takes about 25 minutes; return trip about 5 minutes less. Biking time was 2 ½ hours at a moderate pace in the wind of 8 1/2 mph for a total loop distance of a little over 21 miles. Within the 4 hour window allowed by our trains, we had time for short snack and map stops, and a 40 minute break at the Coon Rapids dam visitors’ center for lunch. We reached the Coon Rapids station with about 25 minutes to spare before the arrival of the southbound train.

Ease:
The train: easy. Buy tickets upstairs at machines (cost for adults $3 one way at the time of our ride), descend to train via elevator or escalator. Each car has a large space for bikes containing two slots with fasteners. The conductor was emphatic that if there were more than 2 bikes in one car people couldn’t bring  them into the seating area, but would have to stand and hold them. (We leaned a third bike against the other two in slots, and there was no trouble.) Prepare to get off the train before your stop – they don’t stay long in the station.

The ride: easy to do in the time we allotted. A few hills in Elm Creek Park; where roads are busy it’s possible to ride on a trail or trail/sidewalk (as in Anoka crossing the river). Faster riders, or those who don’t eat en route might want to venture further into Elm Creek Park, we stayed in the eastern most portion. Note though, that you should have contingency plans for how you’ll get back if you miss the train. Biking back, about 13 miles from the dam, mostly along Mississippi River trail is a nice option.

Worth doing:
Using the train opens up more biking possibilities for people who don’t want to, or can’t, bike all the way out for their ride. Besides, it’s fun, and fun to explore the region. Leaving Anoka station you pass through the old downtown, pleasant and worth exploring. Besides shops, the town has much frontage on the Rum River which joins the Mississippi here. There is park and bike trail all the way to the juncture.Outlying parks like Elm Creek have more acreage and so a wilder feel than our city parks, nice for getting out in nature. The Rush Creek Trail – quite straight – borders suburban development at times, but also takes you through farm fields and wooded areas. Coon Rapids Dam gives you the Mississippi and bird life (osprey nest on top of a high tension structure for instance), plus a heated visitors’ center. After the dam, to reach the Coon Rapids station using our route you follow a trail through a park near the river at first, but eventually wind your way though suburban streets, not the old town.

Resources:
We consulted Doug Shidell’s Twin Cities Bike Map (paper) and cyclopath.com for bike routes; metrotransit.org for Northstar schedules and fares.

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