Where: Lake Maria State Park is located about 55 miles northwest of Minneapolis and about 22 miles southeast of St. Cloud.
When: August 4 – 5
How: Northstar train from Target Field in Minneapolis to Big Lake (end of the line); bike from Big Lake station south on route #43, then west on route #39 through Monticello to route #11 (Clements Ave.). North on route #11 to the park entrance. We used Doug Shidell’s publication, “Northstar, You, Your Bike” to plan our route; it’s available to download for a price at www.bikeverywhere.com.
The bike route I recorded on my phone – shows speed, map, elevation gain etc. This is for our way there
5.5 miles from station to Monticello, 8 miles to ranger office in park, 2 miles to camper cabin
Note that the distance we recorded was significantly shorter than the distance listed in Shidell’s description, between 13+ miles to the park entrance, versus 19 miles. We were glad for the shorter ride because we had a pretty good headwind and were loaded with food and gear.
Ease: This is not a physically strenuous trip, but is definitely one for people who like to be active. Here are some details.First, you need to get to the train. Of the six participants five road to the station, the longest trip being about 7 miles. The train sits on tracks one flight below the ticketing area, so you take an escalator (or elevator due to your gear) to the platform. The platform is not at the same level as the entrance to the wagons, so you need to lift your laden bikes up the steps, easy with one person in front and another behind lifting the weight. Just something to consider if you’re travelling alone. At this writing there is plenty of room to spread out on a Saturday heading north.
The bike ride itself to the park is flat to gently rolling through pleasant farm land. Traffic is light and shoulders good for biking. Within the park roads are gravel and hilly – could be a problem for narrow tired bikes. All campsites and camper cabins are remote, walk-in sites, so you always have to travel the gravel roads and then walk. We were in camper cabin #1, which Raja’s GPS put us at 2 miles from the entrance (the park map indicated 1mile on road and then 3/4 mile on trail).