A series exploring the best outdoor experiences in the Twin Cities

The Saint Paul Classic: Roll ‘Round The Saintly City

This 32-mile bike loop anchors the venerable St. Paul Classic bike tour in and around St. Paul, with a mansion-lined boulevard to parkway pedaling and stunning river valley views. Cruise traffic-free around the city, with succulent gastro, delights at rest stops and live music at the finish line.

The Ride

Set aside September 11th this year for a full day of riding and revelry at the St. Paul Classic. This is the landmark Grand Round course and the event’s popular mid-distance loop.

Start at the University of St. Thomas and ride south on Mississippi River Blvd., with great views of Ol’ Miss and its wooded bluffs.  Pass overlooks aplenty to the junction with Highway 5 and follow Shepard Road along the ridge above Crosby Farm Park to I-35E and on to the Samuel Morgan corridor into downtown St. Paul.

The route hugs the St. Paul harbor and continues along Warner Road to Indian Mounds Park.  This was a sacred place for prehistoric Native Americans of the area and the site of nearly forty burial mounds (only six remain) at the top and flanks of the bluff. The original mounds date back over 2,000 years. Visitors today get stellar St. Paul skyline views and from here, the ride route hooks up with the Bruce Vento Trail, traveling north through Swede Hollow to the south shore of Lake Phalen. The 3-mile path around the lake is packed with lakeside views, and some short, punchy hills add flavor if you’re up for a fun side trip.

From Lake Phalen, merge onto Wheelock Parkway for the loop’s trip west. Cruise Wheelock all the way to Lake Como. At the south side of the lake, follow winding Como Lake Drive around to the northern shore, with a nice view across the waves of the elegant Como Dockside pavilion. The path blends into Como Park on rolling hills to the Como Zoo and Majorie McNeely Conservatory.

Established in 1897 with a lineup of three deer, the zoo is Minnesota’s first and a magnet for kids squealing with glee. Originally located on Harriet Island, the zoo moved to Como Park when more animals arrived and the island got crowded. The Conservatory is another must-go Minnesota landmark, bursting at the seams with all manner of eye-popping flowers and unique foliage. The park’s pathways lead away from the zoo, taking Grand Round riders along Como Avenue and past the southern fringe of the state fairgrounds to Raymond Avenue. Head south to reach Pelham Boulevard and the homestretch back to Summit Avenue.

Get there: From I-94, take the Cretin-Vandalia exit and head 1 mile south to the University of St. Thomas. Park where permitted, or along Summit Avenue and the overlook at the river. Check out bikeclassic.org for all the details and registration.


By Steve Johnson