River Bend Nature Center has some great mountain bike trails

Last week I went for a night ride from downtown Faribault to the nearby River Bend Nature Center (RBNC). Earlier this year I rode a few of the trails at RBNC but mainly the wide, well-traveled ones.  I didn’t really see it as a good place for mountain biking. But I was wrong.  I rode a single track trail to get to RBNC that was very fun, even though I only had a weak handlebar light.  And once there, I discovered many other fun single tracks that I had no idea existed.

So I went back this week in the daylight to get a better idea of what I’d just experienced.  (My apologies for the semi-lousy photos. I took them with my smartphone.)

IMG_20120102_163130 IMG_20120102_163232 mountain bike trails at River Bend Nature Center
The best mountain bike trail from downtown to RBNC begins at the eastern edge of Teepee Tonka Park, underneath the Hwy 60 viaduct that crosses over the Straight River at the southeast corner of downtown Faribault. There’s another route, the recreational trail that begins at the southern edge of the park on the west side of the river but if you take that, you’ll miss the fun stuff.  See this City of Faribault Parks and Trails map (PDF) for more detail.

Right photo above: within a few yards, you have the option of taking the lower trail that goes along the river (intermediate difficulty) or the upper trail along the bluff (advanced/expert).

mountain bike trails at River Bend Nature Center IMG_20120102_163726 IMG_20120102_163934
The lower trail has several well-constructed bridges over the creek beds.

mountain bike trails at River Bend Nature Center IMG_20120102_164355 IMG_20120102_164550
The lower trail has the potential for lots of technical areas, with many logs and rocky creek beds.  I say ‘potential’ because with a few exceptions, the technical stuff is in ‘raw’ form, ie, not constructed to make it rideable or interesting for most riders.

mountain bike trails at River Bend Nature Center IMG_20120102_162555 IMG_20120102_162155
The upper trail has some fun ups and downs, and is solidly constructed with rocks and logs along the steeper parts to prevent erosion. While not too difficult technically, the trail is narrow in many places, along some steep drop-offs and thus would be a little freaky for an intermediate rider.

tunnel along the mountain bike trails at River Bend Nature Center IMG_20120102_163920 IMG_20120102_163717
There are some fun tunnels to explore.

Next time out, I’ll try to find more of the single-track trails in the heart of the park.  But I’m thrilled to find out how much RBNC has to offer, as it’s only 15 minutes from my house in Northfield.

See my Mountain Bike Geezer blog and follow my Mountain Bike Geezer Twitter feed.

Update 9:40 PM: A screengrab of part of the Fbo parks map with my indicators in yellow where the trails start at the north end of the park.

Correction April 13:  the yellow arrow now indicates where the River Bend property line is. I’ve added a purple arrow to indicate where the single track trail actually begins.


  1. Robert Palmquist said:

    Griff, thanks for posting this info. You say “The best mountain bike trail … begins at the eastern edge of Teepee Tonka Park… There’s another route, the recreational trail that begins at the southern edge of the park on the west side of the river but if you take that, you’ll miss the fun stuff.”

    Looking at the map I couldn’t quite figure out where the “eastern edge” trail is located — is it on the map?

    January 4, 2012
  2. Jerry Bilek said:

    River Bend is fun. it helps if you have a guide like Ben or Curtis. some of the best trails are not easy to find.

    I did a night ride at the MN river bottoms last night. those are fun trails as well. lots of wildlife and some snow. a helmet mounted light works best for trail riding since your bike is not always pointed in the direction you will be going next.

    January 4, 2012
  3. Jane McWilliams said:

    Thanks for calling attention to this wonderful amenity. I hadn’t heard before that it is so mountain bike friendly, but know that it is great for cross country skiing, hiking and exploring prairie, woods and water flora and fauna. Much of the maintenance of Riverbend is done by volunteers – Faribault has a right to be proud!

    January 4, 2012
  4. Griff Wigley said:

    Jerry, I just bought a bright helmet-mounted light. So I’m psyched for a night ride, and with no snow, I might be able to keep up with you on your fatty.

    January 4, 2012
  5. Griff Wigley said:

    Robert, no, it’s not marked on that map. Thanks for pointing that out. So I’ve made a screengrab of part of the Fbo parks map with my indicators in yellow where the trails start at the north end of the RBNC park… on the east edge of Teepee Tonka Park where the small bridge to the park crosses the river. I’ve added this to the blog post above. Let me know if this helps.

    January 4, 2012
  6. Griff Wigley said:

    Jane, do you know any of the staff or board members at RBNC? I ask because I just got a comment on my mtn bike blog that these mtn bike trails are not officially recognized by its managers.

    I assumed the RBNC managers are supportive of the trails because of the permanent bridge structures on their property.

    The City of Faribault trails map points to a portion of the trail (red line “city trail”) with the wording “River Bend – TeepeeTonka Park Connection.”

    The RBNC website doesn’t mention mountain biking specifically but #18 on their rules and regulations page says:

    it shall be unlawful to… Operate a bicycle except on official trails and in designated areas;

    January 4, 2012
  7. Robert Palmquist said:

    Perfect, thanks 🙂

    January 5, 2012
  8. Jane McWilliams said:

    Griff – I spoke with Suzy Boysen, the Administrative Coordinator at RBNC, and she says mountain bikers are welcome as long as they stay on the designated trails and observe safe and courteous respect for other trail users.

    January 5, 2012
  9. Griff Wigley said:

    Robert, it’s been pointed out to me that my arrows on that screengrab map aren’t quite accurate. The starting point of the trails is closer to indicator #11 by Pye Park. The RBNC property starts where the shaded green area begins so the first part of the trails are actually on City property. I’ll create a new version of the map when I get a chance.

    January 5, 2012
  10. Griff Wigley said:

    I’ve had more conversations with a few people about this and now have a better understanding of how ‘delicate’ the situation is.

    With that in mind and with no pressure from anyone, I’ve edited the blog post above a bit. If anyone is curious about the changes, contact me.

    January 6, 2012
  11. Griff Wigley said:

    I had coffee this morning with two area community leaders who are also mountain bikers. They’re both very familiar with River Bend, ride there regularly, and one is an active volunteer there.

    They are also both very interested in the Rice County Parks Comprehensive Plan that’s currently in draft.

    More to come.

    January 13, 2012

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