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The 22-mile original section of the paved Glacial Lakes State Trail follows the former right-of-way of the Burlington Northern Railroad between Willmar and about 1 mile west of Paynesville at Roseville Road Northeast, at the Kandiyohi–Stearns county line. The trail passes through the towns of Spicer, New London, and Hawick and past Green Lake. The segment between Willmar and Spicer includes a 10-mile parallel grass track for equestrians, and the rest of the trail includes a grassy shoulder for equestrians.
The trail traverses the gently rolling prairies of central Minnesota and travels between a landscape of tallgrass prairie and deciduous forest. Among the farmlands, you can catch glimpses of the original prairie and wetlands, which make ideal habitat for white-tailed deer, small mammals, birds, reptiles, and butterflies.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) recently installed a bike repair station unit at the Civic Center trailhead in Willmar. The City of Willmar has also developed this area to include an information kiosk and a rack with bikes for free use throughout the city.
In New London, you can take a side trip to Sibley State Park (about 3 miles away); follow MN 9 to County Road 148. Note: If you go by bike, you will have to ride in a bike lane on the shoulder of CR 148. In Paynesville you can connect to city trails that circle Lake Koronis. Services are available in the towns along the route, including rest areas and restrooms. The trail is groomed for snowmobiles during winter in Kandiyohi County.
Beyond the county line near Paynesville, the trail is undeveloped to Roscoe; railroad ballast still covers the surface, and some bridges are out. From Roscoe, a newer 5-mile paved segment takes trail users to Richmond, where water and restrooms are available at the new Glacial Lakes Pavilion.
Just east of Richmond, the Glacial Lakes State Trail continues to 178th Avenue, where it seamlessly connects to the Rocori Trail. The Rocori Trail will eventually continue to Rockville, and long-term planning extends the trail all the way into St. Cloud. Note that snowmobiling is prohibited on the Stearns County section of the Glacial Lakes State Trail.
You can access Glacial Lakes State Trail in many places along its route.
In Willmar, take I-94 to Exit 127. Head south on MN 28 W./US 71 S./Main St. S., and go 20.3 miles. Turn left onto US 71, and go 20.6 miles. Turn left onto 37th Ave. N.E./County Road 90, and in 0.7 mile turn right onto 30th St. N.E./CR 9 N.E. Turn right onto Civic Center Drive; parking will be on your right.
For the parking in Spicer, take I-94 to Exit 127. Head south on MN 28 W./US 71 S./Main St. S., and go 20.3 miles. Turn left onto US 71, and go 15.3 miles. Turn left onto CR 10/113th Ave. N.E., and go 2.7 miles. Turn left onto Agnes St., and in 0.1 mile see the parking lot across Second Ave.
Another parking area in Spicer is located on the south side of the bridge over the channel between Nest and Green Lakes. Take I-94 to Exit 127. Head south on MN 28 W./US 71 S./Main St. S., and go 20.3 miles. Turn left onto US 71, and go 10.8 miles. Turn left onto CR 40/180th Ave. N.W., and go 3.1 miles. Turn right onto MN 9/Main St. In 0.4 mile turn right onto MN 23, and go 2 miles. Turn right onto CR 30, and take the first right to reach the parking lot.
Construction scheduled in the near future on MN 23 includes relocating the trail parking lot in Hawick to the south side of the highway. To reach it, take I-94 to Exit 147. Head south on Eighth St. S., and in 0.2 mile turn right onto CR 10. In 0.3 mile turn left to stay on CR 10, and go 14.9 miles. Merge onto MN 23, and in 12.4 miles, if construction has been completed, turn left onto 160th St. N.E. to reach the parking lot. If construction is not complete, turn right onto 160th Ave. N.E., and parking will be on the left.
No good parking is available from Roscoe to Richmond.
Trail is closed just north of Willmar - very soft trail at about 5 miles out. Trail from Spicer to Paynesville is great
On March 12, 2016 my wife, our 8 year old daughters and I rode bike from Willmar to Spicer. Smooth 6 mile ride. We crossed a few gravel roads, but traffic was not a concern. The Highway 23 underpass eliminates the worry of crossing a busy highway. We stopped at Subway, a few feet off the trail, in Spicer. After lunch we turned around and traveled back to Willmar. Our daughters handled the ride very well. They did last year at 7 also. They have good bikes from Rick's Cycling in Willmar, not discount store, bikes.
Overall great little trip, get out and ride, they grow up fast.
We have been on a mission to bike all the state managed bike trails in MN. This trail was somewhat disappointing compared to many others. After reading some of the other reviews I would agree that it does not have many of the amenities we have come to expect like benches/ porta potties at rest stops. We biked only the portion from Paynesville to New London since it was the closest point for us. We could not even find a decent start point in Paynesville. We parked next to the cemetery on a pulloff spot because there was no parking at all at the 'trailhead' indicated on the map. I suppose there may have been other spots including the high school that a person could choose but not knowing the area we had no idea. I would describe the trail to New London as:
A very nice, smooth surface
Pretty but next to a busy road quite a bit
Not much tree cover
Appreciated the trailhead in Hawick with parking and potty (we should have started here)
Found the trailhead at the end in New London to be lacking. They seem to be working on it still but it was very exposed. We went past it into town and the 'rest stop' indicated was a convenience store with a picnic table behind it next to the dumpster.
In summary I would say that it is not one we will go back to however, I can see by other reviews that the Spicer end near Green Lake might have been more enjoyable.
The highlight of the Glacial Lakes Trail is the ride around Green Lake. The path is wide and separated most of the way around the 12 miles. Pick a quiet time of the year and also enjoy the Spicer eateries. We used to live on the North Shore.
Finally the NE section beyond Hawick doesn't dead-end. There is a 2 mile spur into Paynesville on very nice smooth asphalt. Once there you'll find many stores & eateries. It appears the city has some additional "in-town" trails, also. This is a great addition to this otherwise amenity lean jaunt.
As I noted before, the Willmar end (largest city) has nothing, not even a bench. There don't appear to be any spurs into the city either. I did find water & a porta potty in the ballfield half mile away, though. Why doesn't Willmar get with it??
We rode from Spicer to a little past New London on September 23, 2008. It's an easy, comfortable ride. The trail surface is flawless smooth asphalt, and the terrain is mostly flat. Late September turned out to be the perfect time to ride for fall colors: lots of brilliant red sumac contrasting with meadow grass, fall wild flowers, and the pale yellow of little popples and birches just starting to turn. Most of this segment is in full sun, although there are some well-shaded areas near the lake on the north side of Spicer.
The main drawback is that the trail runs close to a busy highway for almost the entire way. Sometimes the trail is just 30 feet from the road with no tree cover at all. Other times there is a narrow band of second-growth forest, an embankment or even a small lake to provide some shield for highway noise. But you're never far enough from the road so that you can't hear it.
All in all, this was an easy and pleasant trail except for the road noise, especially recommended for early fall riding when the sumac is peaking.
We rode this trail from Willmar to New London on our tandem. The section from Willmar to Spicer was nice, quiet, and scenic; but the section from Spicer to New London was too close to a busy highway. We also tried to follow an "other trail" (marked on our MN Dept of Natural Resources map) connecting New London to Sibley State Park , but it turned out to be nothing more than a 3 foot shoulder on the road. Sibley State Park, however, was worth the visit.
There are few amenities along this mostly smooth paved trail. I found only 1 porta potty near Willmar which is the older, bumpier section. There were no drinking fountains to be found. Spicer has the only adjacent convenience store or restaurant. The scenery near Green Lake is nice. The northeastern section near Hawick is smoother but somewhat boring. Hopefully, they will upgrade with more amenities & signage. We rode this trail in mid June 2008.
"We rode from Willmer to Spicer and back (about 15 miles round trip) and enjoyed it very much. The Willmer trailhead is easy to find. The trail has shade and pleasant scenery.
We rode this trail September 8th, 2005"
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