Great River Ridge State Trail


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Great River Ridge State Trail Facts

States: Minnesota
Counties: Olmsted, Wabasha
Length: 13 miles
Trail end points: 3rd St. SW near S. Wabasha St. (Plainview) and County Highway 9 (Eyota)
Trail surfaces: Asphalt, Crushed Stone
Trail category: Rail-Trail
ID: 6016303
Trail activities: Bike, Inline Skating, Wheelchair Accessible, Horseback Riding, Mountain Biking, Snowmobiling, Walking

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Great River Ridge State Trail Description

The Great River Ridge State Trail runs for 13 miles between County Road 9 just north of Eyota and Third Street Southwest just north of Wabasha Street in the town of Plainview, which serves as the agricultural hub of the area. There are plans to extend the trail another 2 miles south into the town of Eyota at the southern terminus. The entire trail is paved, and there is an additional adjacent trail with a natural surface for horseback riders and snowmobilers between the current southern trailhead at CR 9 and the town of Elgin.

The trail traverses both flat and some hilly terrain through a largely open agriculture-dominated landscape. Wind and sun can be intense at times and few amenities are available along the trail, so it is important to bring plenty of water. In the northern section, the trail parallels MN 42 to Elgin, where it begins to head more westerly. From Elgin, the trail passes largely through agricultural landscapes, where some shade is provided along a partially wooded corridor, especially along a section that parallels the North Fork of the Whitewater River as you approach Viola and then southward toward CR 9.

Future development of the trail also includes extending it to Carley State Park, about 4 miles east of Elgin. Carley State Park serves as an overflow campground for Whitewater State Park, a few miles farther to the southeast.

Parking and Trail Access

To reach the Plainview trailhead, from Saint Paul, take US 52 S., and go 62.8 miles south to Exit 68. Turn left onto Ash Road N.W., and go 20.9 miles east, as the road changes to White Bridge N.W./County Road 12 and then MN 247. Turn right onto Third St. S.W.; the trailhead and parking are on the right in 0.4 mile.

To reach the southern trailhead outside of Eyota, from Saint Paul, take US 52 S., and go 72.2 miles south to Exit 58. Turn left onto 37th St. N.W., which becomes E. Circle Drive N.E., and go 5.7 miles. Turn left onto Collegeview Road E., which becomes CR 9, and go 8.2 miles. The trailhead is on the left.

There is also a midpoint trailhead/access in downtown Elgin on the south side of Main St. E., between Center Ave. N. and First Ave. N.E. From Saint Paul, take US 52 S., and go 62.8 miles south to Exit 68. Turn left onto Ash Road N.W., and go 15.6 miles east, as the road changes to White Bridge N.W./CR 12 and then MN 247. Turn right onto CR 2, and in 2.4 miles turn left onto Main St. W.; the trailhead and parking are on the right in 0.3 mile.

Great River Ridge State Trail Reviews

An usually beautiful trail in an unexpected farmfield and streams landscape. The original railway that is the basis of this trail was quite unusual in that it does not parallel the roads in the area much. So, we are treated to a ride right through crop fields in a very unusual bluffy/hilly agricultural area. The wooded parts of the ride cross streams over and over again. Beautiful but be warned: this is one of the most intensely buggy rides ever. Whatever they are, they swarm your face at every stop. Worth it with bug spray and/ or later in Fall.

Rode the trail in spring, and it was nice. The scenery is very nice with lots of hills and farms to look at. There are not a lot of amenities on the trail, but the ones that are there are sufficient. Be prepared when riding this trail with extra water, and there are some long gentle slopes at both ends of the trails, so it can take a little longer than a flat trail.

I parked in Plainview at the north end of this trail and rode round-trip to the current end at Highway 9. It's great to have paved trails to ride on, and the surface on this trail was in pretty good shape, with some moderate cracks and dips near Plainview, and very good conditions the rest of the way.

There is a parking lot and picnic table in Plainview, and a public park with full facilities just 2 blocks north. The parking lot there is marked for park visitors only, so I parked at the trailhead and rode back and forth to the restroom building. Elgin (5 miles south) has parking, a picnic shelter and a porta-potty, and there is a plain gravel lot at the south end, which looked like it had a porta-potty that was already removed for the season in early October. There were only a handful of other users on this trail on a late Sunday morning.

There are a few small hills exiting Plainview, and one long steady downhill between there and Elgin. The ride back north was fine for me, but anyone bothered by hills would be better off making Plainview their turnaround point.

South of Elgin the trail turns away from the highway and gets out into the open, with farms, trees, and quite a few creek crossings, plus one stretch next to a busy gravel road with a lot of dust from passing cars. The sudden end of the trail at Highway 9 is a bit disappointing. I'm sure that if they continue the trail into Eyota and terminate it at a city park it would improve my rating and increase public use of the trail.


In early June I rode this trail on a very hot & windy day which perhaps skews my perception--20-30 mph south wind, 95* & humid. I started in Plainview (aptly named) and headed south to Elgin. The first few miles closely paralleled a fairly busy highway, with very little wind protection i.e. few trees, shrubs. Once past Elgin the scenery improved with more trees & shrubs to block the wind and it was more hilly with some interesting ridges and creeks. Riding back was much better with the wind pushing me.

Trail head amenities were sparse. Only a parking lot in Plainview (with picnic tables); Elgin had a kiosk (nothing more); near Eyota at the southern end was a "porta potty" & a couple of tree stumps to sit on. None of them had water & stores weren't nearby. So plan ahead with water & snacks; learn to hold your bladder. This short trail would be nicer if it were linked to another one . . . maybe that will happen? Unless you're close, this one is hardly worth a special trip. 3 stars on a nice day for a quick jaunt.

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