This was the my first time trying the Grand Round. I Started on Johnson Parkway at Indian Mounds Park which I have road before! The long delayed Johnson Parkway section was finished just before winter but already has had the start of the trail torn up and rebuilt. Also a center line dividing the bikeway was removed and now has a gash in the new asphalt leaving a visible gash line between Burns Ave to Stillwater Ave a needless of funding. The actual surface condition is the best, very wide, low traffic, meandering through mostly residential area until you reach Lake Phalen.
At Phalen you run into heavy congestion and a one-way clockwise around the lake which would be a problem for those doing the Grand Round clockwise, you need to ride on Wheelock Parkway Road or loop Phalen. The lake area is beautiful a loop is wonderful though congestion but you may not wish to add 2 more miles to a 26 mile loop. Now staying on the Grand Round becomes confusing, no directional signage if you take the obvious natural path you will be force to loop the lake. You need to to make a 160 degree turn at the beach house, heading to the Phalen Dr & Wheelock Parkway controlled intersection where you cross to the parkways southside. Shortly after crossing to the southside lack of signage is an issue. There is a paved T bike intersection. One trail take many take is the one the follows along side of Wheellock Parkway, this is WRONG that is a walking path. You should make the 90 degree turn at the T crossing the southside of the ballfields to Cottage & Forest natural turn north along the eastside of forest which is a wide concrete trail. You return to the trail along side Wheelock, the same issue occurs westbound, stay on the wider trail even it is not the obvious natural choice. You continue to Rice St to cross with a stoplight. Trail condition in this area is from good to poor.
After crossing Rice St There is no paved trail or even a street bike lane as erroneously mark that way here on TRIALLINK. This leaves you with the option of riding in the street or on the narrow concrete sidewalks. The bike trail picks up again in the center median of the parkway one block east of Edgerton St. Coming from the west the trail abruptly ends.
Now from this point on until Wheelock ends at Como Park is great fantastic surface. This portion crosses over The Trout Creek Trail but you need to carry your bike down some stairs at the SE corner of that bridge.
When you reach Como Park the loop around the lake is the opposite direction from Lake Phalen, one way counter clockwise. So from the east you take the northside of the lake, from the east the southside. Once you reach Lexington there is a signage issue again there are maybe 6 variations to choose to continue. The City needs to clearly mark which rout is the correct one for the GR. Most trails are good to fair!
If by change you find yourself along side Como Ave you are in luck. Once you cross Hamline Ave there is a great bike trail along the northside of the street. Condition is perfect. This trail is along side the State Fair Ground and will be congested during the State Fair. This trail ends at Raymond Ave. This portion of the GR is omitted from TRAILLINK at this time.
You go south on Raymond has no bike trail, only road bike lanes which you follow to Myrtle turn right and continue to turn left on Pelham. I find this section totally family unfriendly, too much traffic.
Once on Pelham you are going to take it to the East Mississippi River Parkway. On Pelham at least there is a guarded bike lane, they are rubber poles, but that is better then nothing! Trail here is concrete and Good shape.
Once you are heading South on the River Parkway you will see wonderful overlooks, mansions & monuments along the way. Maybe the best part of the ride. Trail is mostly good condition all the way to Gannon Rd.
NOTE: Trail maybe closed south of Ford Parkway for construction.
At Gannon Road is where Shepard Road begins. This section all the way on to Warner Rd is in great to good shape and ends at the conjunction of Fish Hatchery Trail & Indian Mounds Park Trail, But go straight which is the IMPT and climb the hill and use the pedestrian bridge and return to where I started at Johnson Parkway.
There are a few Alternate variations that can be done but the city needs to clearly mark the route. Signs that are 10ft tall don't help but painting the name of the trail on the pavement would work.