There is so much that is special about summer in the Minnesota outdoors. While the ideas below might not make some personal lists out there, these aren’t intended as the best or the most original things to do. Still, they are a good barometer of the possibilities: some tried-and-true (fishing! paddling!) and some offbeat (running for beer?). OK, maybe not so offbeat.
Give it a try (ongoing)
The opportunities to roll on wheels meant for trails or roads are year-round in our bike-happy state. Summer offers chances for test-riding bikes, touring and mountain biking. Here are some options this month:
• Erik’s Mountain Bike Demo, Lebanon Hills Regional Park trails, Wednesday: The trail system is one of the most popular in the metro – if not the state – and demo days are a great way for beginners without wheels – or the right wheels – to ride different mountain bikes at no (or minimal) cost, ask questions of experts, and get a feel for trail riding. Erik’s Bikes has organized several demos across Minnesota and Wisconsin. Can’t make Lebanon? Erik’s is following up with a demo June 30 at Battle Creek Park in St. Paul. Go online to Erik’s Facebook page for a list, and check other bike shops, too.
• Weekly programs: There are all sorts of rides out there. Some are centered on the time of day, the place or the style. Penn Cycle has a series called Tuesday Night Ladies Bike Tours, with a goal of appealing to new riders. Distances range from 15 to 20 miles. Fitzharris Ski in St. Cloud hosts has Monday Night Mountain Rides on local trails. Go online to mnbiketrailnavigator.blogspot.com to get a list and links to the breadth of action.
Wet a line (This weekend and ongoing)
While Minnesota’s Department of Natural Resources discusses ways to retain anglers, it also provides programs for beginners. One is Fishing Fridays, which happen through Aug. 17 at Mille Lacs Kathio State Park. Participants will get all the basics, including how to identify fish and how to use the gear to get them. Prospective anglers don’t need fishing licenses to participate. The program runs 3-5 p.m. Call 1-320-532-3269 to reserve a spot. (dnr.state.mn.us)
Head to Whitewater State Park in southeast Minnesota to learn how to trout fish. The program for the inexperienced angler is from 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m. every Sunday through Sept. 2. Call 1-507-312-2300 to reserve a spot. (dnr.state.mn.us)
Chase bass (June 29)
Midwest Hmong Outdoors is hosting its 12th annual J4 Bass Fishing Tournament on Lake Minnetonka. Top prize is $10,000. Participants will be in two- to three-member teams, with an eight-fish limit. More details on the events page of the group’s Facebook landing page. Registration is capped at 120 boats.
See birds and beauty (ongoing)
Minnesota Birding Weeks and Weekends are birding trips connected to the Minnesota Ornithologists’ Union – and they’ve gone on for 33 years. Speaking of the massive popularity of birding in Minnesota and the Midwest, organizers claim a composite list of 363 species seen in Minnesota since the trips began in 1986 when they were called MOU Birdings Weekends. Trips play out until the first days of January, with winter trips to Duluth, but let’s focus on this month. A trip to Hamden Slough and Tamarac, both National Wildlife Refuges, is July 6 near Audubon, Minn., northwest of Detroit Lakes, and their marshes and grasslands good for nesting water birds, shorebirds, sedge wrens and more. A second trip is to Felton Prairie Scientific and Natural Area (July 7-8), also toward the northwestern reaches of the state. From the group’s website: “Felton Prairie is certainly one of the best – and of the state’s remaining tracts of native grasslands, it simply is the best. Witness the few remaining chestnut-collared longspurs that still breed here and nowhere else in Minnesota.” More tails about the weekends, including cost and registration, are online at mbwbirds.com.
Run for beer (Through summer and fall)
Talk about beer runs. Minnesota Brewery Running Series began its seventh season in April, hit breweries in Wayzata and Excelsior Saturday – and rolls on until the capper Dec. 1 (a half-kilometer Winter Beer Dash between Bauhaus Brew Labs and 612Brew in Minneapolis). Participants in the series, which includes 38 breweries across Minnesota, are encouraged to walk or run “5K-ish” in an out and back from a brewery. Participants get a free brew at the finish and some swag. The series originated in Minnesota, and now is running in seven other states.
Here are a few to look forward to this month:
July 7: Chapel Brewing in tiny Dundas, Minn. The race begins at 11 a.m.
July 28: Run for Beer at Summit Brewing Co. in St. Paul. The run begins at 9 a.m. There will be food, live music and fun afterward, too. Tickets for all of the events are at breweryrunningseries.com.
Roll together (July 4)
Here’s an alternative holiday outing: Twin Cities Bicycling Club is putting on its 37th Watermelon Ride, beginning from Incarnation Lutheran Church in Shoreview. There are three routes (15, 25 and 52 miles). The rides of 15 and 25 are fully supported, and the event concludes with a picnic lunch for riders at Snail Lake Park. The club says on its website that the ride is good for families with children and people new to cycling. Registration is online at biketcbc.org. The cost bumps up after Wednesday.
Get on the water
The North Shore Water Festival on July 20-22 in Grand Marais has the water sports covered: from paddleboarding to touring kayaks and canoes. The event, organized by Stone Harbor Wilderness Supply, happens at downtown’s Harbor Park. (stoneharborws.com, 1-218-387-3136)
Kicking it up a notch, with mechanical power and speed, is the Power Boat Races on July 28-29 in Crosby. It’s championship racing along Serpent Lake. The Twin Cities Power Boat Association event begins at noon. (cuyunalakes.com, 1-218-546-8131)
Ride on (Aug. 4)
The state touts its rails to trails, and here is a chance to experience a few over 100 miles of pedaling. The Rails Trails 100 Bike Tour covers the Central Lakes and Wobegon trails. Riders will get shuttled from St. Joseph to the start in Fergus Falls. Registration is limited to 50 riders, who are encouraged to bring extra tubes and tools to handle issues. Communities along the route will have nourishment for riders. Register at signmeup.com. More details on the tour’s Facebook page.
Pick up a paddle (Aug. 22)
With regular parks programs and on, a person needn’t dig deep to find opportunity to get initiated in paddlesports of all kinds. Midwest Mountaineering is always big on demo days. Get on it on its last demo of August. The gear retailer makes it easy: Just show up at Lake Nokomis in Minneapolis and try their canoes, kayaks and paddleboards. Paddleboarding remains one of the most-popular activities for fun and fitness. (612-339-3433, midwestmtn.com)
Becoming an Outdoors Woman (ongoing)
The Department of Natural Resources continues to roll out a robust list of programs for women — from half-day instructionals to full-on weekend “workshops.” Some of this month’s activities include a two-day class on pheasant hunting Aug. 10-12 in Prior Lake. The first session involves learning fundamentals, from handling a shotgun to pheasant habitat. A second session involves a mentored hunt during the season. Also upcoming: Nordic walking at Afton State Park (Aug. 11); bike-riding with a naturalist on the Gateway Trail (Aug. 11); and a hike at Fort Snelling State Park (Aug. 18). (dnr.state.mn.us, 651-296-6157)
Do dirt work (Sept. 22)
OK, this is the first day of fall, but what better way to send out summer: a trail run in bluff country. The In Yan Teopa 10-Mile Trail Run in Frontenac State Park near Red Wing is a classic. (inyanteopa.com)
Gaze skyward (ongoing)
The Glacial Lakes Astronomers and Stargazing Society puts on programs the second Saturday of the month through October at the state park in Starbuck, Minn., near Alexandria. (dnr.state.mn.us, 1-320-239-2860)