An existing set of roadways and bike paths between St. Paul and Grand Portage State Park on the tip of the state’s Arrowhead has been designated U.S. Bike Route 41.
The 315-mile route to the U.S.-Canadian border runs mostly parallel to Interstate 35 north to Duluth and then rambles along the scenic North Shore.
The route’s new name comes courtesy of the Adventure Cycling Association of Missoula, Mont., which has been designating national bike routes across the country as it builds a 50,000-mile network.
The 40-year-old organization works with state transportation departments nationwide to develop bike routes, including with officials with the Minnesota Department of Transportation.
The designation of U.S.B.R. 41 was a priority for state transportation officials, said department spokeswoman Susan Roe.
The plans were included in the department’s statewide bicycle plan, which was adopted last summer. It can be found at dot.state.mn.us/bike/system-plan/index.html.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony planned for Saturday morning in St. Paul was to include comments from state and St. Paul officials before a contingent of 45 riders rolled out for a six-day ride along the route north to Canada.
Also known as the North Star Route, U.S.B.R. 41 follows roadways for about half the distance and bike paths for the rest, according to Saara Snow, travel initiatives coordinator for Adventure Cycling. The group has designated about 11,700 miles of routes so far in 25 states, she said.
The routes typically get navigational signs that identify them as a bicycle route, pursuant to state funding.
“In regards to safety, signs help alert motorists to the fact that they’re on a designated bike route and to watch for bicyclists,” said Snow.
Other improvements continue as well: Portions of U.S.B.R. 41 include the shoulder of Hwy. 61 on what’s known locally as the Gitchi-Gami Trail from Two Harbors to Grand Marais. That trail is still under development, with the Gitchi-Gami Trail Association lobbying for more sections of bike path along the North Shore.
North of Duluth, U.S.B.R. 41 connects to nine state parks, two national parks and the Superior National Forest.
Route information and maps can be found at bit.ly/1qK26Fr. The maps include turn-by-turn descriptions of the route.
The route maps also note that portions of Hwy. 61 have a shoulder that’s less than 2 feet wide. Bicyclists can avoid some of that between Lutsen and Cascade River State Park by taking Cook County Road 35 and Cascade Beach Road/Cook County Road 97, hard-packed gravel roads that are not shown on most maps.
Minnesota is also home to a portion of U.S.B.R. 45, which runs from the headwaters of the Mississippi River in Lake Itasca to New Orleans.
State officials want to develop one more route by 2020, according to MnDOT’s Roe.
The highest priority routes for future development include one from the Twin Cities to Mankato via the Minnesota River Valley and Northfield and another from Moorhead to St. Cloud via Detroit Lakes, Fergus Falls and Alexandria.