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Northfield is a picturesque river town just south of the Twin Cities.   It’s the home of two liberal arts colleges and boasts a busy but unfussy downtown that still hangs on to its historic look and feel.   In the summer there is a downtown market on Saturdays that fills Bridge Square with art, food, and music.

Cyclists might know Northfield as the home base for The Heywood Ride, an excellent event organized by some fine folks we’re proud to call our friends.   This ride happens the third Saturday in May and welcomes all riders and all bikes.   The courses featured there are beautiful and challenging.  What might not be obvious is that these routes are just a sample of the gravelly possibilities in this region.  To the east we have the beginnings of the driftless area boasting scenic hills and valleys and some of the signature settings featured in the Heywood ride.   To the west and south a chain of lakes guarantees more crooked roads to keep things interesting.  To the north we have some rare lowlands that can make the group rides fast and spicy.  Leaving town in most any direction will put you on some gravel in a mile or two.   Here follows a sample of what we are fortunate to call our home roads.

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Route Descriptions
Bike Shops

Where to Ride Gravel from Northfield, Minnesota

Farmer Trail to Hurricane Hill [29 miles]

A hilly choice but worth it!   The course name comes from the farm near the top of Cabot avenue.   You will feel this climb as it works its way up to a terrific view to the west from 163rd Street.   And Farmer Trail is simply one of the most treasured roads in the county - beautiful in every season.   I prefer this route clockwise as shown - be careful crossing highway 3 on the way home.

Chub Lake - Sky Harbor[32 miles]

Sometimes it’s nice to have a course with flatter sections - the group can get a good pace going without too many of those pesky hills.   This loop starts very flat and features one good kicker in on the north end at Hamburg Avenue.  The paved connector on county 86 is busy but has a decent shoulder.   

If you want a shorter ride this one is easy to cut off - just keep going south on Isle avenue and drop the Sky Harbor section to lose about 7 miles.   Or turn back east on 295th and take Holyoke Avenue back to town.  Both ways are quick but do watch out for horse traffic in this neighborhood.  

Union Lake Loop [33 miles]

One of our favorite evening gravel loops heads west to Union Lake.   The views from Dalton Avenue are worth the trip across the freeway.    The rollers on 57th are guaranteed to please as well. 

Last year a two mile section of this course was paved 😞 but the roads by the lakes are some of our favorites.   If you run this loop counter clockwise watch the downhill on Union Lake Trail.  Sometimes the surface is loose and can be a problem.   

Shady Lane & The Scenic Barn [45 miles]

Reputed to be the most photographed barn in Goodhue County.   And why not?  Heywood ride veterans will remember this view and also the leg burning ascent of Shady Lane.

Camp Winona Trail – Cody Trail – Union Lake Trail [57 miles]

The lakes area west and south of Northfield feature lots of twisting roads and this course flys by three of the best ones!  There’s not much for supplies after the C-Store in Shieldsville at mile 20 so be prepared.

A good way to Wanamingo [66 miles]

One of our favorite mid ride stops is the halfway point on this loop.  Area57 is a little coffee shop that can do it all.   Food to order or desserts if you need the sugar hit (try the bread pudding).  This ride features two different swings through the lovely Sogn Valley - a fantastic corridor carved by the Little Cannon River as it heads north.  Scenery and scones!

Sunset Trail – Miesville Ravine – Byllesby Dam [72 miles]

This course generally follows the Cannon River all the way to Welch Village.   There are possible fuel stops in Cannon Fails or Randolph.  Most of the climbing is front loaded so the flatter finish coming back from the dam might be welcome.

Good Stuff Gravel Century [103 miles]

If you have time, here’s a long ride that covers a lot of ground first west and then east of Northfield.  The first half features a section that will be familiar to those riders who have managed The Day Across Minnesota - although this runs the other direction.   You can get food at the C-store in Shieldsville or later in Nerstrand too.   The beef jerky available at Nerstrand Meats is not to be missed and coming at mile 68 might be just the lift you need to finish this one.

Route Descriptions
Bike Shops

Where to Stay

Amercinn Northfield

A mile or so to the south end next to the Cannon River East trail. Learn More.

Country Inn & Suites Northfield

Across from Ames Park and downtown Northfield. Learn More.

Fairfield Inn & Suites Northfield

Newest property - includes a restaurant and river deck. Learn More.

Nerstrand Big Woods State Park

Includes trailer & tent campsites 12 miles from town. Learn More.

Cannon River Wilderness Area

Four rustic sites - no services - 9 miles south. Learn More.

Lake Byllesby Campground

Busy in the summer - 16 miles to the east. Learn More.

Where to Grab Coffee

Goodbye Blue Monday

Coffee and snacks from a Northfield original. Learn More.

Little Joy

A Division Street gem serving their own coffee roasts.   Includes a deck overlooking the Cannon River. Learn More.

Where to Grab Drinks in the Evening

Chapel Brewing

Tiny and charming tap house open 7 days a week in nearby Dundas. Learn More.

Imminent Brewing

Human and dog friendly taproom open Wednesday - Sunday.   Frequent Music and food trucks. Learn More.


Keepsake Cidery

Beautiful tasting room on a hilltop orchard.   Limited menu and occasional food trucks or pop up food stands. Learn More.


Loon Liquor

Local based distillery and cocktail room. Learn More.

Tanzenwald Brewing Company

Another fantastic taproom with full kitchen open Tuesday-Sunday. Learn More.


Where to Eat

Basil’s Pizza

The Pitsavas family is a Northfield institution - these pies are loved by generations!

Brick Oven Bakery

Cafe/Coffeehouse/Bakery on the north end.

Coco’s Place

Yes we have your tacos right downtown!

The HideAway

A coffee and wine bar with lots of food options.

Hogan Brothers

Making sandwiches to order since 1991.

Ole Store

Another of Northfield’s trademark restaurants - a mile west of downtown.

Quarterback Club

Serving burgers and chicken since 1967.

Raven’s Nest Cafe

Coffee and crepes and a cool bike shop hang.


A spacious and lovingly restored downtown bar and restaurant.

Bike Shops

Northfield cyclists are lucky to have three quality bike shops looking after us.  

Farmstead Bike Shop

Full service shop featuring Jamis, Surly, Tern and more.   They also rent bikes, kayaks, and paddleboards.  Plus Wonderstate coffee! 

Heath Creek Cycles

A family run shop featuring Salsa bikes - specializing in custom wheel builds and more.  Ben can bring the bling!

Tom's Downtown Bicycles

a full service shop featuring Trek and Cannondale bikes.

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