The Roads of Washington County (By Ride and Glide Bike and Ski Club)

Ride and Glide Bike and Ski Club has been holding planned Tuesday night rides starting from Ramsey Beach in White Bear Lake for 10 years and informal rides for well over 15 years.  Every Tuesday we take a different route of varying distances depending on the available day light.  Over the years we've hit just about every bike friendly road in the county, and that's a lot of roads because Washington County roads are almost all bike friendly due to wide shoulders and minimal traffic.  After riding in all parts of the county we've come up with a list of featured roads and trips that take in those roads.  These roads are all paved and intended for road bikes.  These are by no means the only roads to ride on.  There just the best of what is highlighted on the "Bike Friendly Road Map" Below you will also find a list of rides, all starting and finishing at Ramsey Beach.  Each ride is rated for distance and terrain and which of the "featured" roads it takes in.  Rides are listed in lengths of 20-30, 30-40, or 40-50 miles and in types like flat, rolling or hilly.  Each ride has it own map with the route highlighted.  There is also a general map of all the rideable roads in the county with the "featured" roads highlighted  so you can make up your own routes.  Feel free to print these maps and distribute them as long as they contain the credits of where they came from.  If you know of a road that we missed please drop us an e-mail.  We'd love to know about it.  I'm sure there are roads in the far southern parts of the county that we've missed as we tend to concentrate on the northern parts and the Afton area.  If you don't see a route you like drop me an e-mail and tell me were you want to go and I'll make you a route map.

Washington County Bike Friendly Road Map : All highlighted roads on this map are very suitable for cycling.  They are paved and either have wide shoulders or are very quiet.  Hwy 96 is the exception.  Over the years it has become a lot busier.   Ride single file and be watchful.  It's included here because it's a more direct route to access some of the areas on the map.  It's definitely rideable if you're careful.  In the northern part of the county if the road isn't highlighted, it's probably gravel. South of Hwy 36 if you see a route that'd not marked let me know.

Map of all rideable roads in the area: (Use in conjunction with descriptions below)

Roads north of Scandia 

"Featured" roads of Washington County (Check the map above while reading these descriptions)

  1. North end Big Marine Lake : Until recently there was only one connecting route from Hwy 15 to Hwy 3 north of Big Marine Lake other than the major highway 97.  About 2 miles north of the intersection of hwy 4 and 15 you'll find Mayberry heading east towards Scandia.  Mayberry is a nice quiet road that winds past several farms before it passes the north end public access of Big Marine Lake.  From there it climbs a little hill and intersects with Lofton.  Mayberry heads south and eventually intersects with 205th street that heads over to Hwy 3 just south of Scandia.  The Mayberry section is very heavily wooded and shady and even has a nice twisting hill to climb before it intersects with 205th.  This route has always been one of my favorite roads to ride.  But now things are even better.  Roads that had previously been gravel have been paved.  You can head south on Maxwell about a 1/4 mile past the Lofton intersection it runs into 195th.  Turn left and head out to Hwy 3 or turn right in about a mile and climb a nice hill and winding stretch of road that hugs the shore of Big Marine Lake until it hits 185th where it heads out to hwy 3.   Or, instead of turning on 205th you can stay on Mayberry heading south and run into 195th just like from Maxwell.  All of these roads are great to ride on  and the pavement is perfect and there's rarely any traffic.    If it's windy it's always nice and sheltered in here because the woods are so thick.  If you're in this area make it a point to hit these roads to connect between hwy 15 and 3.  Check them out on the map.
  2. Oneka Lake Road :  This road and a few connecting roads are a great way to get from downtown Hugo to hwy 4 without just going up busy hwy 61.  A flat and winding road the passes through a housing development and heavy woods until it comes to Harrow St.  Head north until you come to 165th and then east over to Ingersol and then north up to hwy 4.  Very quiet roads and nice countryside.
  3. Nason Hill :   This is a  shorter steeper version of the Coulee but in a much more secluded place.  This is the gem of the northern part of the county.  A twisting road that climbs out of the St. Croix river valley from Marine on the St. Croix.  This road is actually hwy 7, the same road that goes through the Square Lake Saddle.  The road is cut into the hill in a very narrow gully.  Rock walls rise up immediately from the side of the road.  There are enough turns in the climb that you can't see the top until you are almost there.  It's about .7 miles long with a max gradient of 11%.  It also a blast going down it, just make sure you're on your brakes by the left hand curve near the bottom because there's a stop sign just around the next corner as the road dumps out on hwy 95.
  4. Hippo Hill : Otherwise known as 199th.  I call it Hippo Hill because there's a propane tank farm at the bottom where 199th meets hwy 95 in Copas.  Right where the Crabtree Corner restaurant used to be.  Now it's a bird food store.  Hippo Hill is very similar to Nason Hill.  Very winding and narrow, but not quite as steep.  Going down it you can really let it run, but be careful because there are railroad tracks at the bottom of the hill just before you come out on to hwy 95.  At the top of the hill you intersect with hwy 58 which gives a gradual climb into Scandia.  Stop at the grocery store for refreshments.  They have no problem with cyclists clomping through their store.  You can fill up with water.  Be sure to buy something to show your appreciation for being bike friendly. They have wrapped sandwiches,  sports drinks and Powerbars.   A very popular cycling stop.
  5. The Tunnel :  The other downhill route into Marine on the St. Croix is hwy 4.  A mile and a half before you reach town the road goes through a tunnel under a railroad track.  If you're heading east on hwy 4 the lead in to the tunnel is downhill for a good mile before the tunnel so you can get up a good head of steam.  But be careful because there's a tight right turn just after the tunnel.  I've seen people negotiate it at 20+ mph but I wouldn't want to hit any sand or meet a car coming the other way.  Better to slow down a bit before entering the tunnel.  Going into Marine via this route you come to a stop sign.  Take a left and head down a gradual hill and then a quite steep one with a stop sign at the bottom.  This is hwy 95.  Go across the street into town and take a break at the General Store.  Water isn't conveniently available here.  There's also an ice cream shop and a cafe in town.  Try riding here early on Saturday for breakfast at the cafe.  A popular place for cyclists.
  6. North of Hwy97 (Scandia) :  The area north of Hwy 97 (Scandia) has some nice roads.  Co 3 continues north from Scandia and goes all the way to Lindstrom.  Or you can turn right on Co 86 and head over to hwy95 and on up to Osceola.  This is a good alternative to riding on hwy95 all the way to Osceola.  Co 52 goes northwest out of Scandia and head up to Bone Lake.   There are some nice winding rolling hills out here. You eventually pop out on Lofton and can head back south and hit the Big Marine Lake Area mentioned above.  This area of off the main map.  Check out the other map for area north of Scandia.
  7. Co 57/58 (Withrow) :  Finally the section of Co 57, between the two lakes, that washed out about 5 years ago is paved again. Besides being a good connecting route up to Hwy 4 or Hwy 15 via Co 58, these two road are great to ride on.  Especially Co. 58.  They're very quiet and interesting.  Basically flat with little rollers, turns and lots of small lakes.
  8. Co 68/Mendel (Withrow) :  Home of the Withrow Ballroom, Withrow also now has a restaurant.  It's the only commercial property in the area. It's a sit down place so plan accordingly.   Hwy 68 south out of Withrow is a real treat.  The road zigzags back and forth all the way to the intersection with hwy 15 and the Gateway Trail.  It's well sheltered and a good bet when it's windy.  Once at the hwy 15 intersection, Mendel heads southeast just past the Gateway crossing down to hwy 96. This road is another of those quiet winding treats.  Check out the Texas Longhorn cattle on the east side of the road about halfway between 15 and 96.
  9. Square Lake Saddle : Square Lake sits at the bottom of a saddle where Co 7 (Sq. Lake Trail) and CO 51 (Partridge) intersect.  There are 3 climbs that start at this intersection.  Co 7 going north is a short medium steep climb that takes you to the entrance to the park.  Co 7 going west is a longer easier climb that can be taken in quite a large gear.  The climb levels out and then drops again and then starts in again.  This makes a good long hill to ride up.   Co 7 is nice because it has a 10 foot wide shoulder.  Co 7 heading east is the standard way to get to Square Lake.  Partridge heads south from the intersection is the steepest.  It's got a long easy approach and a steep middle and at the top it never seems to level out . You think you're at the top but it's still a bit uphill for a quarter mile or so. Keep heading south and you'll find some more rolling climbs and come out on Hwy 95 north of Stillwater .This saddle is a good area if you're looking to do hill repeats.  Or pack your swim suit, ride out and take a swim in Square Lake.  This is a very popular destination for cyclists.
  10. Norell : Otherwise known as hwy 55.  The portion described here is that part north of hwy 7 (Square Lake Trail). and south of hwy 4. This road is a roller coaster. A quite road with rolling hills past farm land and several lakes.  This road is one of my favorites to ride in a pack and really hammer.  All the hills are short so you can just stand up and power over them.  Or just cruise along and enjoy the scenery.  This is the standard way of getting to Hwy 3 (Olinda Trail) from hwy 7.
  11. Hwy 3 (Olinda Trail) : A recently reconstructed road that was designed with input from cyclists. The  result  was a wide shoulder instead of an off road trail.  It's a straight shot up to Scandia with a 10 foot wide shoulder.  A good place to practice your double pacelines or just ride side by side and talk.  One of the best and safest  cruising roads around.  This road is a good way to  access the north side of Big Marine area. Via 185th, 195th, and 205th.
  12. Co 11 Hill : The climb up from the river at the intersection of hwy 96 and hwy 95 on Co 11 is the steepest in the county.  Usually accessed by going down the big hill on 96 heading east towards the river.  Be ready to hit the brakes as you fly down 96 because Co 11 turns left just before you reach hwy 95 and the river.  Take that left and keep up your momentum because the climb starts right around the corner and gets steep very fast.  It levels out for a while and then takes a dive down into a valley and then climbs up again not as steep but a lot longer.  It almost harder than the first climb especially with dead legs from the first.  Very quiet in here and hardly any traffic.
  13. Nolan :  This road is a more interesting route to take when returning from Afton via Neal.  When you hit 10th street, instead of angling over to 20th street and over to Lake Elmo, take a right and in about a quarter mile turn left on Nolan.  This is a nice quiet road with a curved climb at the start and then a long straightaway, a left turn and another little climb and then a right turn and a smooth straight cruise on Neal again up to 30th street.  From there take a left and take 30th into Lake Elmo.
  14. 30th street : 30th street is a mile long gradual climb from Neal to past Oakgreen.  Once you crest the hill past Oakgreen there's a long downhill with a sprinters climb at the bottom.  Get up a good head of steam and stand up and hammer over the little climb and then hold on for a twisting tree lined downhill out to hwy 21 (Stagecoach).  This is one of my favorite ride segments.
  15. Afton Area : The Afton area is all about hills.  There are plenty of gently rolling roads, but the big attraction is the long hills.  While not necessarily the steepest they are some of the longest hills around.  There are four major hills in the Afton area.  Indian trail, 15th street, Valley Creek Road and The Coulee. This is a destination area.  There are only a few access routes to get here so we'll just describe the area and then in the ride section we'll just have this area as a destination where you can pick the hills you want and then return to Ramsey Beach.  The hills climb out of the St. Croix River Valley, off of Stagecoach Rd (Co21), to Neal St. on the top of the ridge.   You can access Afton from Stagecoach Road at the bottom of all the climbs or from Neal at the top and begin your adventure with a downhill before climbing back out.  The easiest way to tour Afton (i.e. avoid the hills) is to enter from Neal and go down any of the hills listed and then leave Afton via Stagecoach which is a fairly easy climb up to the Highway 94 overpass.  Indian Trail contains some of the steepest sections of any of the climbs.  One nice thing about it however is that has several downhills in it as well so you get a chance to recover before you start the next climb.   Indian Trail comes out halfway between Stagecoach and Neal on the south side of I94 on the frontage road.  When heading south into Afton on Stagecoach, Indian Trail is the first intersection you come to.  The next intersection, about a quarter mile down the road is 15th Street.  15th Street is a good steady moderate climb.  It starts to level off at the top and than has a final little bump before it intersects Neal St.  Valley Creek Rd is the next intersection after 15th Street and is the last climb before entering the town of Afton.  Valley Creek is a very gentle continuous climb all the way to Neal.  If you skip this intersection you continue on into Afton over some nice rolling hills until you come into town.  The Coulee is at the far end of town on Hwy95.  There's a great coffee/ice cream shop on your left just before the climb starts.  A bike friendly store that's very popular with riders.  The Coulee is a highway but it's has a reasonable shoulder and usually isn't too busy.  The climb is longer than any of the other climbs (.8 miles).  It starts out about the same as 15th street, it levels out a little in the middle and then gets steeper at the end.  Once at the top keep going about another half mile and turn right onto another steep short climb, 50th,  that takes you over to Trading Post Rd.  Take a right and head back north towards Old Hwy 95.  Left on Old 95 for another short steep climb.  Now you're up on top.  Take a right on Oakgreen and go through the housing development until you come to 30th.  Take a left, do a few rollers and you arrive at Neal.  Neal to the north takes you back home, or you can go back down Valley Creek and climb back out on Indian Trail on the way home. This is the best route to get back to Neal if you want to climb the Coulee.  Check out the map and pick your route through this Mecca of Twin Cities cycling.
  16. The Gateway Trail : This off road rail-trail starts in St. Paul and runs northeast through the northern part of Washington County and ends at Pine Point Park..  You can always use it as a shortcut in getting from one road to another.  It's also a good access route to the County. Locate it on the map and use it if you need a shortcut.  It's marked in blue on the All Roads Map.

Access roads to Washington County 

If you'd like to ride your bike to the start of these routes there are a few good routes to use to get from St. Paul  and it's first tier of suburbs like Roseville, Maplewood, Oakdale and Shoreview to Washington County.  Since you basically have to go east and cross 35E  or 694 to get to the county you only have a few options in getting to these rides.  In the north there is County 14 from Centerville to Hugo.  Centrally there is Goose Lake Road that comes in to White Bear Lake from the southwest and Co Rd I and Otter Lake Road that enters White Bear Lake from the northwest.  From the south you can access the areas south of highway 36 down towards Afton via Co 5 from Oakdale.  And there's always the Gateway Trail that goes all the way from downtown St. Paul through north St. Paul right into the center of the northern half of the county.  All these routes can be seen on the Bike Friendly Road Map marked in "green".

Featured rides

Routes in the maps below that use the featured roads described above.  Terrain description, chances for water and maps.  Each map has the featured roads in red, featured areas in purple  and the rest of the route in blue.   Black dots indicate water available. Black triangles indicate water and food.  Try one of these routes or make your own from the All Roads Map above.

Note: There are only a few ways to get out of the Ramsey Beach area and into Washington County:

  1. The most popular route is to head east on Hwy96 and turn north on Portland and go up to Co 7 which is the most popular access route.
  2. Another way is to turn left off of Hwy96 a block before Portland and angle back over to Buffalo and out to Hwy 61 and then north up to Hugo where you can then head east into the area on Oneka Lake Rd
  3. The last way is to stay on Hwy 96 going east until you come to some of the roads that head south towards Afton or north towards Withrow like Co 9 or go further to Co 55 where you go south towards Stillwater or north towards Square Lake  Hwy 96 is busy, but rideable,  so be careful and be sure to ride single file.  
  4. Detailed list of turns to get to Hwy 12 from Ramsey Beach via Quail St. : Head out on 96 to Quail.  Turn south. Continue about a mile and turn left on Briarwood.  Continue east to Hallum and turn right.  South on Hallum to Juniper and turn left. East on Juniper to East St.  Turn right.  South all the way to Hwy 12. Gas station on right.

20-30 miles


30-40 miles


40-50 miles