Minnesota offers more than 2,000 miles of mapped trails with many of them well-maintained and very scenic. Some of the best are the Nemadji State Forest OHV Trails on the east side of the state.
The area is popular among riders in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. Many riders are in the Twin Cities during the week, then on weekends make the two-hour drive north to Nemadji, which is just south of Duluth and east of Nickerson.
The Nemadji State Forest OHV Trails are nice because of the variety of scenery for riders. Riders go through tight, wooded technical single-track trails, swampy areas, gently rolling upland trails and steep valleys with streams.
The trails are provided by Pine County and maintained by the Straight Arrow Enduro Riders motorcycle club and the Washington/Ramsey County Wheelers ATV club.
The Nemadji State Forest is classified as “limited” for motor vehicle use. That means highway-licensed vehicles are allowed on signed forest roads, unless posted closed, and OHVs may operate on signed roads and trails.
Trails are marked with green circle (easiest), blue square (more difficult) and black diamond (most difficult) signs.
Green circle (easiest) signs mark almost road-like trails with no steep hills and few obstacles. They’re great for beginners. About 10 percent of the trails in the system are green circle trails.
Blue square (more difficult) trails have more difficult trails that are narrower, have steeper hills, switchbacks and some moderate obstacles. About 80 percent of the trails are considered “more difficult.”
Black diamond (most difficult) signs signal the most primitive class of trails. These offer very steep grades, narrow trails, sharp alignments, rough or loose tread surfaces and substantial obstacles. About 10 percent of the trails in the system are “most difficult.”
The Nemadji offers about a 25-mile ride, but it also leads riders to other trails in the area such as the Washington-Ramsey Trails and Straight Arrows Trails, offering some 100 miles of riding.
Non-resident riders need a non-resident trail pass if the machine isn’t registered in Minnesota. Off-highway motorcycle trail passes are $21 a year while ATV passes are $31.
The state notes that OHVs legally registered in another state that won’t be in Minnesota for more than 30 days aren’t required to buy a Minnesota registration. But if your state doesn’t require a registration, then you will need a Minnesota registration.
Riders can get trail passes and other info at dnr.state.mn.us/licenses/ohv/index.html.
There are plenty of developed campsites outside of the immediate forest area. If you want to make advance reservations, check out some of the commercial campsites in the area, which vary quite a bit in amenities, prizes and size. Camping in nearby Holyoke is a good spot, for example, because you can ride the Holyoke trails that connect to the Nemadji.
Many riders from the Minneapolis area even cap a nice weekend of riding by spending an afternoon or night in Hinckley, which is an hour north of Nemadji. At Hinckley, there’s a decent campsite and a fairly large Indian tribe-owned casino.
To get to the Nemadji from Duluth, take state Route 23 South about 25 miles and you’ll run right into it when you get to the town of Nickerson.
If coming from elsewhere, from Nickerson go 1 mile northeast on state Route 23 then turn onto county Road 146. Follow signs to Gafvert Day-use Area.
For more information about the Nemadji State Forest OHV Trails. go to dnr.state.mn.us/ohv/trail_detail.html?id=33 or call Minnesota DNR Parks and Trails (Moose Lake) (218) 460-7020.