From Baxter to Lake Bemidji State Park, there is a 100 mile, mostly paved, trail in Northern Minnesota. The Paul Bunyan Trail was built on an abandoned Burlington Northern Railroad grade and is used by walkers, bikers, and in-line skaters in the summer and snowmobilers in the winter. Although its website hasn't been updated recently, there is still a lot of good information about the trail and the towns it passes through.
There are 14 towns along the trail and someday I would like to bike past all of them. Until then, I'll enjoy the trail section near Nisswa. If you are biking the trail, I suggest that you plan a stop in this popular lake resort town. If you have children with you, there is a great park with a fun playground right off the bike path, just past the main strip of shops. On the way to the park, you can stop at the old-fashioned ice cream and candy store, The Chocolate Ox.
If you want something sweet, but aren't interested in candy or ice cream, just past The Chocolate Ox, at the end of the row of shops, is a small stand that sells fresh mini-donuts during the summer. Don't feel like you have to pass by all those shops, though. The Painted Turtle for unusual jewelry, fun purses, and interesting things for the house, Rainy Days bookstore, and Raedke Art Gallery are just a few of the options. Although some of the stores are expensive to shop in, you can still find great deals. Of course, there are also the requisite souvenir shops.
If eating, shopping and playing at the park aren't enough, during the summer, the Nisswa Chamber of Commerce hosts turtle races at 2:00 on Wednesdays. If you time your ride on the bike trail just right, you can enjoy all these options before you head off to Pequot Lakes and beyond. If you make it to Bemidji Lake State Park, you can continue your experience all the way up to Canada on the Blue Ox trail.