The lack of off-road riding areas in central Minnesota means that finding a destination for a day-long ATV ride can be a challenge when looking to minimize the amount of time spent on the highway. Whether you’re coming from St. Cloud, Duluth, Hutchinson or Minneapolis, the Red Top ATV Trail in Isle, Minnesota — at the southeast end of Mille Lacs Lake — offers some of the best riding in the center of the state, and the town is very ATV-friendly, making for an excellent day trip.
Located 100 miles north of Minneapolis, 70 northeast of St. Cloud and 100 southwest of Duluth, Isle is north of the Rum River State Forest, east of Mille Lacs Kathio State Park and easily within reach for much of the state.
The Soo Line ATV Trail passes through town, and there’s a trailhead/parking area on the east side of County Road 17/5th Avenue South. Park your rig, unload, gear up and you can drive your ATVs right through the trail that cuts across the south end of town.
Heading east, the trail crosses Highway 47/27, and then continues down the rail trail further east. Less than a mile past town, the Foxy Trail — a very small, tight and technical loop — breaks off to the north and loops back. A few miles further east (4.6 miles outside of Isle), after crossing through some beautiful woods, the Red Top ATV Trail begins — all clearly marked to the south and east of the Soo Line trail.
Mostly “easy” trails with some “more difficult” sections, the trails are sandy, well maintained and wide enough to give experienced riders the space to have fun, and novice riders the clearance to safely make it around corners without any close-encounters from opposing traffic.
Red Top’s highlight is the Adventure Trail loop that dips to the south. Immediately rocky and steep — with cement blocks embedded in the elevated trails for traction — this trail is exceptionally tight and an ideal environment for using 4WD and, in some cases, 4WD lock if your rig has it. The Adventure Trail will take experienced riders at least 25 minutes to complete, with an exceptionally rocky stretch at the end; it’s the perfect rough-conditions suspension test.
With several loops, rest stops and varied conditions — fast rail trail, tight woods, rugged rocky and wide-open, sweeping corners — the Red Top ATV Trail provides excellent variety for Minnesota ATV riders. If you’re looking for a high-mile trail ride, the Soo Line ATV Trail continues far to the east, ending near the Moose Lake State Recreation Area. More information, including a detailed trail map, is available at Minnesota DNR.
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