BEMIDJI, Minn. -- About five miles north of Bemidji, Movil Maze Recreation Area is a little known spot catering year-round to a variety of outdoor recreation opportunities, from hiking and mountain biking to snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.

Featuring nearly nine miles of multi-use trails, the area showcases variations in scenery and topography as visitors make their way through its 913 acres.

Despite garnering its name from a network of cross-country ski trails that were constructed in 1979 for the first Minnesota Finlandia Ski Marathon, the recreation area has been involved in an objective to increase recreational opportunities throughout the year.

A man and his dog take a walk along one of Movil Maze Recreation Area's many trails in early December. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)
A man and his dog take a walk along one of Movil Maze Recreation Area's many trails in early December. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)

So when warmer weather makes an appearance, off-season cross country ski trails are open to a number of other non-motorized activities, including horseback riding, hiking, running, hunter walking, sightseeing and mountain biking, among others.

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The area is a hotspot for cyclists who take advantage of its network of mountain bike trails (which are independent of the ski trails) that have been constructed to utilize varying terrain features and man-made structures, such as a jump line, pumptrack and two hucks.

According to Beltrami County’s Natural Resource Management website, these single-track bike trails are regionally recognized as being challenging to all skill levels.

Signage is posted along Movil Maze Recreation Area's trails, providing directions to various parts of the 913 acres. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)
Signage is posted along Movil Maze Recreation Area's trails, providing directions to various parts of the 913 acres. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)

Described as “Bemidji’s best bike venue,” Movil Maze was featured in an online review for some of the top mountain biking trails in the Upper Midwest by cycling website singletracks.com.

Reviewer John Fisch wrote that he found the area’s bike trail “to be hugely inviting and the deep, dark Northwoods were gorgeous.”

“While Bemidji doesn’t have the natural assets to be the next Copper Harbor, the locals have done a stellar job making the best of what they have,” Fisch wrote, “and the labor of love shows in a fast, flowy and well-maintained trail system that is a positive joy to ride, thanks to securing access to and developing one of the area’s many cross country ski systems.”

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Given the recent snow in Bemidji, mountain bike trails are now open to snowshoeing for the winter season, and ski-trail grooming and general trail-maintenance is done by the Bemidji Area Cross Country Ski Club on behalf of Beltrami County through the Minnesota DNR, Grant-In-Aid program.

Additionally, from April 1 to Nov. 30, the area’s shelter is available for rent.

The shelter at Movil Maze Recreation Area is available for rent from April 1 to Nov. 30. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)
The shelter at Movil Maze Recreation Area is available for rent from April 1 to Nov. 30. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)

Before you go

  • Movil Maze Recreation Area can be accessed via a graveled parking lot adjacent to Wildwood Road NE (County Road 305). The site is considered primitive, with an outdoor vault toilet as its only amenity, Beltrami County’s Natural Resource Management website said.
  • The Great Minnesota Ski Pass is required for cross-country skiers 16 years and older. This pass can be purchased from the Minnesota DNR utilizing their Electronic Licensing System. Money generated from this pass is distributed through the Grant-In-Aid program and is used for grooming and trail maintenance.
  • No person shall operate a motor vehicle or snowmobile on trails or roads that are designated non-motorized, including ski, foot, horse, bike, or other accessible trail, unless the trail is also posted open for that particular motorized use.
  • Only portable deer stands are allowed in Movil Maze Recreation Area, no permanent tree stands are permitted.
  • Horses are permitted on all forest roads and trails except where it is posted prohibiting their use (single-track bike trails).

When warmer weather makes an appearance, off-season cross country ski trails are open to a number of other non-motorized activities, including horseback riding, hiking, running, hunter walking, sightseeing and mountain biking, among others. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)
When warmer weather makes an appearance, off-season cross country ski trails are open to a number of other non-motorized activities, including horseback riding, hiking, running, hunter walking, sightseeing and mountain biking, among others. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)

  • Bicycles are permitted on all trails except those posted prohibiting their use.
  • Running/hiking is permitted on all forest roads and trails except where it is posted otherwise.
  • Recreational activity that may damage the single-track mountain bike trail is prohibited.
  • On groomed and tracked cross-country ski trails, activities which tend to damage the track or interfere with and disrupt use by skiers are prohibited. Damage is defined as any non-skiing activity that impacts the groomed track or packed trail (divot, ruts, post holing, etc.) more than normal traditional cross country, or skate skiing.
  • Pet animals shall be personally attended to at all times and shall be effectively under control. Pet animals shall not disrupt other persons or deprive them from using an area.
  • Pet waste deposited in mowed or maintained areas must be immediately cleaned up by the pet owner or caretaker and deposited in an appropriate waste container (not vault toilets).
  • Pets and horses are prohibited on ski trails during the winter skiing season.
  • All garbage shall be removed (“Carry-in, Carry-out”) from Beltrami County Recreation Area and disposed of properly.