Drop whatever you’re doing – Grab your bike, load it on the rack and point it to Cuyuna right now! Where last week’s trail was right in the middle of most Erik’s locations, this week we’re headed to an exciting ride destination in North Central Minnesota – making it a bit further drive for riders coming from Madison and Milwaukee, but this is a cycling destination that is pulling in cyclists from around the world
Located among a collection of old open-pit ore mines, Cuyuna is a fantastic example of a new style of mountain bike trail emerging all over the country. Cuyuna is considered a Flow trail – namely that it has been designed in and around the terrain it is in. Tailings (Overburden/leftovers) from once busy mining operations have been worked around or shifted to benefit the design and durability of the trail. The topography is classic Midwest – with very few long grueling climbs, but definitely some short, steep efforts. Trail difficulty ranges from beginner to expert, with something for everyone. Everyone in the family can ride Dragline, Boot Camp and Easy Street, which accesses a multitude of other areas and intensity levels.
Don’t take our word for it though – the MN DNR has some information on the trail as well as this original video:
Trail Length: 25 miles currently with plans to add more – the adjacent Cuyuna Lakes State Trail has 6.7 miles of paved for more casual riding.
- Best trail in MN (StarTribune) – 2013
- Best trail in MN (WCCO) – 2013
- Top 50 Trails in US (Bike Magazine) – 2013
- Top 25 Trails in the World (Singletracks.com) – Ongoing
- Nominated at Interbike for an Interbike PlacesForBikes Award – 2014
- The first designated Ride Center by IMBA, currently one of 27 Ride
Centers in the world.
- Sand Hog trail is one of 8 designated Flow Trails in the world
Cost: There is no cost to ride the trails at Cuyuna
Terrain: Built in what was once a series of open-pit ore mines, the Cuyuna State Recreation Area was once a thriving area for the mining of iron ore and was active until 1984, when the last shipment left. Today, the pits and piles of left by this mining have been shaped into twists, turns and climbs that challenge and excite riders of all ability levels. Known for its red dirt as a result of its iron content, people often say “shred the red” in reference to the local trails. Trail surface drains very well – often to the point of being one of the fastest drying trails in the state following a rain, but be sure to check trail conditions at the Cuyuna Lakes MTB Crew’s Web and Facebook Page before you go. Trails range from gentle and meandering to fast and flowy. The Mahnomen unit is currently wrapping up a 1.2 million dollar construction project for a new entry point and rally center making this the site of future events as well.
Highlights: For the best views in all of the trail system, make sure to check out Miner’s Mountain just north of Huntington Mine Lake. For a fast and twisty decent, take Ferrous Wheel down. For an out of this world experience, experienced riders will be thrilled by The Yawkey Unit, especially Bobsled. For less experienced riders it’s best to start on Easy Street, and it’s worth including the Mucker Mountain and Little Sidewinder trails to get accustomed to.
Know before you go: Cuyuna is a challenging place in that there is not a nearby Erik’s location and its best to be prepared before you go with what you might need. Last week’s list found here is a good start, but we recommend being prepared for tire cuts and punctures including tire boots and even a spare tire in the group. Nothing will ruin a weekend like a shredded tire, and Cuyuna’s terrain makes this a possibility.
It’s also a good idea to consider leaving your light colored gear at home – the red dirt literally creates rust stains in white socks, and while it’s a badge of honor to be marked with the red, not everyone wants their favorite jersey to be a rust-orange after a fall.Wipe down your bike at the end of the day – the major component in that red dirt (iron) is basically metal – keeping your drive train properly lubes and sensitive areas like suspension wiped down at the end of each ride will save you time and wear on your parts in the future.