307 Third St.
Ironton Minnesota 56455United States
Midwest Living Recommends
Pedal sandy forest paths, rumble along iron-red rocky trails and glide by emerald green lakes at Minnesota's most extensive mountain bike destination.
For years, Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area has been one of Minnesota's best-kept secrets. Its rugged terrain, steep hills and crystal-clear mine lakes feel like a mini Boundary Waters, much closer to the Twin Cities. The chain of 17 water-filled pits from Minnesota's iron-ore mining days blends with the area's natural lakes. The difference? Mine lakes are clear enough for scuba diving, deep enough (500 feet) to fish for cold-loving trout and pretty enough to be a popular place to paddle. There's also a 6-mile Cuyuna Lakes Trail that draws bikers, inline skaters and winter skiers. But the biggest buzz comes from 25 miles of mountain bike trails in the area. A cell tower on the horizon is a lone reminder that the town of Crosby is close by. That's ideal for beginners and occasional mountain bikers. They can rent bikes and get advice at Cycle Path and Paddle just off Highway 210 and Crosby Memorial Park. Bikers can then ride a few blocks from the store, catch the paved Cuyuna Lakes Trail and then loop onto the fairly easy mountain biking Boot Camp trail. It's about 8 miles round-trip. The two-way mountain bike trails thread through forest, up and around hills, and past the distinctive red dirt of iron-rich areas. Old buildings and wire cables serve as subtle reminders of the industrial history here. There are 30 routes throughout Cuyuna Country, from easy to extremely difficult. Easy ones come with names such as Little Sidewinder, Easy Street and Mucker Mountain. Most trails are classified as more difficult, with some most difficult. Ferrous Wheel, Roly Poly, Man Cage and Bob Sled offer ample challenges. Extremist can race and launch across 250-foot slag piles and tackle the Screamer if they need a tire-shredding adrenaline rush. These trails have been in the works for years, with the International Mountain Biking Association teaming up with Minnesota's Department of Natural Resources to make them happen. The trails opened on Memorial Day weekend in 2011 and officially debuted with what will be an annual Mountain Bike Festival the second weekend in June. Given the response, Cuyuna Country's adventurous appeal won't be a secret much longer.