Cuyuna Mountain Biking
If you haven’t been up to explore Cuyuna State Recreation Area in Northern Minnesota yet, it’s a ‘must add’ to your outdoor adventure bucket list. Only a 2 hour drive straight North from Minneapolis on Hwy 169, you’ll find yourself in one of the most beautiful and adventure filled areas in the state. With over 30+ miles of groomed single track mountain bike trails, it’s become a mecca for local Minnesotans and out of state visitors from across the USA. It’s even been featured in REI, Outdoor magazine and more.
Photo by Tom Conway
Cuyuna, MN Mountain Biking History
One of the best parts of the Cuyuna bike trails is the history behind where they are located. The area was once a booming iron ore mining location in the early 1900s. This is when the small town of Crosby, MN was designed and built to house and accommodate the miners and their families. When Minnesota pulled the plug and mining came to a halt, the large and deep mining pits were left behind along with a battered landscape and piles of red dirt. The town of Crosby still existed but it was quiet and visitors were non existent. It wasn’t until 1993 that the state designated the land as a state recreation area to try and preserve the heritage and history. They took truck loads of garbage out and the land slowly grew back. However, the town was
Evergreen Mine Pit in Crosby, MN early 1900s
Then, something unexpected happened. Mountain bikers discovered the red dirt piles and brought in the International Mountain Bicycling Association to lobby the state to create the first mountain biking focused state park. Together the biking community, volunteers, locals and mountain biking enthusiasts worked vigorously together and built some of the best mountain biking trails in Minnesota as well as the nation. It was an incredible accomplishment and it was just the beginning.
The old mining pits were soon filled with water and are still spring fed to this day. They are incredibly clear and you can see down to almost 40ft on a sunny day. The mountain bike trails wind around the mine lakes and through incredible scenery including 200ft towering pines, beautiful grassy meadows and cliffs which overlook the endless turquoise mining lakes of Cuyuna.
Mountain Bikes Lined up on Cuyuna’s renowned red dirt trail system. Photo by Tom Conway
Cuyuna Mountain Bike Trail Conditions
The dirt and soil are different than most mountain biking areas and trails. They consist of iron ore and are a beautiful red, orange color. However, be prepared to get covered in red dirt and wear items of clothing that aren’t meant to stay clean. But what makes this dirt so special is that you can ride the trails about an hour after it rains, unlike other trail systems where you have to wait up to 24 hours to ride again. The iron ore trails allow the rain to flow right through and dry up quickly.
Fat Tire Biking in Cuyuna
The trails are also beautifully groomed and well maintained throughout the winter for fat tire biking in Minnesota. Once the snow falls over the silent forests and lakes, snowshoers hit the mountain bike trails for a winter walk and begin the process of packing the snow. Then, teams of volunteers take turns grooming the fresh snow and the outcome is a beautifully packed single track trail for winter riding on your fat tire bike. If you don’t have a fat tire bike, simply rent one in town at Red Raven or Cycle Path and Paddle.
Best Mountain Biking in Minnesota
We suggest you come up and experience Cuyuna Mountain biking to see for yourself why these trails have garnered so much attention and love from beginners to extremely experienced riders. There are also great trails for Duluth Mountain biking, but of course we are biased to our red dirt and turquoise mine lakes. On your ride you’ll want to take breaks to slow down and soak in the beauty of your surroundings. When you glance down from the cliffside track, you can see almost 40ft below the water’s surface and spot old trees looming from the depths. These trees and plants grew from the years the mines were shut down. After you’ve exhausted yourself on the Cuyuna Mountain Bike Trails, ride into Main Street Crosby where you’ll be taken back into 1905. The old mining town has kept it’s historic charm and now boasts a brewery, coffee shops, restaurants, shopping, ice cream and more.