Avid mountain bikers are buzzing about the state-of-the-art network of mountain bike trails at Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area at Crosby, near the Brainerd Lakes area. This 22-mile trail network winds through a landscape created by 70 years of iron ore mining. This man-made terrain consists of old mining pits and tall piles of ruddy rock excavated from the pits. Nature is working on reclaiming the area: water has filled the pits and turned them into 15 deep lakes, and trees and shrubs have taken root on the rugged landscape. As it turns out, it's a landscape perfect for crafting a maze of trails to conquer by bike.
The trail network is the first in the Minnesota State Park system created specifically for mountain biking. The International Mountain Bike Association provided some funding as well as expertise in trail design and construction. Several loops of single-track trail were carved into the rocky terrain, circling mine lakes and winding over hills, through the woods, and across bridges over little ravines. Elevated areas offer outstanding views of the landscape's many mine lakes and natural lakes. The trails range from moderately to extremely difficult.
"They're spectacular trails, great fun to ride, very exhilarating," says Jenny Smith, of the Cycle Path and Paddle Shop in Crosby, and a new mountain biker herself. The shop rents mountain bikes, as well as regular bikes and kayaks. The Cuyuna Rec Area is just at the edge of town, so you can rent bikes at the shop and pedal to the trails.
The recreation area also has a 6-mile paved bike trail, and the lakes are popular for trout fishing, kayaking and scuba diving in their clear waters. The old mine pits and rock piles are not the only remnants of the area's mining history; there are also remains of old mining buildings and giant tires from mining equipment.
Check the DNR website for updates and a trail map.