Destination Showcase: Detroit Lakes & Cuyuna, Minnesota

Jul 19, 2019
by Tory Powers  

DETROIT LAKES + CUYUNA, MINNESOTA
Land of the Lakes
Photography & Words: Tory Powers / Riders: Steve Wilcox + Megan Barr
Presented by Explore Minnesota


We all know that Minnesota is one of the USA's most beautiful states. But one thing that doesn't immediately come to mind when you think of the Midwest is mountain biking. But if you're not thinking of mountain biking when you think of Minnesota, you're missing out. Minnesota happens to have hundreds of miles of trails that are recognized internationally by IMBA. So, next time you think about mountain biking, think outside the box - think Minnesota. Because you'll be just as blown away as I was.

Photo by Daniel Mccullough
An aerial view of downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota.


This May we took a trip to Detroit Lakes and Cuyuna to check out two of the best locations for mountain biking in Minnesota.

Being a Colorado native, I didn’t really know what to expect coming to the Midwest to ride mountain bikes, but I was pleasantly surprised.

Minnesota isn’t exactly known for its mountains, because they’re more like hills. But those hills are really fun to ride.


Detroit Lakes

We began our trip heading northwest out of Minneapolis to Detroit Lakes. With a population of only about 10,000, this small town had a lot of character. Detroit Lakes is home to a lot of wonderful restaurants and views of Minnesota’s countless lakes. Interestingly enough, the growth of cycling in the area has brought a ridiculous amount of tourism. This is due in part to the large role they play in the high school cycling series.






Steve + Megan getting the lowdown from the Detroit Mountain Crew in their massive rental house.

Being only about 10-15 minutes from downtown, Detroit Mountain was just a short drive away for great riding. Known for its XC loops, Detroit Mountain is a ski area that has been adding yearly to its trail system. In a condensed area of only about 200 acres, it’s easy enough to get a 10-20+ mile ride with all the various trails in the area. Detroit Mountain also just got a grant from the state’s legacy fund to expand to near 350 acres with the addition of 5 extra miles of trails, downhill-only trails, and other things like playgrounds. Watch out for Detroit Mountain over the next few years as its expansion makes it even better than it already is.

Now, onto the riding. We got a chance to ride most of the trails here in a single day. We started out on the XC loops for a solid warm-up.

Steve + Megan shredding two of the turns on Shakedown Street.






The summer leaves had a very beautiful fall feel..

I think I speak for everyone when I say my favorite trail was “More Cowbell.”

It’s only about 1.3 miles, but it’s full of switchbacks, ups + downs, and of course, two cowbells you get to slap each lap. The riding here isn’t really a “hit the trail once and you’re done” type of area, which was actually pretty refreshing. We rode a lot of these trails multiple times and it got better each lap.

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Our favorite loop to do from the entrance was Shakedown St. > Chainlink > More Cowbell > South Shore. It’s about 2.8 miles long but has a lot of fast, flowy machined turns and big rollers to keep up your speed. This is definitely a place for a dropper post, though, because you’ll find yourself descending and ascending back to back constantly.



All of the trails have an eclectic feel. Try to find sasquatch on one of the trails!


We also rode their west-side trails (Twisted Sister and Rolling Thunder) which had a similar smooth style to crank out some laps. Interestingly enough, a lot of this borders hunting land/was hunting land back in the day. We found a pretty awesome lookout hut that we were too afraid to climb into.



In the evening, we headed up to check out their downhill-only trails that are lift-accessible, or uphill-accessible if your cholesterol is feeling a little high. Since we hit the area early season, they were prepping some of their new trails, but we still got to ride the mountain-favorites, Mustard Tiger and Swayze Train.

Mustard Tiger was my personal favorite on the mountain. If you like speed and making everything into some sort of jump, this is the trail for you.





Full of huge wood wallrides and lots of rollers + other trestles, we had an absolute blast. You can expect a lot more coming from these guys over the next couple of years!






Steve + Megan cruising down one of many bridges on Swayze Train (right). Steve hitting a curved wallride on Mustard Tiger (right).
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What about around town? The whole city lies on some large lakes which are best paired with riding in the summertime. We hit a few amazing restaurants- Hub 41, Zorbaz, and Lakeside Tavern- all recommended. Hub 41 was our mid-day gyro and beer stop. Zorbaz was our mid-day pizza stop, and Lakeside Tavern is the perfect end of the day stop for a burger or a salad.






One of the many falafel gyros we ordered at Hub 41 (left) + a bbq chicken ranch pizza from Zorbaz (right).


Cuyuna


Following Detroit Lakes, we made the short two-hour drive east to Cuyuna. There was a huge shift in both terrain and the general feel of the area. Being located on the Iron Range, Cuyuna is full of desert-red dirt that stained my shoes in the best + most memorable way.

I'd heard a lot about Cuyuna, considering it's one of 15 IMBA Silver Level Ride Centers in the entire world. Yeah, it's kind of a big deal. We couldn't wait to hop on our bikes and ride sun up to sun down.


With a population of only 353 as of 2017, it definitely felt like the kind of place you would know everybody. You could just tell that this place was on their own schedule and almost built around riding.







With an absolute downpour the night before our ride, we were a bit stressed. However, we were excited to find out that this dirt absorbs water like nothing I’ve ever seen before. We had absolutely perfectly tacky conditions all day long.

We began our day at the yurts right alongside the Yawkey Mine Lake, which are available for rent and feature 3 bunk beds, a fireplace, and a spacious area for all of your gear.



Right outside of the huts was this awesome well water pump (right next to a bike stand, complete with a pump + tools) where we topped off our water before we headed out.

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Our first ride began at the “Yawkey Unit” trail system. We rode the trails Bobsled, Man Cage, Skip, and Timber Shaft, which seem to be the highest rated trails in the area. Similar to Detroit Mountain, these trails were very short but extremely fun.

Our warmup lap was Bobsled, my personal favorite. Nestled in the trees, this trail was swooping turns as far as the eye could see. It was the constant cycle of a left turn followed by a right turn, maybe I’m just a sucker for going fast.


Megan + Steve flowing down Bobsled in Cuyuna.





Countless turns. I wasn't kidding.

Man Cage was a great loop for intermediate riders that was fast and flowy with connections to the more difficult trails in this system, Skip + Timber Shaft. Skip was one of the few trails that had any sort of rocks, and they were pretty big, relatively unorthodox for this area. It was fun to ride down, but even more fun to try to make it up!







Timber Shaft, on the other hand, wasn’t really a trail, but more so a skills park at the highest point. This is an amazing place for intermediate riders to test their skills on balance + bike control on countless trestles and rock features.







Next, we went to the “Mahnomen Unit” which borders a handful of massive lakes for fishing. We rode a bunch over here, including Miner’s Mountain, Chute, Hopper Hill, + Screamer. Now, these trails are short, no question about it. But do you know that one section on your favorite trail back home? I feel like that’s the mindset they had when building these trails. With limited space and elevation changes, these trails were designed to be extremely fun in such a short space- absolutely worth riding multiple times back to back. Something that was really cool about this area is nearly every single trail is one-directional, meaning no more “Strava bros” yelling at uphillers to pull over for their poor shot at KOM. Glad to see more places taking on this concept!


Cruising along the best overlook in the trails of Cuyuna, Miner's Mountain trail.

Hitting the fast turns of Screamer, my personal favorite.






The fast straight leading into Screamer (left) and Steve hitting a big switchback with views of the lake through the trees (right).

At the bottom of the mountain was yet another skills area for every single level of riding. It felt like a zone designed for progression. With gradually increasing difficulties, we saw everyone from children to older folks crushing this area. Yet even more trestles, skill features, and jump lines filled the area.





We were blown away to see an expert jump line with 10-15ft tables and other fun features as part of this area. You could be 3 years old or a world cup racer and you would have a blast in Cuyuna.






I had to get a taste of this bigger line myself. Coming from a dirtjump/racing background, this was the ultimate playground.(Photos by Steve Wilcox.)


We spent a good amount of time at Red Raven, a bike shop/cafe with amazing paninis. I'm serious. Amazing. This place was always poppin' with all of the local riders and the team working in the bike shop were more than helpful with figuring out what trails to ride.









Now, if you didn't get enough, this is just the beginning of what Minnesota has to offer. There are countless areas to ride, so we had to do a second trip out to extend this series. In the second part, we take an in-depth look at Duluth (a Gold Level IMBA Ride Center) and Lebanon Hills (located very close to downtown Minneapolis) in order to showcase the ultimate destination trip if you're looking for a new type of riding. Keep a look out during July 2019 for the release of the second part of this series.


Detroit Lakes mountain biking trails
Cuyuna mountain biking trails




Presented by Explore Minnesota.
To learn more about biking in Minnesota or to book a trip, visit Explore Minnesota.


MENTIONS: @pinkbikeoriginals



Regions in Article
Minnesota


108 Comments

  • + 29
 Pretty cool to see local trails covered on Pinkbike. Cuyuna's been a let down for aggressive riders I know. It came in with huge promises and so far it remains super family friendly with 5 massive BMX like jumps that probably costed a fortune to build and only few will ride. Cuyuna is a XC biker's destination, most else will go to Duluth or Leb if looking for more aggressive riding.
  • + 14
 Coming from Colorado I’m pretty used to aggressive. Cuyuna was a nice relief with constant fast + flowy (which I tend to like anyways). Not to mention the dirt was amazing.
  • + 14
 Dont give leb too much credit, it's still very xc oriented at the end of the day. The gnarliest stuff in town is definitely Battle Creek I'd say, and with more elevation. Or the hobo gems around the rivers
  • + 6
 Just what I would say. Anyone serious about racing or aggressive riding other than XC is limited to Leb, Battle Creek, Duluth, and hopefully Welch Village continues to improve. Duluth is the only system with true downhill and aggressive trails in MN
  • + 1
 @Artikay13: Not to give Leb to much credit but as far as anyone in the cities thats as good as it gets if you live on the southside and don't wanna trek 494 to St. Paul
  • + 3
 @Artikay13: I ride Battle more than anything else since it's really the only gnar we have in the Twin Cities. Have not heard of the 'hobo gems' though.
  • + 3
 @quantumkooks: I rode Leb while I was there (and everything else on the west side of town). I thought Theo-Wirth was way more fun and I was impressed with the the "double black", sections around Brownie Lake. I'd call them black by western US standards, but they were still fun and more than just a single rock in the trail like all the other "black features" I road while there.

Sounds likes I missed out on not making it across town to Battle Creek.
  • + 3
 you guys are forgetting the very best DH trails in the state. Sector 12 at Giants ridge is it, plus there is a crew from Rock Solid there now, I here 4 more trails open soon.
  • + 2
 @quantumkooks: Did Battle Creek change? I use to rip around there on my full rigid trek back in the early 2000s. I moved away a long time ago but I've been thinking of doing a bike vacation back in MN, just to ride all the old trails again.
  • + 1
 @quantumkooks: yeah true that's fair. I see it as more "awkward type" technical rather than "gnar" technical though.
Not to say it sucks either it's always a good ride Smile
  • + 3
 @green727: i meant lile all the little hiking paths and whatnot you can see off the side of the river parkways in mpls and other stuff hidden in smaller parks all over the city and suburbs. I'll use 'em as rainy day spots and they're just kinda there and not really maintained so they can be more interesting. I might just be an optimist though for calling them gems haha
  • + 2
 @laksboy: love theo since it's my local haha. Was actually chatting with some friends about trail ratings here the other day, it is definitely like "overrrated" if you're looking at black diamomds here compared to whatever's out west but the builders gotta do something to desginate whatever you're coming up to is more challenging than whatever sector you were just on, and the blue/black/green is like universally recognized. Maybe we need some kind of in-between rating!
  • + 1
 @jdorw: I've got coworkers who did the same thing if not earlier than you haha. They all question now why the heck they ever did that with all the 5in bikes everyone rides now. I'd assume it's just eroded more by now, I'm a lot younger than them so I wouldn't really know about back when but there is still building going on there these days
  • + 2
 @Artikay13: haha gotcha that's kinda what I was thinking. Can be a lot of fun looking around/making up un-used lines
  • + 1
 WTR across the river never disappoints.
  • + 3
 Battle Creek is the only trail worth riding in the twin cities area if you're looking for aggressive terrain (not including Welch). The builders there know what aggressive riders are looking for.

That being said, I hope it doesn't become so popular that MORC starts paving the eroded sections that make it fun. The best part about BC is that the trails don't get maintained as meticulously as Leb and the others.
  • + 2
 @SeaLegs26: Couldn't agree more. The raw feel of it is what makes it so fun and unique to the area (and great for building skills for better areas like Duluth). They recently closed one of those sections however, due to it apparently being an issue with the land manager...I hope it is not a trend for the future.
  • + 13
 Will Part 2 mention the trail organizations, the trailbuilders, the trailmaintainers? The people behind the trails? The local flavour series Brice Shirbach writes sets a high standard.

Perhaps its unfair to expect that level of depth out of travel-related tourism-sponsored articles but IMO that's the standard to match. Hope you take this as constructive criticism
  • + 4
 This, it will also help hopefully drive people to by memberships to help fund them.
  • + 5
 I'm from Cuyuna's club, the Crew. What do you want to know?
  • + 3
 @CycleKrieg: Basic info. How to donate? What you do? The trailwork you do.

It seems out of touch for tourism marketing organizations and the writers of tourism articles to show trails without giving the volunteers and the trail organizations some minimum bit of exposure. It also seems a bit much for trail orgs who are doing the work in building and maintaining the trail system to not even get a mention from the tourism orgs who are marketing the trail systems or a Pinkbike article paid for by Tourism Minnesota. I just wonder sometimes why it seems like such a big thing to ask for even a minor tip of the hat to the trailbuilders?

Apologies to Explore Minnesota if they are directly donating funds to Cuyuna's club. The article makes no mention of that.
  • + 3
 @CycleKrieg: Why is there no sign on the main road through town indicating where the trail heads are? Why is the news page on your website over a year old?
  • + 1
 @xfire7: There are signs to the Rally Center (Mahnomen Unit) parking, its on the right side of the road, right before Irene Avenue. The signs for the Yawkey Unit are both north and south on Hwy 6. There are not signs for the "non-standard" parking spots.

The news page is over a year old because we have switched to FB for news. The website is getting a redo soon.
  • + 7
 @leelau: Donate: join IMBA, choose Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Crew as your club. You can also donate directly through our website.

The Crew maintains the trails and helps the MN DNR with trail related issues, kiosks, benches, etc. Also, next year we will begin construction on our first Crew designed trail, a 9 mile long single loop back country trail.
  • + 12
 I spent a week this summer on the West side of Minneapolis metro area. I'm used to 2000' descents in CO and SoCal so I had no idea what to expect. Summary: I had a TON of fun. Of the 4 area's I rode, Theo-Wirth is do not miss. One-way trails are amazing. Parking lots were packed and bikes were everywhere, but as soon as you got on the trail, it felt like you had the place to yourself. Compared to the West, everything is over-categorized difficulty-wise, ie MN black = Blue. But dang, I sure had fun regardless on a mid-range rental bike.
  • + 3
 haha...agree. I moved to Minneapolis for grad school after being mostly away from the bike for nearly five years, and only an intermediate rider before that. On my first day back on the trails I rode every "black" trail and feature at Leb on a sketchy, ten-year-old xc hardtail without thinking twice, maybe even some double black. Duluth is a little more accurate with ratings.
  • + 12
 While it’s cool to see local trails get attention, I wanna clear the air. I gotta call bs on the IMBA standards for trail centers. Cuyuna is a fun place that continues to get better, but silver? Really? Same as Copper Harbor, Marquette North and Slaughter Pen in Bentonville. Cuyuna is NOT any of these places.
  • + 5
 Someone with a cabin in Cuyuna and goes to school in Houghton MI and rides copper harbour and cuyuna I would agree and say they are extremely different ride centers as to what their focus is. The only reason cuyuna is certified is because of the length of trail and marketing. The reason these places are getting the press is because they are dumping lots of money into them to improve them in coming years and need to justify it with ads
  • + 3
 No doubt money drives the Ride Center designation. But if someone is looking for a destination to ride and based off of current IMBA ride center standards, if they went to Cuyuna after any of the aforementioned. They’d be disappointed. As someone who does destination rides, if I did that to my buddies...
  • + 9
 IMBA's system is based on points. Get the points, get the level.

More is coming. Cuyuna will more than double by 2020. And save for two connection loops, everything will be black or double black diamond. We don't have over 250' vertical to play with, so it will never be the forever downhill location.

That being said, wrong or right, up till now we have a choice to focus on the broad middle of riders who want fun, accessibility (from resorts/town) and maybe have a family. If bombing sketchy downhill in full Endro-bro mode is your thing, Cuyuna will never be that. But want to ride with your family and have something for barely off a Strider kid to your NICA racer, Cuyuna has you covered.
  • + 1
 @CycleKrieg: I brought my 8-y.o. son up to Cuyuna last week. We stayed at TrueNorth and had a great few days on the trails. It's a spectacular destination for family riding. There aren't many kid-friendly miles in the Twin Cities or Duluth.
  • + 4
 @CycleKrieg: I don't think everyone is suggesting full on bro mode style trails. NICA racing is pure XC, people just want more than XC riding in the state. Maybe a style similar to Arkansas. Eventually, those NICA riders are gonna realize how boring XC riding is and want to boost their riding to the next level.

I see Cuyuna as having 99.5% super easy trail and .5% high consequential dirt jumps that even enduro bros aren't stoked about.
  • + 0
 100% Agree, not to mention you don't have to pay to park at any of those great trails. I am not sure if it was the plan all along to build all these trails get everyone interested and then make it a state park or if MN is just caching in on someone else's hard work.

And if you need a trail update weather or event wise you might as well just make the drive and take your chances!
  • + 5
 @laudenbach12: Technically speaking, the park sticker have always been required. However, with past attendance numbers, it wasn't a priority. With the increase of usage, its more official now. However, that same sticker gets you into all of MN's parks, for $35 a year. The MN DNR owns this land and they are funded (partially) thru the stickers. The MN DNR has poured money into the Rec Area, from upgraded parking lots, to the skills sections to the tunnel (along with MN DOT) being built under Hwy 6. All that they are asking is that you give back a little to park in their parking lots. Seams like a fair deal to me.

Trail conditions get updated twice a week with weather forecast and trail updates. If you want by the minute updates, set your weather widget to Crosby.
  • - 7
flag laudenbach12 (Jul 18, 2019 at 7:05) (Below Threshold)
 set my weather widget haha yeah that gives us trail conditions , maybe if one of the crew would get off there butts and give a report so people would travel up there. I guess twice a week is good enough considering the weather never changes in MN. You could use MORC ...oh that’s right your crew says you can’t trust mountain bikers for trail updates.
  • + 1
 @laudenbach12: The trail dries super fast after rain. It's very easy to determine trail conditions by just looking at the weather. There's zero need for daily updates from the trail itself.

Also, I don't see the vehicle fee as an issue at all. It's dirt cheap for a day pass ($7) and there's an annual option ($35) if you ride there frequently. The State does pour a ton of resources into the facility. Paying for the pass is the least I can do to support the area.
  • + 2
 Fiscal 2018-19 is only 1.1B budget. Come on buddy they need your $35.
  • + 7
 @laudenbach12: A) I'm one of three people that do the trail/weather updates. We always include a image of the next few days weather. If storms or anything else has drastically alter the trail conditions, we make that known. Our soil is stable enough we don't need to update every day. That isn't true of other trails in MN. If a pigeon poops on a Leb trail, its closed for the day. We had 1/4" of rain this morning and 1/2 hour later the trails are dry. B) The request from the DNR was that if we do trail conditions, it needed to be a single source for updates. MORC's forums are not a single source with anyone able to update trail conditions. C) If you have a beef with what we, the Crew, do, please feel free to join us and help us make the Crew and Cuyuna better. That is a lot more constructive (for everyone) than guessing about what the reasons are for things and banging out that guess in comment section.
  • + 4
 @CycleKrieg: " If a pigeon poops on a Leb trail, its closed for the day" I'm dying lol
  • + 0
 @CycleKrieg: I am gonna assume you live close by so its not a big deal if you drive over to ride the trails and they are closed. Some of us are plenty willing to drive 2+ hours to ride Cuyuna but it sure would be nice if when we got there the trails aren't closed. and again you don't trust mountain bikers for trail updates although all the other major trail systems do.

I'm good your right I'm wrong but I wasn't guessing been riding those trails since they opened maybe the user would actually know something.
  • + 0
 @ReXTless: I wasn't saying it was an issue to pay 7 bucks, but its curious how it wasn't enforced or known until after the usage was high and once again you wouldn't know about it til you showed up. Also that was in comparison to the other biking destination that Xfire mentioned.
  • + 0
 @CycleKrieg Your level of arrogance is disgusting. 2 riders clearly have issues with your management/website and you just jamb back down our throats. Take or ride somewhere else seams to be what you’re saying. Not everyone is on fb, nor should anyone imo, but your website still will allow donations but you won’t update the news feed. Just adding a post to fb is just being lazy. You have received huge sums of money from the state in recent years, spend some of it on the IT department.
  • + 6
 @xfire7: Not being arrogant, just explaining. As you haven't asked why things are the way they are before commenting, it requires a response with an explanation.

Just to make this clear xfire7, we haven't received a dime from the state. The Crew ≠ MN DNR. The Crew takes care of trails on MN DNR land and receives no money from the state. All our money comes from member dollars and events.

Being on MN DNR land also means The Crew has to follow MN DNR rules and decisions. As an example, you and laudenbach12 complained about the parking fee. That is standard for all MN DNR parks and recreation areas in the state, yet we, the Crew, had no say on when that was enforced locally or the messaging behind it. laudenbach12 also complained about the lack of MORC forum trail updates. Again, as explained, that was a request of the MN DNR, which we followed. You or laudenbach12 may not like those answers, but explaining them is not telling users off.

We have 3 methods to see trail updates: our website, our trail conditions Twitter feed or Facebook. We do not require anyone to sign up to a service to view information about Cuyuna as users can view our trail conditions via our website. See: www.cuyunalakesmtb.com/trails.html

As to the frequency of our trail updates, as ReXTless stated, which I also stated, our trails dry so quickly that if you watch the weather, you know if the trails are opened or closed. Again, we currently do at least 2 weekly updates on predicted weather and trail conditions. Should a large storm or other issues happen, we do immediate updates. How many updates should we do if the trails are open (on average) within an hour or two of a rain event? Its very lightly raining right now, but by the time you read this, it will have stopped raining and the trails will be dry. Do you then want 3 updates (rain start, rain stop, dry) for that one event? That's part of the problem. Cuyuna isn't like other trail systems where a rain will close them for a day or two and daily updates would make sense.

We are in the process of getting our website updated. However, being a volunteer organization, we have to find a person that can do it locally or get the funds to hire someone. That has been a wee bit harder than it should be, honestly. But the new version of the site will automatically show our Facebook news into the site so users will not have to sign up to a service to view information, just like out trail conditions.

If you and laudenbach12 disagree with the management of the Crew, great, it can be changed (well, except those parts dictated by the MN DNR). One could volunteer to do trail updates more often if they desired, maybe volunteer to update the website or even join the board and change the management policies around those items. We don't want things to be "our way or the highway". We wished more users of the Cuyuna trails would become involved in the Crew to add more knowledge, ideas and energy to the mix. Because one of us is not smarter than all of us.
  • + 0
 @CycleKrieg: Wow! I copied this from the Brainerd Dispatch:

During Thursday's meeting, 2017 was labeled "Forever Changed," or the year the state gave the project its blessing and granted $3.6 million in bond funding ($4.1 million if you also count $500,000 promised by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources).

You wanna rethink the “don’t get a dime from the state”
  • + 2
 @xfire7: No need to rethink as the Crew does not get state money. That money was awarded to the MN DNR, Parks & Trails Division, by the legislature, thru bonding. The Crew ≠ MN DNR.

files.dnr.state.mn.us/input/environmentalreview/cuyuna-country-trail/eaw.pdf - Page 9, paragraph 1. This is the EAW for the proposed trail expansion that bonding money is paying for. This document was written by the MN DNR.

Being a state recreational area, the funding has to come thru the state by statute. The State does not award the money to the Crew who then awards it to the MN DNR. The state awards it to the MN DNR directly.

The relationship between the Crew and MN DNR is pretty easy to understand. Its similar to the relationship that MORC has with its many land holders. The difference between those land holders and the MN DNR is that the MN DNR imposes more requirements on us as we are dealing with state land. (See previous comments about trail conditions and parking passes.) Just as Dakota County Parks green lighting a certain amount of funds for Lebanon Hills mountain bike trails doesn't mean MORC gets that money, the state allocating funds for the CCSRA doesn't mean the Crew gets that money.
  • + 6
 @CycleKrieg: I, for one, appreciate all that you guys do for the trail system. Whiny entitled trail users like the two you are dealing with here are the outlier. While I prefer DH laps over everything else, I love Cuyuna for what it is and make the trip from the cities about 5 times a year. I’ve never been skunked due to weather, have ridden an hour after and even have been caught in a rain while riding. Not sure why it’s hard to understand that the soil sheds water well and cry about lack of updates. Some people are never happy and will always find stuff to complain about.
  • + 1
 @ReXTless: next time you’re in Duluth with the kiddos, try anything designated green in Mission Creek, the traverse in Piedmont and the Lester Flow trail. They’re kid friendly. To avoid a lot of uphill riding with the kids, park at the lot a 1/2 mile uphill from the main Mission Creek lot in Fon du lac. Then cross the road and ride cathedral up and back or ride the road to where Loki crosses over to upper cathedral and ride cathedral back down to where you parked. Same for Lester... taking the 7 bridges road up to ride the Lester flow back down makes it a lot more doable for the kids. Just make sure they’re well trained in getting off the road and out of the way of cars... that can sometime be driving entirely to fast. 7 bridges is one of the prettiest twisty mountain-ish roads anywhere so some drivers act like it’s the Pike’s Peak hillclimb.
  • + 1
 @Epaul2011: Thanks - I grew up in Duluth and know all the trails very well. The machine-built tracks in Mission, Piedmont, and Lester are fine from a technical perspective, but the hills are not kid-friendly. They don't have the leg strength or cardio to ride very long with that kind of climbing. The Traverse at Haines and Spirit Mt. have some quick out and back rides that are relatively flat, but those sections are quite short.

Cuyuna has more flat-ish miles than all of Duluth and TC combined.
  • + 10
 Just watched the episode of Trailer Park Boys where they call fat Phil a Mustard Tiger and then this pops up...def not a coincidence.
  • + 4
 May he flip them greasy burgers in peace.
  • + 3
 >> Mustard Tiger and Swayze Train.

Yeah that Swayze Express is worth a fortune.
  • + 8
 Love that Cuyuna is on Pinkbike. There are more trails coming to northern MN as well. They are currently working on the Tioga Trails in Cohasset MN, some trail routes have been flagged and construction is due to start soon on the Redhead Trails in Chisholm MN, and they are working on more trails at Giants Ridge Ski Area in Biwabik MN. Its great that there is finally funding to get trails built north of Duluth. The success of Cuyuna really helped show that mountain biking can bring new life to an area. Thanks Pinkbike for the coverage! Hope to see you up here when more trails are built!
  • + 5
 Have you check out the black and double blacks in Duluth? I thought Cuyuna's double blacks seemed like a Duluth blue
  • + 1
 @Agolz12: I haven't had the chance to yet. However I recently moved back to the area from Marquette MI and I got that same feeling comparing the trails there to Cuyuna. I'm not complaining though because I ride a hardtail so I will usually shy away from the really gnarly stuff. I do hope when they put the trails in around Chisholm they have some trails that are truly technical but I have a feeling they are going to try to make the place "family friendly" first.
  • + 2
 @Agolz12: You realize not all trail ratings are the same right? Trail ratings are based on the other trails in the system not other trails in the state or country etc.
  • + 5
 Having ridden Detroit mountain at least five times I can guarantee you better spots could be highlighted. I'm not saying its bad for locals, but making it to the homepage? Before anybody criticizes me, ride their yourselves. It is a lot of weird wood features that don't flow on the dh trails and the xc are pretty simple. Minnesota's best DH parks are Spirit, Giant's Ridge (so far, they only have two trails), and Welch is certainly not bad. I can't speak for XC but the Northshore region of Minnesota has the best XC trails in my opinion. seriously, though, DL is not worth your time at the moment. Maybe someday they will improve, but most of their XC trails and all of their DH trails are iffy. They don't have that great of terrain either, but they are planning new trails, so who knows? Alexandria's Brophy park has better Dh tracks than Detroit Lakes, and they have problems themselves (still super fun, if you're in the area).
  • + 5
 If you are Cuyuna-curious and want a reason to ride, in October we have a great race that hits nearly 100% of singletrack (25 mile race length). Its called the Oremageddon and its pretty rockin'.

www.cuyunalakesmtb.com/oremageddon.html
  • + 1
 I’m interested in doing this race possibly.
I was looking at the course on Trailforks and the 25 mi ride said there would be 4100+ feet of climbing in the 25 mi loop.
Is that correct? Where can you get 4100’ of climbing out ther?
  • + 2
 @Three6ty: Trailfork's DEM is iffy, quite frankly. A full 25 miles is closer to 2200' vertical feet. One of the things about the Oremageddon is that we do maximize the climbing. In the first 12 miles there are 4 big climbs: Overlook Road, Mucker, Sandhog, Hopper & Crusher.
  • + 1
 @CycleKrieg: Ok cool. I just might do this and plan my trip around that.
  • + 5
 So... No mention of local trail orgs, or builders?

Awesome... I'm so stoked tourism orgs pay Pinkbike to draw people to the trails built and maintained by vollies, who get no credit.
  • - 1
 Oh and another bonus shoutout for "Something that was really cool about this area is nearly every single trail is one-directional, meaning no more “Strava bros” yelling at uphillers to pull over for their poor shot at KOM. Glad to see more places taking on this concept!"

.... right.... Its really cool that more places are giving up on common courtesy.

Should some trails be uni-directional? Yes. But using at as a 'one size fits all' solution is just kinda sad, IMO.
  • + 2
 @cooperquinn-wy: There were HORDES of mtn bikers at Theo-Wirth trailhead when I visited. And then I got on the trails and they felt nearly empty. As a solution in a crowded metro area, I was super impressed how well it worked.
  • + 1
 @laksboy: I mean, I get it. I'm currently advocating for more uni-directional trails here.

But its not a solution to a problem, its a solution to a symptom.
  • + 1
 Who can turn the world on with her smile?
  • + 4
 I've ridden Cuyuna twice in the last few weeks. I've also been all over the US including Bentonville and Santos in Fl (I use these as examples due to elevation). I can say that Cuyuna could become a true go-to destination, they have some good infrastructure, a great local vibe. The trails are fun for general riding, some rock jank and the XC guys love them, the crew up there has done an amazing job to create truly fun trail riding. All that is missing is progressive jump lines. I'm not saying this to come down on the area at all, just constructive about what makes other areas fun to go to over and over. Behind general beautiful fun trails, jump progression is the #1 thing in the sport right now, everywhere I go that is what kids to the 40-50 crowd are working on. The new skills course has some features but the jumps are all jank. The blue ones are built on too steep of a downhill for their size and the black ones are for dirt jump bikes or perhaps the 1% of mountain bikers in MN that could clear them. I am going to donate to the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Crew (CLMTBC) because I don't have time to volunteer and it's too far away. I hope other Minnesotans do the same, with enough donations perhaps we will see some awesome features like The Hub in Bentonville.
  • + 2
 I am looking and taking some MTN Trips in the upcoming months.
When is the best time to go ride in Minnesota. Coming from SO Cal, and never have been in that part of the country, all I know about MN is its cold in the winter, 10,000 lakes and Prince.. lol.

This is definitely on my list now for a quick weekend trip. What are the summers like> Would October be better?
Thanks in advance for any info.
  • + 5
 Summers are warm and rainy lately. Cuyuna dries fast so you don't have to worry too much about the rain. Though coming from California you might be a bit disappointed by the terrain at Cuyuna. It's got a neat story and all, but at the end of the day the trails are just ok. Pretty much all just smooth machine cut XC trails. I vastly prefer Duluth. Much better trail variety, and a ton of cool places to eat and drink.
  • + 2
 @BlackVR: Ya Im not a So Cal Snob type rider. I ride mostly Enduro trails where I live but I love riding new trails and like doing XC type trails as well.
I am open for anything really and thought MN looks like a good place to take a 4-5 day trip to do some riding. I'm down to travel all over the state so If Duluth is the place to go , I would venture there as well.
I'm probably shooting for Sept / Oct time frame. I don't mind the heat, its more the humidity and bugs ....

What do you suggest? is the weather still somewhat warm in the early part of October?
  • + 2
 @Three6ty: October may be pushing for decent weather, temps can be 70F one day and 30F a day later that time of year, so it's a crap shoot. IMO September has the most optimal temps in MN. Ranges from 80F to 50F depending on what nature is feeling.
  • + 3
 @Three6ty: October is getting pretty late, especially for northern Minnesota. Average high for Duluth for September is 65, average high for October is 51.
  • + 3
 @BlackVR: September it is. My wife works for Southwest so free flights. Makes these trips pretty easy to do.
  • + 6
 The end of September is the BEST time to ride in Northern MN. It's usually drier and not as humid. The leaves will usually be peak color around then and still on the trees. Later fall riding can become difficult when all the leaves fall to the ground and cover the trails. You're still able to ride of course but trail visibility is less and all the leaves diminish grip. If I were to plan a trip to ride in MN specifically I would stay in Duluth and day trip to Cuyuna. You can ride just about everything in Cuyuna in a day. It's a fairly big day but you can do it. Duluth would need a couple days to ride most of it.
  • + 3
 @Three6ty: Mid/Late September is generally awesome though unpredictable year to year... hit me up if you are in the cities and I can show you around Battle Creek in St. Paul.
  • + 2
 @green727: will do. I'm checking out flights and air-bnb right now. Targeting coming out Sept 13-17
  • + 2
 @Three6ty: Let me know if you make it out and want a riding buddy. I’m up in Duluth just about every weekend riding.
  • + 5
 Go ride Spirit in Duluth and then hit up Piedmont (or really anything else in the area). Duluth does trails right and the builders have done a spectacular job with a limited amount of elevation. If you'll be in the Mpls/St. Paul area, check out Battle Creek in St. Paul, Lebanon Hills in Eagan, or the Cottage Grove Bike Park in...well I bet you can figure out where. Theo Wirth in Minneapolis is certainly worth a visit since it's a ten minute ride from downtown and it feels like you're in the middle of nowhere. Plus there's a few beaches and breweries around to moisten your outers and innards. I'd recommend a Kolsch at Utepils and a XIPE IPA at La Doña. The latter even has a mini soccer field if that's your thing.

September and October are typically good months to visit and my personal favorite time of year, especially in northern MN. If you have time, get up to the North Shore, about an hour north of Duluth for some great views of Superior, tons of cliffs and waterfalls.
  • + 1
 @BobbyHillbomb: thank for the info. And thanks to everyone's info as well. I am looking forward to making a trip out. Looks like there will be plenty of places to go.
  • + 1
 Late July and most of August would be the prime times in my opinion- early September isn't bad either, but it starts to cool down later in that month pretty significantly.
  • + 1
 @Three6ty: feel free to send me a message when you're in the area if you'd like more riding/eating/drinking suggestions.
  • + 1
 @Three6ty: I was at Cuyuna October 19-21st in 2018 and they got a couple inches of snow on the first night there. Upside was the trails melted and were rideable by late Saturday but it's still a crapshoot in northern Mn anytime you're pushing deep into October. Saying that, the trails are fun, not super challenging and if you like to pedal, they're pedaly.
  • + 1
 Local here.

Great riding times: May to mid-October and Mid-November to early January (fat bike season). Mid-June and Mid-September are my favorites because the scenery is good and bugs are low. For thin blooded persons, aim for the first part of September.
  • + 1
 could also head up the "North Shore" from Duluth as well. Probably not enough trails up there (Tofte, Grand Marais) yet to make it worthwhile for trails alone, but enough for a good excuse to see a neat part of the state/country.
  • + 1
 @ecologist: Definitely go North Shore. They have tons of trails and I've never ridden Cuyuna and at this point never will, but I know Detroit did not deserve this spotlight. It was a hour drive for me, yet I still would choose the four hour drive to spirit or Welch any day. I think Cuyuna is supposed to be pretty good though. Honestly, the xc riding at Detroit Mountain is just typical Minnesota riding, unless you're in the area and bored don't bother.
  • + 2
 Personally... if I was from so-cal I’d come to Duluth in the winter about a week after a good snowstorm. Rent yourself a fatbike and experience what it’s like to ride on groomed trails. Easiest way to explain it is if you could ride your bike on an endless waterslide. Mile after mile of pooltable smooth trail. It’s especially fun at night.
Then ask the locals what frozen rivers are rideable. Typically the Sucker river and the Lester river are packed down and rideable by February. Both have several cascades and waterfalls that freeze over. Lester has a 30ft waterfall that is hands down the most fun I’ve had on a bike.
  • + 1
 @Epaul2011: oh damn- now that is an angle I've never thought of- wild!
  • + 3
 If you're riding up in Cuyuna, stop in to Rafferty's in Crosby for some damn good pizza! My buddy runs the place and they just opened up a couple months ago - nothing better than post-ride beer and 'za.
  • + 1
 Living in Fargo/Moorhead, Detroit Mountain is my go-to. You may be able to ride everything in under two hours, but it's still a lot of fun and they do well with what they have to work with. It's been a great asset for the area.
  • + 1
 I grew up in this area- there was zero riding out there back in those days- really great to see the scene taking root and people making the most of the terrain that they have! Also- Zorbaz for the friggin win, eh!
  • + 1
 Thanks for mentioning the local High School Racing League as an influence in the area. I have been working with them since they began in 2012 and am really proud to see many kids and families riding!
  • + 1
 Love seeing MN get attention here. We have lots of cool trails and we WANT you to come here an enjoy them!
  • + 1
 Looks really good guys. Keep up the digging. You build it and they will come, ride it
  • + 1
 Nice work! Keep em coming!
  • + 1
 Megan is great! Cool to see her on Pinkbike!
  • + 1
 Beautiful! I'd ride those trails any day. Very nice.
  • + 1
 dammit. now I'm hungry....
  • + 1
 Cuyuna: flow trails for days
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