Upper Midwest Does It Best™

Jun 23, 2016 at 19:37
by AllMountin  
Sometimes you have to step back and appreciate this thing we call life. To be able to ride. The beauty of the world that surrounds us. The opportunity to experience new places, meet new people, and try new things.

And so it began, my weeklong journey into the a great North, to the as yet unexplored state of Minnesota, with a stop in the more familiar, but still magnificent, Marquette. You couldn't ask for three more beautiful riding locales than those of Cayuna Lakes, Duluth, and Marquette.

Cayuna Lakes

'Best trails in the Upper Midwest', they say. Trails for every level of rider, they say. 'Shred the Red' is the tagline for Cayuna, and it did not disappoint. The dark red earth here ranks as the finest I've ever ridden, and brown dirt is a rare sight.

Steep hills rise abruptly from deep freshwater lakes, their crystal clear, deep waters transitioning quickly from green to dark blue.

Cayuna trails are a somewhat singular experience, and the name of the game is flow. Trails cover the spectrum of difficulty ratings, from the expert rated 'Screamer' to the easiest rated connectors. Your trail bike or hardtail will be right at home. Every trail flows like water, and the gorgeous lakeside lower trails are as fun as the descents from the top. A generous number of one way trails allow speeds approaching mach chicken. Perhaps the highest average quality of trails I've ever ridden; there are no generic trails.

Did I mention the views? At almost every turn, it's red dirt next to blue green waters.

Imagine waking each morning at Portsmouth camp, with singletrack right from the park; the cool, 352 foot deep waters of Portsmouth mine pit lake awaiting your return with a refreshing swim. Trout fishing in the evenings. Rinse and repeat. This is the life at Cayuna Lakes, and it. is. good. Really good.


Duluth is a unique port city, built along the edge of Lake Superior and the St Louis river, with shipping freighters and heavy industry abutting great hills and forests to the north and west. Miles upon miles of trails of every type. Sadly, my time here would be truncated by weather, but a couple of highlights included the 'Home Brew' loop at Brewer Park, and some flowing bliss at Mission Creek. Home Brew features excellent rock tech and B line options, including drops, doubles, rock rolls, and the like. A shot from the top of Home Brew, overlooking the city, in the light of an aging day:

Really good stuff, but more time and more favorable weather is needed to explore it fully. Next time...


I could go on for days about Marquette. A truly great city for outdoor recreation. Great beer, food, riding, people, and... I love it. Trails ranging from DH/FR, to jumps, flow trails, and tech. You name it; they've got it. Scenery for days, with stunning Lake Superior to the North. Cliff jumping on the Dead River, or into the frigid clear waters of Superior will let you know you're alive.

Harlow Lake offers a rugged and relatively remote ride up brutally steep rock faces, and down equally steep and chunky descents. A tech lover/masochist paradise. The views ain't half bad, either.

Cayuna Lakes, Duluth, and Marquette. Diverse riding and stunning scenery. Some of arguably the best in the Upper Midwest. I've attempted to compile samples of some of the marquee sections and features from each trail system, ranging from flow trails, to the jumps of 'Eh Line', to expert tech at Harlow and Timber Shaft @ Cayuna.

Upper Midwest Does It Best™ from Steve Rodgers on Vimeo.

Here's to epic road trips, great trails, and the never ending drive to explore the world around us.


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