Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area flourishes as mountain bike mecca

  • Article by: DOUG SMITH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 19, 2014 - 6:33 PM

At Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area, abandoned iron mines have been reinvented as a prime mountain biking destination.

view larger photos

  

Jim McCarvill had just finished an adrenaline-fused ride on his mountain bike down a twisting bobsled-like trail at the nationally acclaimed Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area.

“I absolutely love it,’’ said McCarvill, 64, of Richfield, an avid mountain biker who traversed the rugged trails here nearly a dozen times last year.

He’s among those not surprised that thousands of two-wheeled enthusiasts have been flocking to the former iron-mining area of Crosby, Ironton and Cuyuna, two hours north of the Twin Cities, since the 25-mile trail system opened in 2011. Visits to the 5,000-acre re­creation area, which also boasts boating, fishing, camping, scuba diving and hiking (bike trails are open to hikers), have increased from 118,000 in 2010 — before the trails opened — to 164,000 last year, up nearly 40 percent.

“People all over the country are coming here and loving it,’’ McCarvill said before pedaling off.

Erika Rivers, new head of the Department of Natural Resources parks and trails division, also isn’t surprised.

“It’s on the map nationally as a destination,’’ she said. “We’re seeing people from all over. It’s one of those sports that’s really ‘next generation.’ The 18- to 30-year-old demographic has embraced it.’’

As have older bikers.

Cuyuna Country has become so popular that work began this week on a $1.2 million project to handle the growing number of visitors. Another 96 parking spots will be added, along with changing facilities, a picnic shelter, bike-wash station and restroom.

“It will redefine the park,’’ said Nick Statz, trail manager.

Meanwhile, three yurts — round tents set on insulated wood platforms and furnished with bunk beds, tables, chairs and a wood stove — also are being built near one of the trails, adding another attraction to Cuyuna. Available year-round, they sleep up to six, and bikers will be able to hit the trail right outside the door.

Bikers are embraced

Not everyone envisioned an old-iron mining area of northern Minnesota becoming a mountain bike mecca.

“The community was skeptical,’’ said Statz, one of the founders of the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Crew, the local mountain bike club instrumental in developing the trail system on abandoned mining land and responsible for much of the maintenance. “They had tried different ways to pump up the economy after the mines closed, with limited success.’’

Now the towns believe. Signs welcome mountain bikers, and vehicles loaded with bikes are common.

The recreation area’s 25-site campground often is filled on weekends.

“It was never a problem getting a campsite’’ before mountain bi­king arrived, said Jenny Lust, a park employee. “Every weekend was full last year.’’

Said Statz: “It’s been a huge economic boost for the community. It’s not a fad. We’ve seen steady growth.’’

And the bikers don’t stop coming when the snow flies. Statz packs the trails in the winter using a two-wheel-drive motorcycle. Die-hards on fat-tired bikes come cruising along, ignoring the cold.

  • related content

  • Cuyuna Country: If you go

    Thursday June 19, 2014

    IF YOU GOConstruction of new parking and other facilities at Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area, which began this week, will...

  • Sea kayaking in the Heartland

    Thursday June 19, 2014

    A local family heads to the south shore of Lake Superior for their first encounter with this captivating sport.

  • Cabin Country: A newspaperman's legacy

    Thursday June 26, 2014

    In 1964, my grandfather, Bower Hawthorne, was a rising newsman and editor at the Star and Tribune, a civic leader...

  • Katie Seipp-Deblock of Ironton, Minn., helped lead a group of 10 women on a mountain bike adventure. Most of the riders hadn’t been mountain biking before.

  • Duane Lee of Lindstrom, Minn., navigates a rocky stretch of mountain bike trail at Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area.

  • A visitor checked one of many posted trail maps. Cuyuna’s trails are well-marked and labeled by level of difficulty.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.

ADVERTISEMENT

St. Louis - LP: A. Wainwright 1 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: J. Locke 3
Texas - WP: C. Lewis 12 FINAL
Seattle - LP: E. Ramirez 4
Washington - LP: D. Fister 4 FINAL
Philadelphia - WP: K. Kendrick 8
Tampa Bay - WP: D. Smyly 3 FINAL
Baltimore - LP: K. Gausman 1
Boston - LP: T. Layne 2 FINAL
Toronto - WP: M. Stroman 5
NY Yankees - WP: S. Greene 8 FINAL
Detroit - LP: D. Price 4
Atlanta - WP: J. Teheran 3 FINAL
NY Mets - LP: Z. Wheeler 2
Chicago Cubs - LP: J. Turner 5 FINAL
Cincinnati - WP: M. Latos 7
Cleveland - LP: C. Kluber 2 FINAL
Chicago WSox - WP: H. Noesi 3
Minnesota - LP: P. Hughes 1 FINAL
Kansas City - WP: W. Davis 6
Oakland - WP: D. Otero 5 FINAL
Houston - LP: C. Qualls 4
Milwaukee - LP: Z. Duke 2 FINAL
San Diego - WP: D. Thayer 3
Los Angeles - WP: C. Kershaw 3 FINAL
Arizona - LP: W. Miley 1
Miami - LP: H. Alvarez 1 FINAL
LA Angels - WP: H. Santiago 6
Colorado - LP: J. Nicasio 2 FINAL
San Francisco - WP: S. Casilla 4
Atlanta 5:00 PM
Jacksonville
Detroit 6:00 PM
Buffalo
Indianapolis 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Kansas City 6:00 PM
Green Bay
NY Jets 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
St. Louis 6:00 PM
Miami
Carolina 6:30 PM
Pittsburgh
New England 6:30 PM
NY Giants
Washington 6:30 PM
Tampa Bay
Baltimore 7:00 PM
New Orleans
Chicago 7:00 PM
Cleveland
Denver 7:00 PM
Dallas
Minnesota 7:00 PM
Tennessee
San Francisco 7:00 PM
Houston
Arizona 9:00 PM
San Diego
Seattle 9:00 PM
Oakland
(21) Texas A&M 5:00 PM
(9) So Carolina
Wake Forest 6:02 PM
ULM
Boise State 7:00 PM
(18) Ole Miss
Tulane 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Temple 8:15 PM
Vanderbilt
Rutgers 9:00 PM
Washington St
Weber State 9:30 PM
(19) Arizona State
BYU 8/29/14 6:00 PM
Connecticut
(6) Jacksonville St 8/29/14 6:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Bowling Green 8/29/14 6:30 PM
Western Ky
TX-San Antonio 8/29/14 8:00 PM
Houston
Colorado State 8/29/14 8:00 PM
Colorado
UNLV 8/29/14 9:30 PM
Arizona
Penn State 8/30/14 7:30 AM
UCF
Troy 8/30/14 11:00 AM
UAB
(7) UCLA 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Virginia
Western Mich 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
(5) Ohio State 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Navy
Appalachian St 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Michigan
Ga Southern 8/30/14 11:30 AM
NC State
Boston College 8/30/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
West Virginia 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(2) Alabama
Rice 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
(10) South Dakota St 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(24) Missouri
Fla Atlantic 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(22) Nebraska
California 8/30/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Marshall 8/30/14 2:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
UC Davis 8/30/14 3:00 PM
(11) Stanford
Arkansas 8/30/14 3:00 PM
(6) Auburn
(16) Clemson 8/30/14 4:30 PM
(12) Georgia
Liberty 8/30/14 5:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Ohio U 8/30/14 5:00 PM
Kent State
Louisiana Tech 8/30/14 6:00 PM
(4) Oklahoma
Idaho 8/30/14 6:00 PM
Florida
Stephen F Austin 8/30/14 6:10 PM
(20) Kansas State
Fresno State 8/30/14 6:30 PM
(15) USC
Southern Miss 8/30/14 6:30 PM
Miss State
Texas-El Paso 8/30/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
North Texas 8/30/14 7:00 PM
Texas
(1) Florida State 8/30/14 7:00 PM
Oklahoma State
(14) Wisconsin 8/30/14 8:00 PM
(13) LSU
South Dakota 8/30/14 9:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(25) Washington 8/30/14 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Utah State 8/31/14 6:00 PM
Tennessee
SMU 8/31/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
Miami-Florida 9/1/14 7:00 PM
Louisville
D.C. 1 FINAL
Los Angeles 4
Ottawa 8/29/14 6:30 PM
Montreal
Winnipeg 8/31/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Toronto 9/1/14 12:00 PM
Hamilton
Edmonton 9/1/14 3:30 PM
Calgary
Brt Columbia 9/5/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close