Cuyuna Lakes: A Family Mountain Bike Destination
Fast, smooth, and twisty, the world-class Cuyuna Lakes mountain bike trail system offers a little bit of something for everyone. Virtually all the trails are kid-friendly with limited climbing and easy technical challenges — my not quite 5 year old was able to ride the double black diamonds here, if that tells you anything. Despite catering to younger riders, the trails manage to entertain even the most advanced riders.
As part of our year-long mountain bike road-trip, we recently visited Cuyuna Lakes and our expectations were blown out of the water. For young kids, I can’t imagine a better trail system, and I felt sad that we couldn’t stay and have the Cuyuna Lakes system as part of our backyard. Our son, who rarely asks to ride two days in a row, couldn’t get enough riding while we were there. Of course, we had to oblige and consequently got very familiar with all the Cuyuna Lakes has to offer to families.
About the Cuyuna Lakes Trail System
The International Mountain Bike Association has designated Cuyuna Lakes as a silver-level ride center – a hard-to-obtain nod of approval. Most intriguing, for me, was discovering that the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Association has stated their vision as “becoming an international, year-round, family cycling destination.” We head to a lot of mountain bike destinations, but rarely encounter one that has been designed to attract FAMILIES.
The trails are professionally-built, well-signed and, for the most part, one-way. This last perk is particularly nice for young children, who often have difficulty navigating two-way traffic on tight singletrack.
The trails are broken up into “units” – connected systems of trails wrapping around old mines. These old mines have been flooded, creating lakes that are both scenic and nice to splash in. Pack a backpack with towels and swimsuits and you are sure to find a nice place for a dip on your ride.
Best Trails for Kids
While stronger kids can ride all 28 miles of trails at Cuyuna Lakes, I’d recommend starting on some of the green trails and working your way up from there. Some of our favorites were Haul Road and Easy Street — both of which are rolling, fast, and fun. For kids who dig downhill runs, try Bobsled or Screamer. Both feature big berms and dirt jumps, but nothing too big or steep.
All the trailheads we visited had printed maps, and you can also access an electronic version online at CuyunaLakesMtb.com.
Where to Stay and Other Things to Do
Part of the attraction of the Cuyuna Lakes trail system is the lovely network of communities surrounding the trails. We stayed in the town of Cuyuna — more on that in a moment — and spent quite a bit of time in neighboring Crosby. We enjoyed frequenting the Crosby City Park with its MASSIVE playground and swimming beach, visiting the coffee/ice cream shop, and sipping pints at the Red Raven. For families considering visiting from out-of-town, there is plenty to keep kids (and parents) entertained here for a week or more.
We ended up camping at the Cuyuna Bike Park and Campground, a relatively new facility with a HUGE pump track and mostly deserted campground. We visited mid-week and had the whole place to ourselves. There is also camping right on the trail system at Portmouth Campground, and hotels in Ironton and nearby Brainerd.