Like the mineral-infused red dirt in Cuyuna Lakes area, Minnesota, the color matches the personality of the people and the place. Red symbolizes passion, primal forces, energy, and adventure. It’s an apt description for a community that has been transformed from industry and mineral mining to an outdoor recreational juggernaut. Now, a world-class mountain bike trail system (IMBA Silver) is paired with a pristine chain-of-lakes… it’s a place where “flow trails” are etched in the earth and on the clear lake waters. 

Here, the red will stick to you and with you, well past your trip. It turns a bike tire from black to a rusty hue. Here, flushed and rosy cheeks are partly due to trail dust and exertion. During our time in Cuyuna Adventure Town, we embraced the #shredthered mantra letting the vibe and the color sink in. 

As a Michigan (great lake state) resident, I feel qualified to comment on Minnesota’s mantra, The Land of 10,000 Lakes. It’s true. Quantity meets quality! Two hours north of the Twin Cities, in Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area’s 5000 acres, there are 20 lakes and over 50 miles of trail to pedal. My CycleTherapy adventure research team experienced high levels of fun hogging on a recent June trip… we’d suggest doses of pedaling, paddling, plunging in the lakes, pulling in a trout, or just putzing around the quaint towns, boutiques, restaurants, and bike shops. We embraced the friendly vibe that permeates the small towns like Crosby, Ironton, and Cuyuna. Ever hear the phrase, Minnesota nice? Ask for directions to a trailhead, and you’ll meet your new best friend. 

For places to stay, skip the Priceline searches; it’s a no-hotel zone favoring unique, locally-owned spaces. Bonus, all the lodging choices have great places for you AND your bike to rest, and they are only a few pedal strokes to trail access points. The Bike Vault on Crosby’s Main Street is a swanky, restored, top-floor suite in a historic bank building, and you guessed it, the Vault has been converted to a stocked bike storage and maintenance area. Cyclists of any kind will appreciate the attention to detail at the Vault; it’s both a comfortable place to rest and part vintage bike museum. I fell in love with the “map room” and have never seen so many bike-themed accessories in one place. Pillows, art, mugs, end tables, comforters, maps, books, oh and a craft beer on arrival…..nice touch!  

We also spent time at the Red Rider Resort for top-of-the-line cabin glamping on the shores of Manuel Mine Lake. The wood-furnace sauna helped cleanse the lactic acid from my legs, plus we hopped in the kayaks for a paddle around the lake, dotted with loons diving for fish. For another Main Street option, Crosby Lofts, offers contemporary rooms on the second floor with bonus wood-fired pizza smells drifting up from Rafferty’s. Just steps from your room is an outdoor deck, perfect for reflecting on your rides with trail buddies. Your reservation also gets you access to the Red Shed, another fabulous bike storage area with racks, lockers, laundry facilities, and lounge chairs to rest your tortured thighs. 

Active travelers need places to rest and refuel, and Cuyuna delivers. When logging 20 miles per day, we needed plenty of caloric restoration. I’d suggest having meals at Trailside Tavern. The broasted chicken special is ridiculously delicious. And craft pizza at Rafferty’s followed by a visit to Cuyuna Brewing, all stellar options to raise your carb meter. Biking followed by pizza and beer is one of the Cuyuna-verse’s best combinations. Say yes to dessert at Shop Victual for some Rave ice cream. The Church Basement Lemon Bar flavor is forever etched on my taste buds. And, the Red Raven is my new measuring bar for bike shops – I noshed a breakfast sandwich alongside a freshly roasted brew, stocked up on logo gear, and later had my bike serviced while sipping a local craft beer. 

The trails, ah yes. A biker paradise in Cuyuna is laid out with exacting precision. Professionally built trails are the foundation with carefully connected access points throughout the CCSRA and minutes from town centers. No matter where we stayed, the car remained parked, and the mode of transportation was on two wheels or two feet. I tip my helmet to the community planners and trail builders for their vision.  Usually, with connectors or easy trails, the assumption is boring. Not so here: Galloping Goose, Haul Road, and Drag Line (green-rated) are the most fun “easy” trails I’ve rolled. Perfect mounds and dirt rollercoasters are sculpted around the lakes and lead to more gnarly terrain.

Work your way up from the Goose to Bobsled’s berms, DrawPoint’s downhill tech, the Winze jump line, and Roly Poly’s rippin’ descent. Be sure to fit in a gander from the top of Miner’s Mountain and a stop at the skills park. When you feel particularly frisky, ask the guides from Sure Shift MTB to show you around Cruser’s Kettle and the all-you-can-bike rock gardens. And, hot off the Cuyuna rock press (July 3), the north Mahnomen area unveils challenging-rock-laden jump lines, perfect for experts who have no fear and plenty of padding. For more on the new trails, view here.

Cuyuna covers the full spectrum of trails. When your legs will carry you no further, pick up a paddle. Cuyuna Outfitters has a fleet of clear-bottomed kayaks to explore the reclaimed mine lakes. With 30-feet of clarity, you can be your own fish finder! I’d suggest the half-day tour with a catered lunch on the banks of a Portsmouth Mine Lake. For a few hours, trade the Cuyuna red and two-wheeled adrenaline for calm strokes and crystal blue. While you paddle, ponder if there is a place more picturesque than a landscape of red earth and rock flanked by clear blue and calm waters. 

Red, it’s my favorite color, and in Cuyuna, it will be yours too!

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