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Advanced and expert Mountain Bike Trail expansion now open at Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area

On the northern edge of the recreation area, the North Mahnomen Unit expansion features four new trails ranging in skill level from more difficult to experts only. “This expansion officially doubles our total trail mileage from the existing 25 miles of 2011 to 50 plus miles now a perfect 10 years later, unlocking our master vision providing expert riders trails to challenge and reward their efforts,” said Aaron Hautala, president emeritus of the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Crew.

©Cuyuna_Sinter_Hub_Filter_2268.jpg
On the northern edge of the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area, the North Mahnomen Unit expansion features four new trails ranging in skill level from More Difficult to Experts Only. Contributed / Cuyuna.com.
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CROSBY — Advanced and expert mountain bike riders now have 10 miles of new trails to ride at the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area North Mahnomen Unit starting Saturday, July 3.

Located on the northern edge of the recreation area, the North Mahnomen Unit expansion features four new trails ranging in skill level from more difficult to experts only.

“This trail system expansion continues to build on the work we started with our Miner’s Mountain Bike Skills Area, Winze trail, and Drawpoint trail to increase trail difficulty,” said Nicholas Statz, Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area mountain bike trail technician for the Minnesota DNR, in a news release. “All of this advanced trail development is a result of broad support from regional businesses, the mountain bicycling community, the Cuyuna Master Vision for Trails, the CCSRA Citizens Advisory Council, and the hard work of the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Crew, whose volunteers help maintain the trail system.”

The North Mahnomen Unit expansion features three new gravity flow trails — connected by the new, more difficult, backcountry trail — and are intended to provide riders with a sense of remoteness and adventure, the news release stated.

Backcountry trail: intermediate, more difficult cross-country trail featuring unavoidable obstacles, mandatory rock drops, mandatory jumps, and technical rock gardens.

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Sinter trail: Very Difficult gravity flow trail with unavoidable obstacles, large rock drops, mandatory rock gardens, and big rolling jumps.

Sledgehammer trail: Extremely Difficult, Expert Only gravity flow trail featuring unavoidable rock obstacles, mandatory large rock drops, mandatory rock ledge drops, mandatory technical rock gardens, mandatory large rock jumps, mandatory steep rock staircase, and expert rock gap jumps.

Portal trail: More Difficult gravity flow trail featuring unavoidable obstacles, mandatory rock drops, mandatory jumps, and technical rock gardens.

Systemwide trail difficulty rating updates

With the construction of the advanced and expert North Mahnomen trails Sinter and Sledgehammer, the trail ratings of previously constructed Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area mountain bike trails were adjusted to reflect the difficulty of the new system. Man High Hill, Chute, and Bobsled trails are now rated more difficult, whereas previously these trails were rated very difficult.

Later this year, Screamer will be reconstructed, allowing this trail to retain its very difficult rating.

Cyclists are encouraged to pay close attention to the new and updated trail ratings, as they reflect the updated Cuyuna Country State Recreation systemwide overall trail difficulty.

Signage will also be available throughout the North Mahnomen Unit providing visual reminders of the difficulty of these new trails. The “Overview trail map and brochure” on the rec area’s website was updated with the new trails and difficulty changes.

The rec area mountain bike trail system is purposefully constructed to be progressive in difficulty, allowing cyclists to start with easy trails and move up in difficulty as they successfully complete a trail, organizers reported. Additionally, the bike skills area within Miner’s Mountain Rally Center provides cyclists the opportunity to hone their skills before riding any mountain bike trail.

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Access to the North Mahnomen Unit

The North Mahnomen Unit trails are accessible by the Backcountry Connector trail via the Galloping Goose trail starting in the Rally Center outside of Ironton. Just under 4 miles onto Galloping Goose trail at Emergency Access 110 is the entrance to the Backcountry Connector.

This trail eventually becomes Backcountry trail at the North Mahnomen Unit trail hub after the boardwalk and provides access to Sinter, Sledgehammer, and Portal trails.

Important to note, if a cyclist is unable to ride the rock filter into Backcountry trail on their bicycle, it is highly suggested not to continue as the difficulty will exceed the rider’s ability. Start to finish, Backcountry trail is 12 miles from the Rally Center and back using Galloping Goose trail both on the way out and back in. Planning for hydration, energy/nutrition, and time of day is essential.

Current projects in progress

With the opening of the North Mahnomen advanced and expert trails, additional projects are happening simultaneously within the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area. Current construction includes:

Sagamore Unit: Construction started in April 2021 and will continue through fall 2022. Trails will provide an experience ranging from beginner to very difficult. The rec area’s first adaptive handcycle trail will also be constructed, made possible by a grant from the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board.

New wayfinding signage throughout the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area and Cuyuna Lakes State Paved Trail: Beginning in spring 2022 and to be completed by the end of the year. Made possible by a grant from the Hallett Trust and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Division of Parks and Trails.

Funding for this multi-year expansion project comes from the 2017 State Bond appropriation for the rec area, made possible by the advocacy and support of Minnesota State Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, Sen. Carrie Ruud, and representatives Dale Lueck, Josh Heintzeman, and John Poston, regional support of five chambers of commerce, two economic development authorities, and countless main street businesses and major employers.

“This expansion officially doubles our total trail mileage from the existing 25 miles of 2011 to 50 plus miles now a perfect 10 years later, unlocking our master vision providing expert riders trails to challenge and reward their efforts,” said Aaron Hautala, president emeritus of the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Crew, in the news release. “And it makes good on the Cuyuna region being one step closer to providing our recorded 160,000 annual cycling visitors with three days of riding without repeating a trail — empowering the economic impact goal of $21 million annually into our region to be realized.”

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Check the “Visitor Alerts” section on the Cuyuna Country SRA webpage for updates. Updates also are available by calling the DNR Information Center at 888-646-6367 between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Saturday, or by emailing info.dnr@state.mn.us

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