Miller Black Bear Trail to expand by 12.5 miles

Of the 12.5 miles to be added to the system, half will be newly constructed trails, while the other half will use existing undesignated and unmanaged forest trails already open to ATV use.

Picture of Miller Black Bear Area Trail sign near Trommald.
The Miller Black Bear Area Trail is located on Crow Wing County-owned land near Trommald.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

BRAINERD — One of Crow Wing County’s all-terrain vehicle trails is set to expand by 12.5 miles.

The Crow Wing County Board approved the expansion project plan for Miller Black Bear Trail and granted an amended motorized multi-use trail permit to the Cuyuna Iron Range Riders ATV Club during its Tuesday, Jan. 25, meeting.

The trail — which currently covers 20 miles through Wolford and Irondale townships along with the city of Trommald — traverses through county- and state-managed forestlands and is open to ATVs, off-highway motorcycles and all nonmotorized recreational uses. Along the route, trail users may visit scenic overlooks of the Mississippi River along with six sites furnished with picnic tables and grills. The southern parking area is located along a mine pit lake, which provides trout fishing opportunities.

Of the 12.5 miles to be added to the system, half will be newly constructed trails, while the other half will use existing undesignated and unmanaged forest trails already open to ATV use. The expansion area covers 1,220 acres of county-managed land and 80 acres of land managed by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, including a 427-foot section and a 53-foot section crossing wetlands. These sections will include elevated boardwalks, which are not considered wetland impacts, per the Wetlands Conservation Act of Minnesota.

A map of an all-terrain vehicle trail
This map shows the existing Miller Black Bear Trail along with the expansions expected to be constructed over the next two years. The red line shows the existing trail. The green line represents existing trails to be newly designated and the purple line shows trails to be constructed. Wetland crossings are marked in blue. Red shaded areas are private property, blue shaded areas are managed by the DNR and unshaded areas are county forestland.

Ryan Simonson, environmental services supervisor, told commissioners an August 2021 public comment period yielded 42 comments, all of which were supportive of the expansion. The Natural Resources Advisory Committee reviewed and recommended approval of the proposal at its Jan. 5 meeting.


Construction of the trails is expected to be completed in two phases over the next two years, with half occurring this year and half occurring next year. Clearing, hardening and reshaping of the existing trails will likely be necessary alongside the trailblazing for new routes.

All of the work will be completed by the Cuyuna Iron Range Riders, which following Tuesday’s approval will seek grant-in-aid funding from the DNR to support the trail expansion along with ongoing maintenance costs associated with the trail system. Grant-in-aid funding is drawn from revenues collected from vehicle registration and trail pass fees plus a percentage of the state non-highway gas tax from each of the motorized groups.

In the proposal, the county noted if the club’s grant-in-aid application isn’t accepted by the state due to a lack of funds, it may move forward with the trail expansion — but only if the club is willing to cover all the expenses of trail construction and maintenance.

Assuming the state provides grant-in-aid funding, the next step is for the club to create a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan and apply for a permit with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. If approved, club representatives and county staff members will complete an on-site meeting before the construction of any new trails.

More county trails

The Miller Black Bear Trail is one of seven multi-use trail systems partly or fully within Crow Wing County. Trails are open for use by off-highway vehicles, hikers, hunters, horseback riders, bikers and more. Others include:

  • Emily to Outing Trail, 21234 Mill Road, Emily. The trail spans 30 miles of a variety of terrain ranging from rocky and hilly to flat and open. It features connections to other recreational trails, including the Moose River Trail and Soo Line North.
  • Fort Ripley Trail, 123 Sebie Trail, Fort Ripley. Covering 14 miles, this trail consists of flat and easy riding with an occasional rolling hill. The trail narrows and winds through oak- and pine-covered hills near Sebie Lake, eventually connecting to the Southern Loop Trail.
  • Pine Center Trail, 24537 County Highway 2, Brainerd. Including rocky terrain with a variety of inclines and declines, the 20-mile trail also includes rolling hills and provides opportunities to spot wildlife. It connects to the Southern Loop Trail.
  • Mississippi River Northwoods Trail, 14676 Highway 210, Brainerd. This 11-mile stretch spans a variety of terrain, including rocky and hilly as well as flat and open. It provides scenic views of the Mississippi River and connects to the Miller Hills Off Highway Motorcycle Trail. On this trail, ATVs are only permitted to travel on signed, designated trails.
  • Southern Loop Trail, 10122 Thiesse Road, Brainerd. The longest trail in the county-sponsored system, it covers 79 miles through scenic farm and country landscapes. The trail connects to the Pine Center and Fort Ripley trails and provides access to the city of Brainerd.
  • Emily Blind Lake Connector, 40278 S. Bay Drive, Emily. This 15.5-mile trail is located in a variety of natural forest and wetland environments and connects to the Emily-Outing Trail and the Blind Lake Trail.

CHELSEY PERKINS, community editor, may be reached at 218-855-5874 or . Follow on Twitter at .

Chelsey Perkins is the community editor of the Brainerd Dispatch. A lakes area native, Perkins joined the Dispatch staff in 2014. She is the Crow Wing County government beat reporter and the producer and primary host of the "Brainerd Dispatch Minute" podcast.
Reach her at or at 218-855-5874 and find @DispatchChelsey on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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