Cuyuna Lakes, Ironton, MN
This is another fine trail, but again, #1 in the state? Actually, given it’s history, Cuyuna Lakes is more than just a trail system, it’s a major accomplishment. To take a strip-mined area and turn it into an outdoor playground is a fantastic thing. So what’s the problem?
Like Rampart Reservoir covered at the beginning of this article, most of it is the artificiality. All those strip mine holes have filled in nicely with water, making these marvelously deep blue… and totally artificial-looking lakes. This is Minnesota, “Land of 10,000 lakes.” There are plenty of far more beautiful lakes at every turn throughout the area.
The other problem is the short duration of the climbs and descents. Yes, this is the Midwest, and I’m not expecting big vertical, but much bigger can be found just up the road in Duluth. Some of the descents at Cuyuna are very amusing… so long as they last, which isn’t long. Just about when I get into the flow, it’s over. I guess the good news is the climb back up also goes quickly, but it ends up making for a rather repetitious experience. If you really want to put in some miles at Cuyuna, you’re going to end up repeating yourself… a lot… even if you continually take different trail segments.