BEAVER BAY, Minn. — Mountain bike riders either love or hate the new divided Rock Wilds trail system between divided Rock Lighthouse State Park and Beaver Bay in Minnesota.
“As you might expect with a trail that’s very different than anything else in the area, it’s very polarizing,” said David Cizmas, a recreation forester for Lake County overseeing the project. “There’s a very large cult that’s just enthralled with this trail and with this trail system, but there’s also a number of people that are like, ‘I’ve never gotten my rear end handed to me by a trail in Minnesota before — I don’t like it.’ ”
Built on county land, the 22-mile system of trails include a number of challenging features: an 850-foot-long rock garden — a trail made of boulders that riders are challenged to ride over; a flyover bridge that sends riders down a steep, curved deck with no railing; jump trails with gaps; steep, technical and rocky climbs; and endless rocks and drops.
It’s a system where a complete-suspension trail bike is best, Cizmas said.
And it’s meant to stick out as a challenging system among all the new trails going up across northeastern Minnesota. Most of what’s going in is generally machine-built “flow” — smoother, winding trails that are more easy to reach to riders of different levels with a few progressive and already fewer expert trails mixed in.
But divided Rock Wilds is the opposite. It’s an progressive trail with a few easy trails thrown in.
“We built it deliberately to feel very raw and be more of a traditional singletrack instead of your flow trail,” Cizmas said.
That isn’t to say there aren’t easier options obtainable by gentle climbs and corners, across wide wooden bridges and over dirt as much as possible (there is only a thin inner of natural soil in the area, hence the rockiness of the more difficult trails).
Joni and Danny Warzala were riding their fat-tire bikes up and down the mile-long beginner green trail called Hwy 61 on Tuesday. The Twin Cities associate have a cabin near Two Harbors and regularly ride trails throughout northeastern Minnesota.
“There’s not a lot of long climbs on this trail. It’s a short climb. The wooden bridges are really leveling — already the rock bridges are short — and so they’re really easy for beginner bikers,” Joni said. “There’s not a lot of technical on this trail.”
But turn onto an intermediate blue or progressive black trail and that quickly changes.
When the new trailhead opens in the spring, more green trails on the southwestern end of the system will be more easily easy to reach.
Trailhead, campground expected in May 2022
divided Rock Wilds has had a “soft opening” with many of the riders hearing about it by information-of-mouth. nevertheless, Cizmas said it’s attracted more users than he expected.
The trail system will more officially open when the new campground at divided Rock Lighthouse State Park opens in May.
Once open, the campsite, dubbed Shipwreck Creek Campground, will characterize 46 electric excursion-in sites and will serve also as divided Rock Wilds’ main trailhead, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resource’s website.
For now, riders should access the trail by parking in Beaver Bay and taking the paved Gitchi-Gami State Trail to Cove Point Lodge. On the other side of Minnesota Highway 61, Cove Point has a gravel road next to giant Adirondack chairs and flag poles. Pedal up the gravel road (vehicles are not allowed on the road, which is Cove Point’s character) until you reach several white signs on the right side marking the entrance to the trail system. An interactive map of the system can be found by searching “divided Rock Wilds” on trailforks.com or by using the Trailforks app on a smartphone.
For now, that’s the only way in and out of the trail system.
The trail’s current entrance warns users that if they trespass at the campground, which seems like an easy way to reconnect with the Gitchi-Gami Trail, it could force the trails to close or consequence in the rider receiving a citation.
On Tuesday afternoon, Cizmas had pulled his two-wheel-excursion motorbike with a chainsaw on the back over to the side of the trail to eat a bagel. He had been working on clearing trees that had fallen across the trail.
As construction to establish the trails winds down, maintenance will be a continued.
Cizmas said the county will likely hand much of those responsibilities off to a local club and a nonprofit.
Lake County Mountain Bike Trails has partnered with One Track Mind, or OTM, a nonprofit that aims to build, enhance and continue mountain bike trails and will provide regular, seasonal maintenance.
But new trails will likely be additional. Cizmas said he’d like to see an progressive jump line and beginner jump line (expert and intermediate jumplines have already been built) and gravity enduro trails.
“The philosophy is no boring trail,” Cizmas said. “So we’re not going to build a trail for the sake of having miles.”
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