Beaver Bay, Minn. – Mountain bike riders either love or hate the new Split Rock Wild trail system between Split Rock Lighthouse State Park and Beaver Bay in Minnesota.
“As you might expect from a trail that’s very different from anything else in the area, it’s very polarizing,” said David Sizmas, a Lake County recreation forester who oversaw the project. “There’s a huge cult out there that’s just fascinated with this trail and this trail system, but there are also a lot of people who are like, ‘I’ve never had my back end by a trail in Minnesota before – I don’t. do not like this. “
Built on county land, the 22-mile system of trails includes a number of challenging features: an 850-foot-long rock garden—a trail made of boulders that riders are challenged to ride; a flyover bridge that sends riders across a steep, curved deck without railings; jump trails with gaps; steep, technical and rocky climbing; And endless rocks and drops.
It’s a system where a full suspension trail bike is best, Sizmas said.
And that’s meant to live up to a challenging system amidst all-new routes leading into northeastern Minnesota. What’s going on is typically machine-made “flows”—smooth, winding trails that are more accessible to riders of different levels, with some advanced and even less expert trails.
But Split Rock Wild is the opposite. This is an advanced trail with some easy trails.
“We intentionally made it feel very raw and in your flow path, rather than as a traditional singletrack,” Cizmas said.
This does not mean that there are no easy options available through gentle climbs and corners, wide wooden bridges and as much dirt as possible (there is only a thin layer of natural soil in the area, so rockiness makes paths more difficult). .
Joni and Danny Warzala were riding their fat-tire bikes up and down a mile-long introductory green trail called Hwy 61 on Tuesday. The Twin Cities couple own a cabin near Two Harbors and regularly ride trails throughout northeastern Minnesota.
“There is not a very long climb on this trail. It is a short climb. The wooden bridges are really flat – even the rock bridges are short – and so they are really easy for beginner bikers,” Joni said. “Not too technical on this mark.”
But turn on an intermediate blue or advanced black mark and that quickly changes.
When the new trailhead opens in the spring, more green trails will be more easily accessible at the southwest end of the system.
Trailhead, Campground Expected in May 2022
Split Rock Wilds has a “soft opening” that many riders hear about with word-of-mouth. Still, Cizmas said it has attracted more users than expected.
The trail system will open more officially in May when the new campground opens at Split Rock Lighthouse State Park.
Once opened, the campsite, called Shipwreck Creek Campground, will have 46 electric drive-in sites and will also serve as the main trailhead for Split Rock Wilds, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources website.
For now, riders should access the trail by parking at Beaver Bay and taking the paved Gichi-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 on the gravel road (vehicles are not allowed on the road, which is the property of Cove Point) until you reach the many white signs on the right that mark the entrance to the trail system. An interactive map of the system can be found by searching for “split rock wilds” at Trailforks.com or using the Trailforks app on a smartphone.
For now, this is the only way in and out of the trail system.
The trail’s current entrance warns users that if they trespass into the campground, which seems like an easy way to reconnect with the Gichi-gami Trail, it could force the trails to be closed. or the rider may receive a citation as a result.
On Tuesday afternoon, Sizmas had pulled his two-wheel-drive motorbike to the side of the trail with a chainsaw on the back to eat a bagel. He was working to remove fallen trees on the way.
As construction for installing trails winds up, maintenance will remain a constant.
Cizmas said the county would delegate those responsibilities to a local club and a nonprofit.
Lake County Mountain Bike Trails has partnered with One Track Mind, or OTM, a non-profit organization that aims to build, improve and maintain mountain bike trails and will provide regular, seasonal maintenance.
But new trails will likely be added. Cizmas said he would like to see an advanced jump line and beginner jump lines (specialist and intermediate jumplines have already been built) and gravity enduro trails.
“Philosophy is not a boring mark,” said Cizmas. “So we’re not going to build a trail for the sake of miles.”