Minnesota, Travel with Kids, USA

Family Guide to Adventuring in Cuyuna Country

Cuyuna Country is a state recreation area in North Central Minnesota located near the towns of Crosby and Ironton. It is also located near the Brainerd Lakes area. What draws people to this area is the unique landscape and the fun recreational activities. The area was abandoned by mining companies more than 30 years ago. Now, this areas of former mining pits and rock deposit stockpiles are beautiful forests, deep crystal clear lakes, and secluded red dirt paths and beaches. Cuyuna Country is a recreational enthusiasts dream. The options are endless here. We are talking scuba diving, fat tire biking, kayaking, hiking, fishing and more. In this blog I will tell you all about my families experiences in Cuyuna Country. We love the area, and I very much believe it to be a perfect place for an active family adventure!

Physical Address:
Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area
307 3rd Street
Ironton, MN 56455

Where to stay:

First off we will go over options for where to stay. There are a lot of cool options in Cuyuna Country. I have experienced a few that I have really enjoyed and I have a lot more places I’d love to check out on my bucket list ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • True North Base Camp

825 1st Street SW, Crosby, MN ย 56441

True North Base Camp is my top recommendation for lodging. They have options for everyone. They offer lakeside cabins, cabin tents, and campsites. They also have an excellent location. The camp is located right on the mountain bike trail system, and a beautiful mine pit lake with a lovely sand beach. While you are at the camp you feel completed seclude from the world, yet you are actually very close to town. It’s great. My family loved our stay here in one of the cabin tents. You can read my whole review by clicking here.

  • Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area

307 3rd Street, Ironton, 56455

Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area is another great option. They have a campground “Portsmouth Campground” and they also have three yurts that can be rented on Yawkey Mine Lake. We have stayed both at the campground and in the yurts and had positive experiences in both places. The campground is not very private. We got very lucky without reservations, and they let us stay in the campground hosts site because the park was full! I would recommend making reservations. ha!ย  The yurts were a really fun for our family. I would love to stay in them again. You can read about our experience staying in the yurts by clicking here.

Our Campsite in the State Recreation Campground

Two places that I have not stayed but would love to try out are Cuyuna Cove and the Crosby Lofts. Both of these places are for those looking for all the modern luxuries. Cuyuna Cove is a new boutique lodging property that has beautiful private cabins. I love their look! It looks like a nice relaxing place to vacation. The Crosby Lofts are historic and beautifully refined. They are located in a great downtown Crosby location and they look really nice & classy.

Food & Drink:

For being small town, Cuyuna Country has got some great options for food and drink. I feel like I have only touched the surface. Anyways, here are the places we have tried and enjoyed so far!

  • Coffee:

Mixed Company A Kava House

128 West Main Street, Crosby, MN 56441

This coffee was the BEST start to the day! All I got was a latte, but it was seriously delicious! We also picked the kids up smoothies and they loved them! This coffee shop is super cute and cozy, and you can feel the community love. In addition to coffee and smoothies they do have baked goods, breakfast and sandwiches. We will definitely be visiting again for some of the food, the reviews I’ve read are all excellent! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Coffee at Camp ๐Ÿ˜‰

Red Raven Bike Cafรฉ

2 3rd Ave SW, Crosby, MN

Red Raven Bike Cafรฉ is another wonderful place to stop for your morning coffee. This store offers a lot more than coffee, so we will also have to visit here again. The food looks super delicious, and they have a great patio area. They also sell and rent bikes, and other apparel and gear. Really a perfect shop for the area!

Red Raven Bike Cafรฉ Exterior


  • Restaurants:

Iron Range Eatery

6 West Main Street, Crosby, MN, 56441

Iron Range Eatery is a must during your stay. SO GOOD! Everyone can find something they like on this menu. They offer pizza, burgers, steak, pasta, salad, and more. Here you will enjoy farm fresh ingredients, and delicious flavors! They have a nice patio and are located right in downtown Crosby. We absolutely loved the pizza we ordered and we cannot wait to visit again so we can try more of their yummy menu items!

The Bridge Tavern

26969 MN-6, Crosby, MN 56441

At the Bridge Tavern you will find all your typical bar food. We very much enjoyed our meals and the service was great. What drew us to this restaurant was the super large patio. It was the perfect place to relax after a long day riding and swimming! ๐Ÿ˜‰

In addition to these restaurants I’d also love to try Lonesome Pine in Deerwood and Happy Otter Woodfired Pizza in Riverton.

  • Ice Cream:

Victual & Rave Creamworks

124 W Main St, Crosby, MN 56441

Victual is an amazing shop that houses Rave Creamworks. Here you can find small-batch, artisan-made ice cream. They actually make it onsite, and you can tell! Its super delicious and they have some really interesting flavors to try! My daughter was obsessed with the Luna Blue, which was a fruity bowl of yum! I loved their variation of my usual mint chip. =) In addition to mouthwatering ice cream, in this shop you can find so much more. They sell some really great Minnesota apparel and souvenirs as well as so many yummy, fancy treats.ย  Expect artisan cheeses, delectable crackers, delicious charcuterie, unique salsas, small batch chocolate, local maple syrup, honey and more. You can also purchase cute home dรฉcor, gorgeous glassware, and fancy drink supplies. In the back of the store you can purchase small-batch, artisan-made, wine and distilled spirits. When we visited I was hoping to have a glass of wine while my kids enjoyed their ice cream, this you cannot do. You can only buy the alcohol to go. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Store entrance

Patio seating ๐Ÿ˜‰

Mixed Company A Kava House

128 West Main Street, Crosby, MN 56441

We did not try their ice cream but we LOVED their coffee! They offer your basic scoops of ice cream as well as iced coffees and smoothies.

Dairy Queen

714 Oak St, Crosby, MN 56441

Don’t worry, of course there is a Dairy Queen! ๐Ÿ˜‰


  • Brewery:

Cuyuna Brewing Company

1 E Main St, Crosby, MN 56441

We unfortunately have not checked out this brewery yet, so I can’t recommend anything is particular. Next time we visit this will be high on our list ๐Ÿ˜‰

Where to play:

One of my favorite things about Cuyuna Country is the parks. They have some really special parks! The three parks I’ll go over are all very different from each other, and they each have something great to offer.

  • ย Crosby Memorial Park

2 2nd St SW, Crosby, MN 56441

Crosby Memorial Park is an awesome park. It is located on the shores of Serpent Lake. We come here for the amazing playground but in addition to that they do offer a lot more. There is a campground right near the playground that offers both RV and tent sites. There is also a public beach, areas to grill, and a skate park. Back to the playground though, because its the best part. This park is mostly wooden and painted super cute. The art work throughout the park is really fun. I also love that at this park they have monkey bars and rings at a shorter height than you usually find. Very friendly to every age group. They also have a whole large section for the younger kids. It’s definitely one of my top three Minnesota parks. Make sure to get your picture with the Lake Serpent while you are here!

Crosby Memorial Park

Tot Section ๐Ÿ˜‰

Such a fun park full of cool art!

Don’t forget to get your picture with the lake serpent ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Grandpas Park

Viola Ave in Ironton, MN 56455

Grandpas Parkย  is a very nice and quieter park. Usually when we visit this park we are the only people here. There is a lot of areas for the kids to play and explore in this park. It’s also great because it is completely fenced in. My kids (4 & 6) LOVE this park. Personally, I always want to go to Crosby City Park but for some reason they just love Grandpa Park! Its almost always the one they choose! They also have areas to grill in this park and there are basketball courts across the street; “Grandmas Courts” ๐Ÿ˜‰

Grandpa’s Park

Main section

Another view ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Deerwood Park & Splash Pad

23726, Serpent Rd E,ย Deerwood, MN 56444

Deerwood is a very short drive from Crosby or Ironton. Here you will find your nearest splash pad option. This is a new park and splash pad and its really nice. It is almost entirely fence in and has a large shaded area with picnic tables to get out of the sun. The splash pad is small compared to what you might find in bigger cities but it is perfect for here! We have always had a good time here and while there is usually a number of other families it has never seemed overly packed. The park is a lot of fun as well, lots of fun and unique pieces of equipment to play on.

Active Family Activities:

The reason people come to Cuyuna Country is for the activities! Today I’ll go over my families four favorite activities, but the fun doesn’t stop there. You could also look into scuba diving or snorkeling the crystal clear water in the summer, and cross country skiing or fat tire biking the trails in the winter. There is definitely plenty to try!

  • Paddling:

Kayaking, Canoeing, SUP; its all fabulous in Cuyuna Country. The lakes are crystal clear and beautiful to explore by water. It’s also nice because even on windy days you can find calm lakes to paddle, as many of the mine pit lakes are set down and out of the wind. Check out Cycle Path & Paddle if you are interested in rentals.

  • Fishing:

The fishing is great in Cuyuna Country. One big draw to the area is the mine pit trout fishing, but the fishing is excellent for many species. If trout fishing isn’t your thing, try fishing for northern pike, small and large mouth bass, or pan fish on these beautiful lakes. Some of the lakes are stocked, so research the particular lakes you are interested in before going. If you are fishing for trout be sure you have your trout stamp.

  • Biking:

This place is a biker paradise! They really have something to offer for every level of biker. There are over 30 miles of paved and single-track trails spread over 800 acres of gorgeous wilderness. With over 30 purpose-built routes to choose from, everyone from beginner to advanced can enjoy the trails and overlooks. The trails are really beautiful as well, the red dirt is really unique and fun! In addition to mountain bike trails, there are also all-surface paved, and gravel road cycling adventures to enjoy. For more information on trails and bike rental check out any of the area bike shops. We had a great experience renting from Cykel in Ironton, they were very nice and super helpful to us. Red Raven and Cycle Path and Paddle in Crosby also offer rentals.

Great rental experience!

  • Swimming:

Swimming can be done basically anywhere you want in Cuyuna Country. The mine pit lakes drop off very fast though so always be very careful with young children. I recommend always having your children in a life jacket if you are swimming or playing on shore. My favorite swimming experience so far was on the private beach at True North Base Camp, but there are tons of fun options. We have done a lot of wadding into the water and swimming when shore fishing at various public accesses. There is also a rocky beach that can be quite fun on Huntington Mine Lake. From here its also fun watching the mountain bikers in the skills courses near the parking lots! I also recommend a drive up Miners Mountain for amazing panoramic views of the area! You can access the road up at the back of the parking area by the novice skills course. They have nice picnic benches and grills throughout this area. There is also a public beach at Crosby Memorial Park on Serpent Lake.

Swimming at True North Base Camp

View from Miners Mountain

I hope that all this information helps you when you go to plan a family adventure in Cuyuna Country. With so many unique opportunities for fun it will be a vacation your family will always remember. Please as always feel free to ask any questions through message or comment.


Much Love & Happy Travels,



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