Cuyuna Lakes, Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area, Minnesota, USA

Also known as:  Blackhoof Lake, Mahnomen Lake, Little Mahnomen Lake, Pascoe Lake, June Lake, Portage Lake, Serpent Lake, Sagamore Mine Lake, Huntington Mine Lake, Pennington Mine Lake, Portsmouth Mine Lake, Mahnomen Mine Lakes #1 and #2 and other small lakes

Welcome to the ultimate guide to Cuyuna Lakes, Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area — things to do, where to stay, fun facts, history, stats and more. Let’s dive in!

Topics we cover in this article:

Looking for Cuyuna Lakes, Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area cabins or other accommodations? Save time and use this interactive map to find, compare and book at the best rates. Or explore our comprehensive list of favorite travel partners.

All About Cuyuna Lakes, Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area

Little known but extra special are the many lakes within the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area in central Minnesota. Nature lovers and recreational activity fans, particularly those who enjoy mountain biking, are hearing more and more about this group of lakes and their beautiful scenic setting. One of the 5000-acre Recreation Area’s major features is the 25 miles of world-class, IMBA certified mountain bike trails. Located 15 miles northeast of Brainerd, the mountain bike trails weave in among the over 20 Cuyuna Lakes, the ridges of the Cuyuna Iron Range, and past several scenic overlooks in a wilderness setting. Unless visitors check the history of the lakes and the area, they would not be aware that most of these lakes are abandoned iron mines filled with crystal-clear water.

Natural lakes are prevalent in this area of glacial pothole lakes near the Upper Mississippi River. Blackhoof Lake, Mahnomen Lake, Little Mahnomen Lake, Pascoe Lake, June Lake, Portage Lake and nearby Serpent Lake are all natural lakes, some of considerable size. Sagamore Mine Lake, Huntington Mine Lake, Pennington Mine Lake, Portsmouth Mine Lake, Armour #2 Mine Lake, Yawkey Mine Lake, Manuel Mine Lake, Mahnomen Mine Lakes #1 and #2, Hopkins Mine Lake, Louise Mine Lake, Arco Mine Lake, Mangan Mine Lake, Joan Mine Lake, Moroco Mine Lake, Virginia Mine Lake and Alstead Mine Lake are all relatively new additions to the landscape, created when the local iron mining industry collapsed around 1960. Together, they have produced over 25 miles of scenic shoreline supplied by many trails. Officially, there are six natural lakes and 16 mine lakes, but several other lakes are partially within the recreation area’s borders, bringing the total to more than 22 lakes.

After mining ended, the Cuyuna Lakes area was allowed to produce natural regrowth forests, and the remaining mine pits soon filled with water up to 525 feet deep. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources designated several of them trout lakes and stocked them with rainbow trout and brook trout. Wildlife, including nesting bald eagles, white-tailed deer, cottontail rabbit, snowshoe hare, raccoon, red fox, coyote, mink, muskrat and beaver all inhabit the recreation area. Great blue heron, kingfishers, loons, turkey vultures, ruffed grouse, and red-tailed hawks live here. The waters are a refuge for many waterfowl species including redhead ducks, northern shoveler ducks, mallard ducks, ring-necked ducks, blue and green-winged teal, wood duck, several types of mergansers, snow geese, Canada geese and white-fronted geese. It is truly a natural paradise, much of which is the result of human utilization of natural resources coupled with the recovery processes evoked by nature.

Fishermen can enjoy angling for bass, crappie or sunfish. Some lakes hold walleye and northern pike. Those who enjoy fly fishing will find the rainbow and brook trout eager and plentiful. A trout stamp is required, along with the usual Minnesota fishing license. Several of the lakes have shoreline fishing spots, and the larger lakes have concrete boat ramps. Other areas are suitable for carried boats only. Boaters are limited to a 10 mile-per-hour speed limit, keeping the lakes placid enough to be enjoyed by those with canoes and kayaks. A channel between Mahnomen Mine Lake #1 and Pennington Mine Lake opens up 267 acres of continuous water surface, including six mine lakes for pleasurable paddling and fishing. Bird watching by canoe is a favorite pastime during the summer months, with a short hike from the lakeshore to one of several look-out points a special treat.

One small campground is located on Portsmouth Mine Lake with limited amenities; 18 campsites have electricity while another seven do not. Reservations are accepted only for group camping. Minnesota State Park passes are required within the recreation area, and camping fees are reasonable. There is no designated swimming area; mine pit lakes are usually considered too dangerous for swimming, as the walls of the former pits are often nearly vertical with little or no shallow water. Other campgrounds can be found on nearby natural lakes outside of the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area which offer safe swimming beaches. The recreation area abuts sections of the Crow Wing State Forest on the north, opening up even more area for recreation. The mine pit lakes are favorites among scuba divers; historic remnants of the mining industry remain beneath hundreds of feet of clear water and include railroads, mining machinery and building foundations.

The mountain bike trails are among a number of trail systems developed within the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area. A paved, nearly seven-mile trail winds along the shore of several lakes and is suitable for walking or beginner cycling. In winter, some of these are groomed for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, while a main snowmobile trail crosses the area to connect with other central Minnesota trails. The BMX-certified trails are divided into easy, intermediate and difficult trails, some of which are considered extremely difficult for experienced riders only. The trails have marked GPS locations and access for emergency vehicles in case of accident. Over 30 geocache locations are found within the recreation area.

The growing popularity of the mountain bike trails has generated a Mountain Bike Festival in June at nearby Crosby Memorial Park on the shore of Serpent Lake. The full weekend festival features the Trailblazer Bike’s Cross Country Mountain Bike Race with beginner, sport and advanced divisions, an Easy Rider Bike’s $250 Poker Ride, children’s bike races, live music, spaghetti dinner, Fantasy Factory BMX Show, rock climbing wall and a variety of entertaining activities focusing on mountain biking. Proceeds go to groups involved in developing the sport of mountain biking in the area and maintenance of the trails.

Cuyuna Lakes gain their title from the Cuyuna Iron Range, in turn named for the man who first discovered iron ore here. The name is a contraction of Cuyker Adams and his St. Bernard dog, Una. Several small cities and towns in the area share their pride in the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area. Crosby, Ironton and Deerwood all hug the shoreline of Serpent Lake, and all work hard to make visitors’ stay here enjoyable. A Tourist Information Center at Deerwood is open May to September. Numerous campgrounds, bed-and-breakfasts, motels, hotels, resorts and guest cottages offer a variety of lodgings to vacationers. Restaurants, artists’ shops and eclectic shopping join several annual festivals, historical points of interest and beautiful scenery to make any visit complete.

One not-to-be-missed attraction is the Croft Mine Historical Park just outside Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area. This historic mine closed in 1936 and is now offering guided simulated underground mining tours. The on-site museum has mining artifacts of interest to history buffs. The nearby upper reaches of the Mississippi River are good for canoeing. A number of entertainment venues, including a nearby casino, golf course and local sports teams mean there is always something for every family member to do. Real estate can even be found for sale locally, sometimes with lake frontage on nearby lakes. Only two hours from the Twin Cities area, Cuyuna Lakes area is the ideal spot for the annual vacation, a winter ski-cation, or even a year-round home.

* Few statistics are available for most of the lakes. Those listed are Mahnomen Lake, one of the natural lakes.

Things to Do at Cuyuna Lakes, Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Scuba Diving
  • Golf
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Hiking
  • Rock Climbing
  • Biking
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Snowmobiling
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • State Park
  • State Forest
  • Museum
  • Shopping
  • Casino Gambling

Fish Species Found at Cuyuna Lakes, Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area

  • Bass
  • Brook Trout
  • Crappie
  • Northern Pike
  • Perch
  • Pike
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Sunfish
  • Trout
  • Walleye

Find Places to Stay at Cuyuna Lakes, Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area

If you’re considering a Cuyuna Lakes, Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area lake house rental or hotel, we’ve made it super easy to find the best rates and compare vacation accommodations at a glance. Save time using this interactive map below.

Recommended Sites to Book a Cuyuna Lakes, Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area Vacation

If you want to take a deeper dive to find waterfront lake cabins, cottages, condos, hotels or resorts, check out our favorite Cuyuna Lakes, Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area lodging partners.

  • VRBO – Use VRBO to find the perfect lake rental home, condo, cabin, cottage or other vacation property.
  • – One of the world’s leading digital travel companies, connects travelers to everything from cozy B&Bs to luxury resorts.
  • Expedia – Expedia is a popular online travel agency with more than 140,000 lodging properties worldwide.
  • – With more than 325,000 hotels in 19,000-plus locations, is an industry leader in online accommodations.
  • TripAdvisor – Read traveler reviews and compare prices on hotels, vacation rentals and more at TripAdvisor.
  • Trivago – Trivago helps travelers compare deals for hotels and other accommodations from a variety of booking sites.
  • KAYAK – KAYAK scours hundreds of other travel websites at once to find the best deals on hotels and other travel-related services.
  • RVshare –RVshare connects travelers interested in renting a motorhome with owners who have RVs to rent.
  • CampSpot – Campspot offers premier RV resorts, family campgrounds, cabins and glamping options across North America.

Note: These are affiliate links so we may earn a small commission if you book through them. While there is no extra cost to you, it helps provide resources to keep our site running (thank you)! You can read our full disclosure policy here.

Cuyuna Lakes, Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area Statistics & Helpful Links


We strive to keep the information on LakeLubbers as accurate as possible. However, if you’ve found something in this article that needs updating, we’d certainly love to hear from you! Please fill out our Content Correction form.

Shop Cuyuna Lakes, Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area Gifts

Custom Lake Tumblers

Captain / First Mate Custom 20 oz Tumbler

Custom Lake T Shirt

Personalized My Boat My Rules Unisex T-Shirt

Custom Lake Coffee Mug - On Lake Time

On Lake Time Custom Coffee Mug – 11oz or 15oz


Advertise Your Cuyuna Lakes, Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area Business or Vacation Rental

LakeLubbers will soon offer businesses the opportunity to advertise and homeowners and property managers the ability to showcase their vacation rentals to the thousands of lake lovers searching our site daily. If you would like additional details, please contact our advertising team.


Looking for the Cuyuna Lakes, Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area Forum?

LakeLubbers previously offered visitors the ability to create accounts and participate in lake forums. When we overhauled the site’s content management system in 2021 we had to disable those features. We’re evaluating options and welcome your comments and feedback here. We also encourage you to join our lake-lovin’ community on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest!

Cuyuna Lakes, Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area Photo Gallery

New photos coming soon!

Spread the word! Share our Cuyuna Lakes, Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area article with your fellow Lake Lubbers!