What it's Like to Ride the Trails at Detroit Mountain

I had never tried mountain biking before I visited Detroit Mountain. I was living in Fargo, N.D., at the time and made the hour-long trek to Detroit Lakes to spend an afternoon riding the trails.

The difference in the view from my car window changed drastically when I arrived at Detroit Mountain (remember, I was coming from Fargo). There I was, sitting in my vanilla PT Cruiser, staring at a mountain. A mountain in Minnesota. Maybe I exaggerate, but it was the biggest hill I’d ever seen in this state.

Life on the man-made recreation mountain marks the renewal of Detroit Mountain, which closed its doors in 2004. It took a community effort to bring the resort back from its 10-year slumber and breathe new life into its landscape. And this time around, they were sure to include year-round activities. In the winter, you have skiing; in the spring, summer, and fall—mountain biking for everyone from the novice biker to the expert.

Tony Schmitz, aka “trails boss,” manages the rental shop at the resort and was my guide as we took on several cross-country singletrack trails. Shakedown Street with its downhill ebbs and flows, Chainlink, a giant switchback, and Schezwan, which nearly threw me from my handlebars.

Every time I began picking up speed on an incline, I heard Tony’s voice in my head: “Don’t brake too hard. You’ll flip right over.” I heeded Tony’s advice and eased into the brake ever so slightly, and even with a little squeeze I could feel the tires halting. (And I’m happy to say I successfully avoided flipping right over.)

Our ride ended with a drudging climb up the main hill to look out over the heavily wooded acreage surrounding Detroit Mountain. The view didn’t disappoint, and neither did the ride back down.

This past summer, Progressive Trail Design out of Arkansas installed several wooden catwalks and wall rides for more daring mountain bikers. The massive obstacles sometimes reach up to 20 feet, huge boards of rough-sawn wood sticking out among the trees like fingers.

schmitz leads the way down big bertha, one of detroit mountain’s new obstacles

Detroit Mountain’s recent revival brought back an adventurous staple of Detroit Lakes and the surrounding north woods area and (speaking with a hint of bias) it’s even better than before.

Fall hours of operation are Saturdays and Sundays, September 12-October 4 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (lodge, rental shop, and chairlift) and noon to 7 p.m. at the Horses Neck Saloon.You can rent adult bikes for anywhere from $35-45 per day, and children’s bikes for $15-25 per day (there are even “adventure zones” for toddlers). If you bring your own bike, it’s $5 per day per biker, or $5 per car for hikers. For more information, visit detroitmountain.com, email info@detroitmountain.com, or call 218-844-7669.