11 Dog-friendly Things to Do in Crosby MN

Summer adventures are best shared with our fur babies and in the Land of 10,000 Lakes there are seemingly endless places to explore together. Nestled in central Minnesota, Crosby Minnesota is home to world class mountain biking trails in what is called Cuyuna Country. It might surprise you to hear it’s also a place to go scuba diving, paddleboarding and kayaking in crystal clear water. Yes, Minnesota never ceases to amaze.

While you might not be ready to have your furry friend as a ridealong on the mountain biking trails, there are tons of fun dog-friendly things to do in Crosby Minnesota this summer! 

Dog riding in a kayak on a lake, holding up a drink cup at a campsite and an overlook of a lake and forest.

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Where is Crosby Minnesota?

Crosby is located about 2 hours north of the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St Paul. This area is part of Minnesota’s Iron Range which is made up of three distinct iron mines: Cuyuna, Vermilion and Mesabi. They stretch from Crosby (Cuyuna) in the west to the Ely area (Mesabi) in the east.

Map showing Crosby in central Minnesota, west of Duluth and north of the Twin Cities.
Crosby is located just east of Brainerd in central Minnesota.

The Cuyuna area has many naturally occurring lakes but a number of mine pits that are now filled with water. So, some of the bodies of water are actually on top of what once was a functioning mine pit. The mountain biking trails that draw so many visitors to the area were made possible by the soil displaced years ago as part of the mining operations.

Crosby is one of several towns that make up Cuyuna Country. Other nearby towns include Ironton, Riverton and Deerwood. The popular lake resort destination, Brainerd is also just 15 miles away. 

Best Dog-Friendly Places to Stay in Crosby Minnesota

The town of Crosby has an adorable Main Street with several restaurants, shops and outfitters. In addition, it offers direct access to paved, gravel and mountain biking trails in the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area. 

Cuyuna Cove

Just a few blocks from Main Street in Crosby, Cuyuna Cove strikes the perfect balance between easy access to things to do and a relaxing cabin in the woods. Each cabin includes a private bathroom and shower, secluded patio with a grill, and even dedicated locked outdoor storage for bikes, skis and other gear.

There are two cabins designated as pet-friendly for dogs up to 50lbs for a small fee of $45/night. Read more about their pet policy in their FAQ.

Pro Tip: Take advantage of Cuyuna Cove’s sauna and fire pits available to all guests!

Portsmouth campground

Relaxing at Portsmouth Campground, one of the best dog-friendly things to do in Crosby MN.
The campsites at Portsmouth Campground are dog-friendly but have limited privacy.

Located along the shore of the Portsmouth Mine Lake with direct access to the mountain biking trails, Portsmouth Campground is part of the Minnesota State Parks system. This dog-friendly campground has electric and tent camping sites, some of which have shade and others that are more exposed to the sun. 

While this campground is part of the state parks system, it is technically a recreation area which comes with more basic amenities. The campground has flushing toilets and running water but no showers. 

Portsmouth Campground is not for everyone, but if you want a convenient location close to town and with direct access to the biking trails for a budget price it’s a great option.

Other dog-friendly options

While I haven’t stayed at these two properties, they are dog-friendly and have great reviews. Both are ideal for outdoor lovers!

True North Base Camp has cabins, cabin tents and campsites that are lakefront and connected to the biking trails. Read about their pet policy in their FAQ.

Cuyuna Matata is a modern Scandinavian cabin located just 10 minutes from the biking trails. Enjoy the wood fired sauna after a day of adventure! Check out the listing on Airbnb.

Best Dog-Friendly Things to Do in Crosby MN

1 | Kayak or paddleboard to a private beach.

My dog, Hank, sitting between my legs in a kayak in Crosby MN.
Hank enjoyed riding along as I kayaked Pennington Mine in Crosby Minnesota.

By the nature of how they were created, the more than 10 mine pit lakes in the Cuyuna area have crystal clear water and can be as deep as 450 feet! This makes for awesome kayaking and paddleboarding in the warmer months.

There are several outfitters nearby that offer gear rental and some that even deliver them to you! Cuyuna Outfitters is a great option. 

If it’s your first time paddling the mine pits, I recommend putting in at the launch spot on Pennington Mine (a small parking lot to the right just before the larger parking lot at Miner’s Mountain). From here, paddle the length of Pennington Mine and cut over to the Mahnomen, Alstead and Arco Mine Lake chain. Here you’ll find private beaches and even small islands that are perfect for a picnic and swimming.

Pro Tip: Be sure to bring a life jacket for your dog. Here’s the one that Hank wears!

2 | Get a look at Cuyuna Country from above at Lookout Mountain.

Lookout Mountain offers a great view of the mine pit lakes and forest surrounding Crosby MN.
Sunset view from Lookout Mountain, also called Cuyuna Overlook, near Crosby Minnesota.

For one of the best views of Crosby and the Cuyuna area, head to Lookout Mountain. This is the tallest point in the area and was created by the earth that was displaced by the mining operations that once took place here. There is a paved road that goes up to the top, though the road is sometimes closed to vehicles in which case you can walk up the road from the lower parking lot. Look for signs that say “Cuyuna Overlook” or “Lookout Mountain.”

Pro Tip: In Google Maps, navigate to the Miner’s Mountain Rally Center.

The entire mountain is covered in zigzagging mountain biking trails for all skill levels. At the top, though, is a beautiful overlook with benches, picnic tables and even a pit toilet. It’s a great place for a picnic at sunset or any time of day.

Pro Tip: Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area is part of the Minnesota state parks system. Purchase a day pass or annual pass online or at the kiosks near the entrance. For the state park passport club, the stamp is outside the park office in downtown Ironton nearby.

3 | Grab a delicious bite to eat at one of Crosby’s restaurants!

Rafferty's pizza is one of the best restaurants in Crosby MN
Rafferty’s pizza is a great place to eat in Crosby MN. This is their veggie pizza with sausage added.

There are several great Crosby MN restaurants to enjoy during your stay. For breakfast or lunch, try Red Raven. This bike shop has a cafe with breakfast sandwiches, pastries and more. There is indoor and outdoor seating. It’s a great option if you are also renting a bike!

Another favorite restaurant in Crosby is Rafferty’s Pizza. This is my go-to for sunset picnics at Lookout Mountain. There are a number of specialty pizzas, create your own pizza, sandwiches, salads and more. The restaurant is not dog-friendly but you can get your meal to go or eat at the tables along the sidewalk in front.

Pro Tip: If you like veggies but aren’t vegetarian, get the veggie pizza and add sausage. It’s so good!

4 | Enjoy a gorgeous sunset view at Paradise Point.

Looking for another beautiful sunset view or more private swimming hole? Head to Paradise Point! From the parking lot at the base of Lookout Mountain (also called Miner’s Mountain) instead of following the paved path that goes to the left and up the hill, take the path that is straight to the parking lot. Once on the path, as it splits, keep staying to the left all the way to the end. Here you’ll find a small peninsula. 

Enjoy the sunset or take a dip, just be careful the water is very deep with a sharp dropoff from the shoreline. 

Pro Tip: An accessible alternative sunset view in Crosby MN is from the beach at the Miner’s Mountain Rally Center parking lot. There is a paved ramp from the parking lot.

5 | Indulge yourself with an ice cream cone from Victual.

Victual is way more than a regular old ice cream shop! Not only do they offer unique and delicious flavors, their ice cream is made onsite and it just so happens to be lactose free (though you’d never know it based on the taste). 

While you’re at Victual, browse the impressive selection of cheese, charcuterie, gifts and unique spirits, liqueurs and wines. This shop is such a gem and a must when visiting Crosby!

6 | Grab a beer at Cuyuna Brewing Company.

Cuyuna Brewing Company is super dog-friendly, allowing well-behaved and leashed dogs in both the tap room and on the patio. On tap you’ll find a selection of staples as well as unique brews like the hazy hopricot IPA. The menu includes seltzer, hard root beer and several non-alcoholic options.

While you’re there, grab some tacos or a burrito from their partners at Burritos California.

7 | Relax at your cabin or campsite.

Sipping coffee on spring day in a cabin at Cuyuna Cove in Crosby MN.
Relaxing with a cup of coffee on a spring day in my cabin at Cuyuna Cove.

The Cuyuna lakes area is full of adventure but it’s also a place to rest and relax. Make the most of wherever you stay with time around a campfire, grilling up a meal, reading a book or even using the sauna which is becoming a popular amenity at many of the properties.

Be sure to bring creature comforts, like this collapsible cooling dog bed, for your dog so they can enjoy it too!

8 | Learn about the area’s mining history at Milford Mine Memorial Park.

The Milford Mine Memorial Park is just a ten minute drive from Crosby. It is the site of the biggest mining disaster in Minnesota history. 

What looks like a lake today was once a mining pit. In 1924, 48 miners were working in the mine when it suddenly flooded. Within 15 minutes the mine was full of water and sediment. Only 7 miners made it out alive, meaning 41 people lost their lives in that mine pit.

Today, there is a short trail and boardwalk with a view of the mine pit/ lake. There are benches and picnic tables as well. It’s a peaceful place to sit and relax while also learning about an important part of the Cuyuna area’s mining history.

9 | Hike along the Cuyuna Lakes State Trail.

This is one of the few trails in the Cuyuna area that is open for hiking. The Cuyuna Lakes State Trail is an 8-mile paved multiuse trail that extends from Crosby to Riverton through the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area. 

There are several places to park along the trail. Find more info on parking on this website. Keep in mind if you park in a lot maintained by the state parks, a day or annual pass is required. 

Pro Tip: If you are willing to drive to nearby Brainerd, considering hopping onto a section of the Paul Bunyan State Trail. This 115-mile long paved mixed use trail stretches from Crow Wing State Park to Lake Bemidji State Park. It’s the longest state trail in Minnesota.

10 | Spend the nighttime stargazing in Crosby Minnesota.

Crosby and Cuyuna Country may not be designated as dark sky parks but with a relatively low level of light pollution in much of the area, it’s still an excellent place for stargazing. In fact, the Northern Lights can be seen there if the conditions are right.

Pro Tip: Wondering how to capture the night sky and the Northern Lights? Here are my beginner tips for night photography.

11 | Explore the other state parks near Crosby.

Whether you are collecting stamps in your Minnesota State Park passport or are just looking for more places to go hiking, be sure to visit one or all of the state parks near Crosby. All Minnesota State Parks are dog-friendly and require dogs to be leashed at all times.

Crow Wing State Park is just southeast of Crosby and, in addition to hiking trails along a stretch of the Mississippi River, an opportunity to learn about the history of the Ojibwe and Dakota tribes. There’s even remains of a frontier town from the mid-1800’s which is on the National Register of Historic Places. 

Mille Lacs-Kathio State Park is an expansive park just southwest of Crosby. The road into the park follows a section of the shoreline of Lake Mille Lacs. Inside the park there are numerous options for hiking including a boardwalk through a bog, ancient American Indian villages, forest and more.

Father Hennepin State Park is a bit further east from and significantly smaller than Mille Lacs-Kathio State Park. However, it’s a completely different experience! Here you can hike through forest, along the beach and do some excellent bird watching. The Pope’s Point Trail is a one mile out-and-back trail along the shoreline to an overlook.

Pro Tip: A daily or annual permit is needed to access any Minnesota state park or recreation area. Purchase one online in advance if possible as the park offices are not always staffed.

Fun Things to Do in Crosby MN with Your Dog This Summer

Crosby is known for its extensive mountain biking trails, which is why it may not be on your radar for a dog-friendly summer getaway. But, there are lots of dog-friendly things to do in Crosby MN that make it the perfect weekend for the whole family.

Related content to read next:

What to Wear for Hiking in Summer: A Prepared Girl’s Guide

18 Spectacular Things to Do in Hayward Wisconsin This Summer

What to Wear for Winter Hiking

Check out my Minnesota page for more travel inspiration and tips!

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Dog riding in a kayak on a lake, holding up a drink cup at a campsite and an overlook of a lake and forest.

2 thoughts on “11 Dog-friendly Things to Do in Crosby MN

  1. This Big Wild World says:

    Thanks, Farrah! My dog, Hank, is a little nervous about getting in the water but he loves being on a kayak or boat. Have fun exploring with tofu!

  2. Farrah says:

    Aww, this is inspiring me to look around here for dog-friendly places to bring Tofu! I have no idea how he is around water but if I could bring him kayaking/paddleboarding, that would be awesomeeeee. <3 These all look like great picks!

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