Sunday, September 8, 2013

Cross St. Croix River railroad bridge on hike

St. Croix River, looking east from Gandy Dancer Trail bridge north of
Danbury, Wis. Minnesota is on the left and Wisconsin the right.

Trail links Wisconsin, Minnesota sections
of walking route

Day hikers can walk across an old railroad bridge over the St. Croix River at the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway and the St. Croix State Forest on the Wisconsin-Minnesota border.

The Gandy Dancer Trail, which starts dozens of miles south of the state forest in St. Croix Falls, Wis., crosses the border into Minnesota at Danbury, Wis. The segment described in this entry is about 2-miles round trip.

River crossing
In Danbury, parking for trail access is next to the walking route north of Wis. Hwy. 77 between Wis. Hwy. 35 and North Glass Street. From the lot, take the trail north.

You’ll head through a forested area. The mix of trees near the riverfront yields a fantastic multi-colored leaf display in autumn.

An added bonus for autumn hikers: You'll probably spot a number of migrating waterfowl, including sandhill cranes. Also watch for bald eagles, osprey, northern harriers and hawks, all of which reside year-round in the area.

In about 0.4 miles, you’ll reach the St. Croix River's tranquil blue waters as you pass through the scenic riverway. Cross the old railroad trestle bridge into Minnesota. To the left is a canoe access point for the river.

St. Croix State Forest
In short order, you’ll breach the invisible line into the St. Croix State Forest, the 42,105-acre spread along the Tamarack and St. Croix rivers. The trail continues through woodlands, mainly bigtooth and quaking aspen with islands of red oak and other various northern hardwood trees.

About 0.6 miles from the bridge, the trail reaches a pine barrens with a large gravel turnout. This marks a good spot to turn back.

The Gandy Dancer does continue on, so if you have a little extra energy, feel free to walk a bit farther. The trial ultimately runs for 30 miles through Minnesota before crossing back into Wisconsin south of Superior.

Be forewarned that the Minnesota side is an OHV (off-highway vehicle) trail, so keep an eye on children. Also, be sure to use insect repellent in spring and summer.

Read more about day hiking the scenic riverway in my guidebook Hittin’ the Trail: Day Hiking the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway.