Thursday, May 29, 2014

Hidden Valley ski trails make for great day hikes in Northwoods

Paper birch stands dominate Hidden Valley Recreation Area.
Photo courtesy of Minnesota DNR.

Bambas Loop runs
through center of rec area

Several day hiking trails ramble through forested rolling hills at the Hidden Valley Recreation Area near Ely, Minn.

Probably the best cross country ski area in the Ely area, Hidden Valley also makes for a darn good set of hiking and mountain biking trails, as they are groomed year round. One those trails – the Bambas Loop – runs 2.1 miles through the rec area’s heart.

To reach the trailhead, from downtown Ely go east on Minn. Hwy. 169/East Sheridan Street. After passing the Dorothy Molter Museum, take the next right onto Hidden Valley Road. The parking lot is at the chalet area; the trailhead is at the road that the Bambas parallels as heading east. Be careful, as the Stadium Loops’ route shares two trailheads with the Bambas.

Bring trail map
The trail boasts a few minor ups and downs. Paper birch and pine stands dominate the rec area, though there are newly planted red and white pine plantations as well.

Make sure you bring a trail map with you, as the Bambas Loop intersects quite a number of other trails. On the just the loop’s eastern segment, you’ll junction first the Mike Manlove Trail, then the Hang on Tight Trail, and finally the Voyageur’s Highway Trail, all of which go south.

As the trail curves south, there are junctions with three trails that are part of the Sommers Loop, all heading east, and with the Birch Highlands Trail going west.

After the trail curves west and straightens, it junctions with the Voyageur’s Highway Trail going north. Next comes a junction with the northbound Pine Valley Trail.

Ski club-managed trails
The Ely Nordic Ski Club manages the trails. The Bambas Loop is the first trail laid out in Hidden Valley after the ski club was established in the late 1980s; it was named for club members and avid skiers Sidney and Sonja Bambas.

The trail next curves north and makes a hairpin going east. Coming out of the hairpin and heading north again, you’ll reach a junction with a connecting trail to the Stadium Loops.

Nearing the parking lot at the loop’s northwest corner, the loop passes junctions with Pine Valley and the Screamer trails.

Dogs are not allowed on Hidden Valley’s trails.

Read more about day hiking Northeast Minnesota in my Headin’ to the Cabin: Day Hiking Trails of Northeast Minnesota guidebook.