Thursday, June 12, 2014

Great day hikes await Tower/Soudan visitors in Minnesota Northwoods

Soudan Underground Mine State Park.
Photo courtesy Minnesota DNR.
Wild rivers, scenic lake shores, and peaceful conifer forests await day hikers in the Tower/Soudan area of the Minnesota Northwoods.

Several national forests and state parks and forests surround Tower/Soudan. The two small communities can be reached by taking U.S. Hwy. 53 north from the Duluth/Superior metro area than Minn. Hwy. 169 northeast.

Among the many great day hiking trails in Tower/Sound are:
g Arrowhead State Trail segment – Though a snowmobile trail, the 135-mile trail running from near Tower to just shy of International Falls can be walked during the other seasons. Park in the lot off of Minn. Hwy. 1 west of Holter Road and take the trail south about 0.9 miles (1.8-miles round trip) to Lehtinen Creek, which empties into Pike River Flowage; hike it in autumn when the trail won’t be so wet.
g Bear Island-Lake Trail segment – At one time, mineralogists drilled for diamonds near a lake along this trail. From Minn. Hwys 1/169, southeast of Soudan, take Murray Road south to the trailhead; hike 0.4 miles (0.8-miles round trip) to Skeleton Lake’s northern shores.
g Iron Ore Trail segment – The snowmobile trail in winter and hiking trail in summer runs south of Tower, passing through Wahlsten and Embarrass until connecting with the Taconite Spur Trail. Park at the pullout on Sherman Road east of Minn. Hwy. 135; hike south along the creek that flows into West Two River. It’s just under a mile round trip from the trailhead to the river.
g Mesabi State Trail segment – The unfinished bicycle/walking trail runs from Grand Rapids to Biwabik with a small section completed in Tower. Park at the Civic Center and hike the trail northwest about a mile to Tower Park on Lake Vermilion.
g Putnam Lake Trail segment – The route connects the Iron Ore Trail and the Fishing Lakes Trail in Bear Island State Forest, south of Tower and Soudan. Park at the turnout when Sherman Road curves northeast at the fire break, east of Minn. Hwy. 135; take the jeep trail southeast to trailhead. Hiking the trail west includes a bridge over West Two River and walk alongside the waterway; turn around at the junction with Iron Ore Trail for a 2-mile round trip.
g Open-Pit Mines Loop – The aboveground trail at Soudan Underground Mine State Park heads 2.3 miles through a northern hardwood conifer forest. Park at the picnic area lot; the trailhead leaves from the entrance road west of the lot.
g Soudan Underground Iron Ore Mine Historic Tour – Day hikers can walk tunnels a half-mile underground at Minnesota’s oldest iron ore mine. The unique historic tour at Soudan Underground Iron Ore Mine State Park takes visitors through 2.7 billion years of geological history and includes a short aboveground segment.
g Taconite State Trail segment – Primarily a snowmobiling trail running 165 miles from Grand Rapids to Ely, a segment of it in Tower can be day hiked during the summer. A 1.5-mile round trip route starts between Pine and Birch streets south of South Third Street and heads over the East Two River; turn back at the second crossing of the river.

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