Saturday, August 23, 2014

Twelve must-do hikes in Grand Marais, Minn.

Brule River from Superior Hiking Trail at Judge CR
Magney State Park. Photo courtesy of Minnesota DNR.
Fantastic vistas of Lake Superior, multiple waterfalls, and Minnesota’s highest point all await day hikers on trails in or near Grand Marais, Minn.

Located on Minnesota’s famed North Shore, the small city is distant yet well worth the trip. To reach Grand Marais or the two state parks nearby, travelers should take State Hwy. 61 north from Duluth, Minn. The drive itself with its sweeping views of Lake Superior will be impressive and set the right mood for discovering all that Grand Marais has the offer.

Among the many great day hikes in the Grand Marais area are:
g C.J. Ramstad/North Shore State Trail (Little Devil Track River area) segments – Walk 2.1 miles (4.2-miles round trip) northwest to Blueberry Lake’s shores or go southeast about 0.45 miles (0.9-miles round trip) over the Little Devil Track to the Superior Hiking Trail intersection. Park in the pullouts at the intersection of County Road 6 and Forest Road 1367 in the Superior National Forest.
g C.J. Ramstad/North Shore State Trail (Grand Marais city) segments – Walk southwest 0.45 miles (0.9-miles round trip) to the Gunflint Trail or head northeast for the same distance to the trail’s second stream crossing in Superior National Forest. Park on the turnaround at the end of Cedar Grove Drive, north of the Cedar Grove Drive intersection in town.
g Eagle Mountain Trail – Day hikers can ascend to the highest point in Minnesota via the rugged but incredibly scenic Eagle Mountain Trail in Superior National Forest.. The 7-mile (round trip) out-and-back trail is lengthy and can be steep at spots, and parts of it also are rocky; still, if the challenge isn’t rewarding enough, the views at the top certainly are. The trailhead is at the junction of Forest Road 158 (aka Bally Creek Road) and Forest Road 170 (formerly named Forest Road 153 and aka as The Grade).
g Gitchi-Gami State Trail (Grand Marais Segment) – Park in downtown Grand Marais near the trailhead off of Minn. Hwy. 61 near Eighth Avenue. Head south/west until the trail runs out for a 3-mile round trip.
g Grand Marais Corridor Trail – An urban hike, the 1-mile (one-way) paved bike trail heads through downtown Grand Marias. It does connect with the Grand Marais segment of the Gitchi-Gami State Trail, however, and so can be extended by 1.5 miles (one-way).
g Lake Trail – Off Cascade River State Park’s shores, the glacial lake the Ojibwe called gichigami – “the great sea” – stretches for 31,700 square miles. The trail runs 1.2 miles (2.4-miles round trip) along Lake Superior’s rocky beaches and white cedar trees.
g Lookout Mountain Trail – After Labor Day, the park’s birch leaves turn gold, making for an impressive site against the green spruce and fir. The 3.5-mile loop takes you through the forest to an overlook 600 feet above the shoreline, offering a view of the Sawtooth Mountain Range and of blue Lake Superior in the distance.
g Superior Hiking Trail segment to Cascade Falls – The Cascade River drops over two waterfalls as it rambles through a fern-laden gorge of 1.1 billion-year-old volcanic rock. A segment of Minnesota’s Superior Hiking Trail heads about 0.85 miles round trip to Cascade Falls and the Cascades, a set of small drops just above it.
g Superior Hiking Trail segment to Devil’s Kettle – About a mile from Lake Superior, volcanic rock splits the Brule River in a formation known as the Devil’s Kettle. One side of the divided river drops 50 feet while the other half rushes into a pothole. A 2-mile round trip segment of the Superior Hiking Trail, in Minnesota’s Judge CR Magney State Park, crosses the Brule and heads alongside it to Upper Falls and then the Devil’s Kettle.
g Superior Hiking Trail segment to Gauthier Creek – Brook and rainbow trout are abundant in the Brule River and Gauthier Creek of Judge CR Magney State Park. You’re certain to see anglers landing one on either waterway. You can reach Gauthier Creek from the parking lot by taking a segment of the north to the stream for a round trip of about 2 miles.
g Superior Hiking Trail segment to Gauthier Creek loop – Moose, black bear, timber wolf, white-tailed deer, ruffed grouse, snowshoe hare, woodchuck, red squirrel, chipmunk, warblers, chickadees, jays, nuthatches, and woodpeckers all reside in Judge CR Magney State Park. To improve your chances of a sighting, go deeper into the park; that can be done via the same Superior Hiking Trail segment to Gauthier Creek, except extend the walk about two miles (4-miles total round trip) by crossing the stream and doing the loop on its north side.
g Superior Hiking Trail segment to Lake Superior – Containing 2,903 cubic miles of water, the world’s largest freshwater lake stretches across Judge CR Magney State Park’s eastern and southern horizon. For a grand view, from the campground parking lot take a segment of the Superior Hiking Trail south along the Brule River to just above its confluence with Lake Superior. The hike is about 1-mile round trip.

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