Friday, August 29, 2014

8 great hiking trails in Grand Portage, Minn.

Pigeon River Gorge on High Falls Trail. Photo courtesy
of Minnesota DNR.
Day hikers can enjoy Minnesota’s highest waterfall, an island where moose and wolves maintain a precarious balance, and expansive vistas of Lake Superior in the Grand Portage, Minn., area.

To reach the remote North Shore community on the U.S.-Canadian border, from Duluth, Minn., take Minn. Hwy. 61 north. Much of the Grand Portage area is an Indian reservation with a village on Lake Superior.

Among the many great hiking trails in the Grand Portage region are:
g East Huginnin Cove Trail segment – For centuries, Native Americans and later European settlers mined copper on Isle Royale National Park’s main island. The 19th century Wendigo Mine ruins are about 6-miles round trip along this segment, which can be reached via the Windigo visitor area.
g Greenstone Ridge Trail segment – At any given time, about 25 wolves and a thousand moose inhabit Isle Royale National Park, though these numbers vary greatly each year. The first two miles of this trail – which runs from Isle Royale’s western harbor at Windigo to the eastern harbor at Rock Harbor – offers the best chance of spotting these shy, reclusive creatures.
g High Falls Trail – Minnesota’s highest waterfall awaits day hikers at the end of this trail at Grand Portage State Park. The paved, handicap accessible walkway heads to a boardwalk with three observation decks for a 1.25-mile round trip hike.
g Middle Falls Trail – About 1.1 billion years ago here, magma seeped into rock beneath the surface, cooled and hardened; the last several ice ages have exposed the erosion-resistant diabase, leaving them as ridges. Some of that rock can be seen at Middle Falls, a 4.5-mile round trip via the High Falls Trail at Grand Portage State Park.
g Minong Ridge Trail segment – Though not the highest point on Isle Royale National Park’s main island, the Minong Ridge Overlook offers a better view year-round. This trail with connecting paths runs 6-miles round trip from and to the Windigo harbor area. The overlook provides views of the main island’s north shore looking toward Minnesota and Ontario on the mainland.
g Mount Josephine Trail – The 700-foot climb over the 1.5 miles from Grand Portage to Mount Josephine’s summit can be strenuous, but it’s well worth the effort. The vista yields views of Grand Portage Bay, Isle Royale, Pigeon Point, the Susie Islands, and Wauswaugoning Bay. Park in the Mount Josephine Trail lot off of County Road 17, near the fort.
g Mount Rose Trail – In addition to great views, the trail offers day hikers a chance to learn about local history. The half-mile paved walk to Mount Rose’s summit overlooks the National Monument and Grand Portage Bay with interpretive signs along the way.
g Windigo Nature Trail – A rarely visited island full of moose and wolves awaits day hikers on the Windigo Nature Trail in Isle Royale National Park. The 1.2-mile loop can be reached by taking a ferry from Grand Portage to Isle Royale in Lake Superior.

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