Sunday, December 6, 2015

Mesabi Trail offers excellent day hiking in Minnesota’s Itasca County

Mesabi State Trail in Keewatin. Photo courtesy of City of Keewatin.
Northwoods forests, turquoise lakes, and intriguing rock outcroppings await day hikers on several segments of the Mesabi State Trail in Minnesota’s Itasca County.

The unfinished bicycle/walking trail runs from Grand Rapids to Ely. When completed, the paved path, including its stem trails, will stretch 115 miles. The trail can be broken into several smaller day hikes that are easy for families with children to handle.

In Itasca County, the trail rambles through several communities, roughly paralleing U.S. Hwy 169. Day hike segments that are heavy on nature, from west to east, include:
g Itasca County Fairgrounds to Soldiers Lane segment – The trail’s western end begins in Grand Rapids at the Itasca County Fairgrounds, where there’s plenty of parking, running through a forested area with a few fire breaks. Turn back at Soldiers Lane for a 1.8-mile round trip.
g Clemsen Avenue to First Avenue segment – In Coleraine, park off of Clemsen Avenue north of Hwy. 169. Follow the treeline west until it opens up, allowing access to the trail. Head east through the woods and past two ponds until First Avenue in Bovey comes into sight for a 0.8-mile round trip.
g Bovey west and east segments – In Bovey, park at the lot for the tennis courts off of Fourth Avenue north of North Street; walk north along First Avenue, turning right/east onto the dirt path that leads to the main trail. Go left/north for the west segment, which heads through a wooded area to a pond; turn around at the pond for an 1.5-mile round trip. For the east segment, from the dirt path instead go right/south, which runs past athletic fields to between a pair of ponds for a 0.75-mile round trip; the east segment can be extended by up to 1.5-miles round trip with a walk through a forest to Hwy. 169.
g Hodgins Avenue to County Road 15 segment – In Taconite, walk south from Hodgins Avenue into a woods until reaching County Road 15 for a 1.33-mile round trip. Park along Hodgins Avenue with the trailhead west of Bennett Street.
g Ekman Avenue to Hill Annex Mine State Park segment – In Marble, park off street near the Ekman Avenue and Ethel Street intersection. The trail heads due north from the intersection to near a lake on its way to the Hill Annex Mine State Park in Calumet for a 2.5-mile round trip.
g Second Avenue to Snowball Lake Road segment – Park along Second Avenue east of Morgan Street in Calumet and take the connector to the main trail. Go left/east past several rock outcroppings, turning around at Snowball Lake Road for a 2.6-mile round trip.
g County Road 86 to O’Brien Creek segment – In Nashwauk, park on the asphalt off the Mesabi State Trail’s intersection with County Road 86 north of Hawkins Avenue. Head east to O’Brien Creek for a 1.8-mile round trip.
g Seventh Avenue to segment – In Keewatin, park in the dirt lot off of Seventh Avenue at the County Road 82 intersection. Take the trail west through a woods to where it splits from County Road 582 (which goes south to Hwy. 169) for an 3-mile round trip.

Tomorrow: Day hiking the Mesabi State Trail in St. Louis County

Find out about trail guidebooks available in the Hittin’ the Trail series.