Friday, September 26, 2014

Variety of day hiking trails run across Holyoke, Minn., region

Most Holyoke hiking trails will be found
in the Nemadji State Forest. Map courtesy
of Minnesota DNR.
Fragrant evergreen forests, a multi-county rail line converted to hiking trail, and a rare pine barrens ecosystem await day hikers in the Holyoke, Minn., area.

Located between the Minneapolis-St. Paul and Duluth-Superior metro areas, Holyoke easily can be reached via Interstate 35 then in Moose Lake taking County Road 8 east. The vast Nemadji State Forest is located southeast of town.

Four great trails to hike in the Hinckley area include:
g Gandy Dancer Trail (Hay Creek segment) – Hikers can walk the edge of a pine barrens and some forested areas on this 4-mile round trip trail in the massive Nemadji State Forest. Take Minn. Hwy. 31 north from Kingsdale; there's a parking lot at the state forest line. Follow the trail north, paralleling Hay Creek to the right. Go two miles to Moose Junction Trail and turn back at the junction.
g Matthew Lourey State Trail – From north of Nickerson, take County Road 146 to County Road 145 then Harlis Road/County Road 363; south of Bley Road, as the road turns east, look for parking lot. Follow the trail to the Northeast Extension Forest Road for 0.9 miles; turn back there for a 1.8-mile round trip through a largely wooded area that opens onto scenic meadows.
g National Christmas Tree – Day hikers can enjoy a peaceful walk through a fragrant evergreen woods in the Nemadji State Forest. The three-mile (2.6 miles for loop plus 0.4 miles round trip for stem) trail sits in the northwest corner of the massive forest. In 1977, a white spruce cut from the Nemadji served as the National Christmas Tree in the nation’s capitol. Forestry officials created the trail in 1987, naming it in honor of that tree.
g Yellow Birch Trail/Gandy Dancer Trail (state line segment) – The 3.2-mile round trip trail in the Nemadji State Forest is entirely wooded. To reach the trailhead, from north of Nickerson take County Road 146 to County Road 145 then Harlis Road/County Road 363 (which upon entering the forest becomes Harlis Forest Road); a parking area is located where the forest road intersects with the Yellow Birch Trail. Take the Yellow Birch Trail for 0.3 miles to the Gandy Dancer Trail, where there’s a shelter. Go north on the Gandy Dancer for 1.3 miles, crossing two branches of the State Creek Trail, and turn back at the Wisconsin border.

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