Thursday, October 16, 2014

Day hike one of two forested ‘mountains’ along Lake Superior

Oberg Lake is visible from a vista along the Oberg Mountain Trail.
Photo courtesy of U.S. Forest Service.

Great vistas, lookout tower awaits at summits


Day hikers can choose between trails that lead to the summit of two prominent hills in Superior National Forest’s Sawtooth Mountains.

Both the Oberg and the LeVeaux mountains trails are well-worn paths and spurs off the Superior Hiking Trail. Though technically hills, locals label them as mountains, and for normally flat Minnesota, they do indeed feel more the latter rather than the former.

To reach the trails, from Lutsen, Minn., take Minn. Hwy 61 south. Turn right/north onto the unpaved Onion River Road (aka Forest Road 336). After passing between the two mountains, turn into the parking lot for the Superior Hiking Trail on the road’s left/west side.

From there, hikers have two options: Oberg Mountain or LeVeaux Mountain.

Oberg Mountain Trail
Fantastic vistas await day hikers on the trail to the summit of the slightly higher of these two mountains. The Oberg Mountain Trail runs 2.25-miles round-trip through the woods.

From the parking lot, follow the Superior Hiking Trail east and across Onion River Road. In 0.15 miles, the trail splits; go right/south onto the stem trail.

Most of the uphill portion of the trail comes next on the switchback stem that leads to a loop near the mountain top. Along the stem, the trail gains about 220 feet elevation.

Upon leveling out, the stem joins the loop on the mountain’s western side. Go right/south.

The loop offers nine overlooks. Among the views is the Onion River and LeVeaux Mountain to the southwest. Stretching southeast-northeast of the mountain is Lake Superior. Rollins Creek runs from the base of the mountain’s north side to the southeast into Lake Superior. Moose Mountain rises to the northeast. Oberg Lake, which sports beavers, is on the north side below the mountain.

Maples and pines dominate the mountain, making this a colorful autumn hike. In spring, throated blue warblers light the forest with song.

On the mountain’s north side, the trail climbs about a hundred feet to its summit at 1555 feet elevation. It then slowly descends as coming back to the stem trail. From there, retrace your steps back to the parking lot.

LeVeaux Mountain Trail
A lookout tower awaits day hikers at the top of the LeVeaux Mountain Trail.

The longer of the two trails, it runs 3.5-miles round-trip. The trailhead sits on the parking area’s west end by following the Superior Hiking Trail into the forest.

The first leg offers an opportunity to see deer and even moose. To spot them, though, you’ll need to hike near dawn or dusk when they feed.

Along the way, you’ll pass a stem trail for the Onion River Camp and cross that river.

After a mile, the trail reaches the loop on the mountain’s northwest side. Go right/southeast.

In another 0.15 miles, the trail splits once more. Stay on the loop by going left/southwest. From there, the trail turns steep for about 0.2 miles as it gains 150 feet elevation.

The prize for the hard work is the mountain’s summit, 1550 feet above sea level, at which sits a lookout tower. The tower, referred to on some maps and documents as “US Forest Service Fire Lookout Tower, Onion,” dates to 1928.

South of the tower is a lollipop trail that circles the top of the mountain’s southwest side. It’s about 0.3-miles round trip and worth the walk for the views.

Cliffsides here can be steep, so don’t allow children close to the edge or go on the other side of the guard railing.

Where that lollipop’s stem reaches the main loop atop LeVeaux, take the trail south then northeast as it circles the mountain’s small top. Among the sights are LeVeaux Creek to the west as it runs to the southwest and joins Lake Superior. The lake itself stretches from south of the mountain to the northeast. The Onion River heads from the valley north of the mountain to east then southeast of it. Oberg Mountain is to the northeast.

On LeVeaux’s north side, the trail switchbacks down about 140 feet and below the cliffside rejoins the Superior Hiking Trail. Go right/northeast onto the SHT, which is the same path you took from the parking lot.

Map

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