Saturday, October 25, 2014

Day hiking opportunities abound in BWCAW

More than a thousand lakes dot the Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness
Area. Photo courtesy of

holds largest
old-growth forest
east of Rockies

Though most people think of Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness as a great place to canoe or kayak – and it is – the region also is an excellent spot for primitive hiking. In addition, segments of a number of the area’s long backcountry trails can be done as day hikes.

Located in northeastern Minnesota along the Canadian border, the BWCAW offers more than 150 miles of portage trails, 2000-plus campsites, and over 1000 portage-linked lakes. Exceeding a million acres in size, the BWAC holds the largest old-growth forest east of the Rockies.

Technically part of Superior National Forest, National Geographic recently listed the BWCAW as one of “50 Destinations of a Lifetime.”

Among the easy-to-reach day hiking trails in the BWCAW are:
g Big Moose Hiking Trail – The 3-mile out-and-back trail (6-miles round trip) heads through a conifer forest to Big Moose Lake’s northern shore; the last quarter mile of the trail is within the BWCAW. Park in the lot along Forest Road 464, southwest of Echo Trail about 20 miles northwest of Ely.
g Burntside Lake North Arm Trail – A number of trails connect Burntside State Forest to the BWCAW and Chippewa National Forest, including this 2-mile loop from North Arm to Slim Lake. To reach the trailhead, take County Road 644 to the parking lot near the highway’s end along the North Arm of Burntside Lake.
g Eagle Mountain TrailDay hikers can ascend to the highest point in Minnesota via this rugged but incredibly scenic route. The 7-mile round trip out-and-back trail is lengthy and steep at spots. Parts of it also are rocky. Still, if the challenge isn’t rewarding enough, the views at the top certainly are.
g Kekekabic Trail segment – Known as “The Kek,” the trail runs 41 miles from north of Ely to Grand Marais; its western trailhead easily can be day hiked through an aspen, jack pine and conifer forest to the shores of Snowbank Lake and then back for a 4-mile round trip. The trailhead is off Snowbank Lake Road in the BWACW, just under 20 miles east of Ely.
g Secret/Blackstone Trail segment – A 1.33-mile segment of this 8-mile trail can be done around scenic Blackstone Lake. The trailhead is about 20 miles northeast of Ely, off Moose Lake Road (County Road 438) across the road from La Tourell’s Resort.
g Sioux Hustler Trail segment to Devil’s Cascade – For fit families with a lot of energy and a whole day to spend, this 11-mile round trip in the BWCAW rewards with the 75-feet Devil’s Cascade through a granite gorge. Park at BCWAW Entry Point #15 off of Echo Trail northeast of Ely.
g Snowbank Lake Trail – The 25-mile trail around Snowbank Lake in the BCWAW can be shortened to a 2.5-mile out-and-back segment. Use the same trailhead as described above for the Kekekabic, except go north; take the first spur east to the Snowbank Lake’s shore.

Learn about trail guidebooks available in the Hittin’ the Trail series.