Friday, January 16, 2015

Waterfall, young aspen forests await day hikers in Orr, Minnesota

Vermilion Falls Trail. Photo courtesy of USFS.
Several great day trails await day hikers in the Minnesota Northwoods’ community of Orr.

Located in the middle of the Kabetogama State Forest, the small town sits between the Duluth, Minn, metro area and Voyageurs National Park. Orr can be reached by taking U.S. Hwy. 53 north from Duluth or south from International Falls.

Among the great day hikes in the Orr area are:
g Arrowhead State Trail segment – About 22 miles of the 135-mile long state trail runs east of Orr east as heading through the state forest. The northern end of this segment can be accessed from Forest Road 180 near the Pelican River; the southern end only can be reached by hiking the Orr Spur South Trail to it.
g Bug Creek Walking Trails – The trail system heads through a forest of young aspen growing on just-logged lands to a small pond on Bug Creek in Superior National Forest. A trailhead can be found off of County Road 203 about 11 miles from Orr.
g Echo Lake Hunter Walking Trail – The trail rambles 13 miles through a young aspen forest and is prime ruffed grouse habitat. For the trailhead, go 2.2 miles from the County Roads 24/116 junction northeast of Orr.
g Gheen Hills Trails – Hikers are likely to see wildlife and various birds on this 4.5-mile system of trails. Park at the trailhead off of Diamond Match Forest Road, immediately west of the U.S. Hwy. 53 intersection about 3.5 miles south of Orr.
g Herriman Lake Trail – More than half of the 13 miles of trails in this system run through the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. The trailhead is in Superior National Forest, off of County Road 24 about 27 miles northeast of Orr.
g Orr Bog Walk – This 0.5-mile loop consists of a floating boardwalk through six wetlands environments. Pick up the trailhead behind the Voyageur Country Visitor Center in Orr.
g Orr Spur North Trail – The 8-miles one-way snowmobile trail connects the northern end of Orr to the Arrowhead State Trail near the Pelican River. Park off of County Road 180 near the river and head south from the Arrowhead for the trail’s quietest segment.
g Orr Spur South Trail – Also 8-miles one-way, the snowmobile trail heads from U.S. Hwy. 53 to the Arrowhead State Trail near Little Elbow Creek. The western end of the trail crosses the Pelican River.
g Pelican Lake Trail – The snowmobile trail runs about 17 miles from Cusson, which is north of Orr, to Ash Lake. Park at the trailhead off of Forest Road 180 where it turns sharp south, about 1.3 miles west of Hwy. 53.
g Vermilion Falls Trail – A small waterfall amid granite outcroppings sits at the end of this 0.25-mile round trip hike in the Superior National Forest; picnic tables and an observation deck overlook the falls. The trailhead is on the Vermilion Falls Recreation Area access road past the Forest Road 491 junction northeast of town.
g Vermilion Gorge Trail – The 2.6-mile round trip trail overlooks the Vermilion River, which runs below sheer granite cliffs in the Superior National Forest. Park in the lot off of County Road 24, just past the Voyageurs National Park office, about 27 miles northeast of Orr.

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