Saturday, December 26, 2015

Discover Northwoods songbirds near Gheen

Mourning warbler. Photo courtesy of Ohio DNR.
Gheen Hills Trails aerial map

Short loop runs 0.6-miles near Orr

Hikers can spot wildlife and various songbirds on the easy to reach Gheen Hills Trails in Minnesota’s Kabetogama State Forest.

The 4.5-mile system of trails is popular with mountain bicyclists and cross county skiers as well as hikers. Multiple trailheads access the system.

The system is best done in late spring or early summer. Parts of the trail during early to mid-spring can be soggy, and in late summer overgrown with grass, which sometimes hides logs that can be tripped over.

Deer and bear
One good route in the Gheen Hills to day hike is a short loop that covers the trail system's northeastern woods.

To reach the trailhead, from Orr travel south about 3.5 miles on U.S. Hwy. 53. Turn right/west onto Diamond Match Forest Road. A parking area and the trail is less than 200 feet from the intersection.

The trail heads southwest from the lot across open country. This stem to the loop runs about 0.1 miles.

Where the trail divides, go right/west onto the loop, which quickly enters a forest. The majority of trees are stands of aspen, birch and pine.

White-tailed deer and black bear are the largest mammals in the area. Very rarely, moose and wolf make their way into this section of the Kabetogama.

Three songbirds
You have a much better chance of spotting three particular songbirds. Least flycatchers, mourning warblers, and Nashville warblers all make their home near the trail system. Both warblers are yellow-breasted with the mourning warbler nesting here.

Along the way, there are a few intersecting trails that take you deeper into the Gheen Hills. To stay on the loop, always make a left turn at a trail intersection.

When you exit the woods - you’ll be heading roughly northeast - you’ve reached the end of the loop, which runs about 0.4 miles. Go right/northeast onto the stem trail and return to the parking area.

In all, the trail is about 0.6 miles long.

Learn more about nearby day hiking trails in my Day Hiking Trails of Northeast Minnesota guidebook.