Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Great day hiking trails of Minnesota’s Iron Range, Part I

Ruffed grouse can be spotted on the Jenkins Creek Trail.
Photo courtesy of 
Minnesota DNR.
Placid Northwoods lakes, aspen and pine forests, and sharp-tailed grouse sightings await day hikers in the Virginia-Eveleth, Minn., region.

Easy to reach by highway, the area serves as a gateway to the Superior National Forest with the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Voyageurs National Park just beyond that. To reach the area from the Minneapolis-St Paul metro area, take Interstate 35 north; in Cloquet, exit onto Minn. Hwy. 33 then turn north onto U.S. Hwy. 53, which heads into Eveleth.

Among the many day hiking trails in the Virginia-Eveleth, Minn., region are:
g Anchor Lake Wildlife Management Area trails – A number of hunting trails head through a mixed northern forest and past Anchor Lake, a favored habitat of waterfowl, in the 174-acre managed land. From Eveleth, drive 10 miles south on U.S. Hwy. 53, using the parking lot on the road’s west side.
g Arrowhead State Trail, Arrowhead Lake segment – A section of the extensive snowmobile trail system can be hiked from near the intersection of Forest Road 562 and U.S. Hwy. 53 to the Laurentian Trail for a 2.25-mile round trip in the Superior National Forest. Park in the lot off of Forest Road 562 at its intersection with Hwy. 53 north of Virginia.
g Auro-Bi Trail, Biwabik to Embarrass River segment – The snowmobile trail links Biwabik and Aurora to the Laurentian Trail. Pick up the trail in Biwabik off of Minn. Hwy. 135 for a roughly 4-mile round trip.
g Big Aspen Trail – Twenty-one miles of multi-use trails run along old logging roads and abandoned railroad grades north of Virginia in the Superior National Forest. Access the trail system from the trailhead at the parking lot off of County Road 405 north of Forest Road 256B.
g Bird Lake Trail – The 12-mile trail connects Hoyt Lakes to Bird Lake in the Superior National Forest. Parking is available at either terminus off of County Road 110/Superior National Forest Scenic Byway, but the more scenic (and more difficult) section of the trail runs on the eastern end past Bird and Lillian Lakes.
g Fermoy WMA Trail – Sharp-tailed grouse and other forest game birds abound in the lowland brush and aspen islands of the Fermoy Wildlife Management Area. A 0.7-mime L-shaped trail runs alongside a waterway north and east of the County Road 788 and Kingsley Road intersection.
g Great Scott WMA Trails – A series of trails run along the north and northeast sides of the Great Scott Wildlife Management Area south of Buhl. Pick up a trailhead by parking off of County Road 453 just before reaching Great Scott's northwest corner.
g Iron Range Off-Highway Vehicle State Recreation Area trail system – About 36 miles of OHV trails also can be hiked at the Iron Range Off-Highway Vehicle State Recreation Area east of Gilbert. The trails head around iron-ore pits, stockpiles and tailings basins. Park at the main lot off of Enterprise Trail south of Minn. Hwy. 135.
g Jenkins Creek Hunter/Hiking Trail – The 4.5-mile trail (one-way) rambles through aspen groves of various ages in the Superior National Forest. Park in the lot at the trailhead off of County Road 16/Forest Road 11 about 13 miles south of Hoyt Lakes.
g Laurentian Trail – The state snowmobile trail runs several miles east-west through the Superior National Forest; segments near its center can be day hiked as a primitive trail. Access it via the parking lot north of the Laurentian Divide Recreation Area off of U.S. Hwy. 53/Minn. Hwy. 169 north of Virginia.

TOMORROW: Ten more Virginia-Eveleth day hiking trails

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