Thursday, February 26, 2015

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

The trailhead for the Lookout Mountain Trail System can be
found at the Laurentian Divide Recreation Area's picnic area.
Photo courtesy of U.S. Forest Service.
Peaceful Northwoods lakes, decades-old pine and aspen forests, and an 1800-foot peak 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 Lookout Mountain Trail System – Most of the cross country ski trails on the 1840-foot peak can be day hiked during spring, summer and fall. The trails can be accessed via the Superior National Forest’s Laurentian Divide Recreation Area off of U.S. Hwy. 53/Minn. Hwy. 169 north of Virginia.
g Mesabi State Trail, Embarrass Lake to Giants Ridge segment – A 3.6-miles round trip walk through a thick forest alongside the Embarrass River runs from Embarrass Lake to Giants Ridge Road in Biwabik. A parking lot is off of Minn. Hwy. 135 on the north shore of Embarrass Lake with an underpass to get north of the highway.
g Mesabi State Trail, Gilbert south segment – In Gilbert, take the trail southwest near the shores of Lake Ore-Be-Gone then through a pine forest, turning back at County Road 97 for an 3.4-mile round trip. Park in the lot off of Wisconsin Avenue southeast of the Kansas Avenue intersection.
g Mesabi State Trail, Mountain Iron east segment – In Mountain Iron, park in the lot off of County Road 582 (aka Main Street) near the County Road 102 (aka Maple Avenue) intersection and head southeast between two ponds. When the trail turns northeast, turn back for a 1.2-mile round trip.
g Mesabi State Trail, Virginia west segment – On Virginia’s west side, take the trail just south of the Third Street (aka County Road 109) and Third Avenue (aka Parkville Street) for a 3.6-miles round trip through pine forest to the end of the Mountain Iron east segment. Limited parking is available at the Third Street and Third Avenue intersection.
g Otto/Harris Lake Trail – The 8-mile trail connects and circles around Otto and Harris Lakes in the Superior National Forest. Access the trail by parking in the lot off of Forest Road 416 about four miles south of County Road 16/Forest Road 11 southeast of Hoyt Lakes. Otto Lake is closest to the parking lot.
g Pfeiffer Lake Trail – A series of connecting loops ramble along the north and east sides of 55-acre Pfeiffer Lake at the Pfeiffer Lake Recreation Area in the Superior National Forest. Park at the main lot west of Forest Road 256; the recreational area is about 25 miles north of Virginia.
g St. James Lake Trail – A 4.5-miles (one-way) trail wraps around the north and east side of St. James Lake in Aurora. Park in the sand lot off of Erie Street North where it turns west, north of County Road 100 (aka West Third Avenue N.).
g Washusk Forest Management Road Trail – The logging road in the northwest corner of Cloquet Valley State Forest can be day hiked from the trailhead to Wabuse Lake for a 4.2-mile round trip. Park off the road at the state forest boundary where Taggart Road becomes Washusk FMR southwest of Eveleth.
g Whiteface Reservoir Trail – About 2.5-miles of trails run near the popular walleye lake and the Whiteface Reservoir Campground in the Superior National Forest. Access the trail at the campground off of County Road 618 some 15 miles south of Aurora.

Also see: 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.