Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Minnesota Northwoods trail reminiscent of hike through mountains in western U.S.

East side of Bensen Lake. Photo courtesy of Minn DNR.

Bensen Lake Trail
circles 19.4-acre lake

A walk around a forested Northwoods lake awaits day hikers in Minnesota’s George H. Crosby Manitou State Park.

The Bensen Lake Trail runs 0.9 miles round trip, including the stem trail and loop. Entirely shaded, the trail gives hikers the feeling of being in remote mountain country out west.

To reach the park, from Silver Bay travel north on Minn. Hwy. 61, turning left/northwest onto Minn. Hwy 1. In Finland, go right/northeast onto County Road 7 (aka Cramer Road). Take a right/east into the park, using the lot just before the road curves south.

Summit nearby
The trailhead for Bensen Lake Trail is the Superior Hiking Trail, which runs past the park road immediately to the lot’s southeast. Take the Superior Hiking Trail south as a stem, watching for the turnoff to the loop around Bensen Lake. Go right/southwest as the loop around the lake begins. Much of Bensen Lake trail consists of a boardwalk, as the ground can be soggy.

Along the lake’s northwest side, the lake remains visible through the treeline. Picnic tables can be found along the water. A 1600-foot high summit looms directly south of the lake.

Covering 19.4 acres, Bensen Lake reaches a maximum depth of 36 feet. Brook, brown and and rainbow trout as well as splake – a hybrid of brook and lake trout – call the lake home.

After 0.4 miles on the loop, the trail leaves the lake’s west side for the south side. The south side’s water is particularly clear, and you should be able to see about 15 feet down. It’s particularly picturesque under a clear, blue sky.

Lake plants
In another 0.2 miles, the boardwalk leaves the lake’s south side for the east side. The trail crosses a creek that flows out of the lake east to the Manitou River.

Bensen Lake’s eastern side offers some shallow spots where lake plants can grow. Keep an eye out for a variety of animals – including amphibians, shore birds, and small fish – that prefer the protection and feeding opportunities the lake plants provide.

Upon reaching the loop’s beginning, retrace your steps back to the parking lot. Note that in some state publications and websites, Bensen Lake is spelled “Benson Lake.” It appears as “Bensen” on USGS topo maps, however.

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