Monday, March 9, 2015

Trails offer variety of experiences in Sturgeon Lake/Willow River area

Upper Willow River Trail. Map courtesy of USGS.
Northern wildlife, one of Minnesota’s best walking/bicycling paths, and even a possible Bigfoot sighting await day hikers in the Sturgeon Lake/Willow River region.

The two small towns sit between Minnesota’s largest metropolitan areas of Minneapolis-St. Paul and Duluth-Superior. Interstate 35 runs between those metro areas and close to Sturgeon Lake/Willow River, which boasts three state forests nearby.

Among the great day hiking trails in the Sturgeon Lake/Willow River region are:
g Dago Lake Day-Use Area Trail – Does the legendary Bigfoot stalk Minnesota’s Northwoods? Your best bet for spotting one might be a hike through General C.C. Andrews State Forest, an epicenter of Sasquatch sightings since the 1970s. With more than 7700 acres of jack and red pine woodland, the state forest near Willow River marks the perfect place for Bigfoot to hide. The 1.6-mile round trip trail at Dago Lake Day-Use Area is roughly equidistant from several major sightings over the years.
g East White Pine Forest Road Trail – An ATV trail runs for six miles between East White Pine Forest Road and Split Rock Forest Road at Solana State Forest in neighboring Aitkin County, west of Sturgeon Lake. The trailhead is at the end of the forest road, which is north of Pliny on Minn. Hwys. 27/65.
g Solana Forest Road Trail – Day hikers are likely to spot a variety of northern Minnesota wildlife on this 1.5-mile round trip out-and-back trail in Solana State Forest. Park off the road at the trailhead along County Road 2 (aka 220th Street).
g Upper Willow River Trail – The Upper Willow River Trail for ATVs runs five miles one-way through the Nemadji State Forest, over the Willow River, and into the Klondike Trail Grouse Management Area east of Sturgeon Lake. The trail is off of Erickson Road on the state forest’s west side.
g Willard Munger State Trail, Sturgeon Lake segment – A dirt parking area for the premier bicycling/walking path sits off of County Road 61 north of Second Street in Sturgeon Lake. Going south takes hikers into General C.C. Andrews State Forest.
g Willard Munger State Trail, Willow River segment – A parking lot is located at the end of Church Street, west of County Road 61 in Willow River. The north-bound trail heads into the General C.C. Andrews State Forest.

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