Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Woods, ponds await Superior, Wis., hikers

A pond off the Gandy Dancer Trail in Douglas County.
Photo courtesy of Wisconsin DNR.

Trail segment
rambles to
Gandy Dancer's
northern end

A rustic walk on a former rail line awaits day hikers on the Gandy Dancer State Trail near Superior, Wis.

The Gandy Dancer heads roughly north-south for 98 miles with a number of accessible points in Wisconsin and Minnesota cabin country, making it ideal for a day hike. It runs from St. Croix Falls, Wis., and enters Minnesota via a picturesque crossing of the St. Croix River in Danbury. It then re-enters Wisconsin in Douglas County south of Superior. The northernmost 15 miles of the trail (if including a connector with the Saunders State Trail) runs through Douglas County.

In Douglas County and Minnesota, the route sometimes is referred to as the North Gandy Dancer Trail, and for good reason. The northern section possesses a distinct sense of remoteness that the southern section, which passes through farmland and several small towns, sometimes lacks.

Still, access to the trail in Douglas County is plentiful. A 1.7-miles round trip section of the trail makes for a great day hike, taking walkers to the northern terminus.

To reach this segment’s trailhead, drive Wis. Hwy. 35 south from the Superior. At Interfalls Lake, turn right/east onto County Road B. Shortly after Point of Rocks Road, the trail crosses the rural highway. Park well off the side of County Road B.

Take the trail north. Though in farm country, a thick band of trees lines the wide path’s western side. Fields are visible through tree breaks on the eastern side.

Long pond
About 0.4 miles into the walk, the Gandy Dancer passes a long, narrow pond on its east side. The route shortly thereafter enters a small woodlands.

Built atop an old Minneapolis, St. Paul and Sault Ste. Marie railroad grade, the trail is named for the Gandy Tool Company workers who built the route back in the 1880s. Grade changes always are gradual, a necessity to accommodate the heavy trains.

As the pond gives out, the trail exits the woods and reaches a working rail line. This marks the northern terminus of the Gandy Dancer. Turn back here and retrace your steps back to your vehicle.

If interested in day hiking a more remote section of the trail in Douglas County, to the south a pleasant 2.85-mile stretch runs from South Foxboro-Chaffey Road over Balsam Creek to Drolson Road.

Read more about Douglas County day hiking trails in my Day Hiking Trails of Douglas County guidebook.