Friday, November 20, 2015

Gitchi-Gami trail segments run past beaches

Gitchi-Gami State Trail north of Twin Points Wayside.
Topo map of Gitchi-Gami State Trail, centered on
Thompson Beach at Twin Points Wayside.

Southern portion of path offers access to Lake Superior


Incredible views of Lake Superior await day hikers of the Gitchi-Gami State Trail north of Minnesota’s Gooseberry Falls State Park.

As of 2013, about 29.5 miles of the paved bicycle path – which also can be used for day hiking – runs along the world’s largest freshwater lake from Two Harbors to Grand Marais. Plans call for a 88.2-mile route. Construction began in 2001 with segments added since, largely thanks to the work of the nonprofit Gitchi-Gami Trail Association in conjunction with the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

The Gitchi-Gami largely parallels Minn. Hwy. 61. Currently, a 14.1-mile one–way segment of the trail heading northeast runs between Gooseberry Falls State Park and Beaver Bay.

A good way to explore the lower half of that segment is by starting at the Twin Points Wayside. To reach it, from Gooseberry Falls State Park head north on Hwy. 61. At mile marker 43, turn right/southwest into one of the two parking lots, which offers ample space.

South to Gooseberry Falls
Heading southwest on the trail should start with a quick walk to the boat launch at the southwest parking lot’s end. From the launch, you can access Twin Points Public Access Beach. The lot and beach used to be the sight of a Lake Superior resort.

The Gitchi-Gami can be picked up at the driveway entering the lots. Go left/southwest on the trail, which for the next 0.57 miles or so hugs the highway.

It then swerves southeast to a quieter, wooded area away from the highway. When the trail curves southwest again, watch for and take one of the dirt paths heading southeast; these lead to Thompson Beach, which stretches a little under a quarter mile along Lake Superior.

About 0.5 miles after leaving Hwy. 61, the Gitchi-Gami rejoins it. That spot marks a good spot to head back. Alternately, you can continue walking to Gooseberry Falls State Park, whose parking lot is 1.18 miles ahead with one of the Upper Falls along the way.

North to West Split Rock River
Alternately, from Twin Points, the trail can be hiked north to Split Rock Lighthouse State Park’s West Split Rock River (a little more than 4-miles round trip).

From the northern parking lot, head right/northeast onto the wooded trail. The route immediately passes a connector trail to Iona’s Beach, whose pink rock shoreline warrants a trip all on its own.

In a quarter mile from the parking lot, the trail again runs alongside Hwy. 61. About 0.3 miles later, it comes right up to Lake Superior. This narrow spot marks a good spot to turn back.

Alternately, you can continue walking northeast to Split Rock State Park. The Split Rock Wayside is in about 0.9 miles.

Corundum Mine Trail
Another fascinating segment of the Gitchi-Gami State Trail north of Gooseberry Falls is the Corundum Mine Trail. Lake Superior can be enjoyed along Split Rock Point via a 1.8-mile round trip.

Park at the Minn. Hwy. 61 wayside immediately before Split Rock River; cross the highway and join the Gitchi-Gami State Trail that goes over the river. After the bridge, take the first trail heading right/southeast, then follow the connector trail overlooking Crazy Bay.

Learn about more day hiking trails at and near Gooseberry Falls State Park in my Day Hiking Trails of Gooseberry Falls State Park guidebook.