Sunday, January 31, 2016

Beach, forest walks await in Two Harbors

The Silver Creek Cliff Segment of the Gitchi-Gami trail runs on old Minn.
Hwy. 61 roadbed north of Two Harbors. 
Many visitors to Two Harbors, Minn. – the first major city on the Minnesota North Shore after leaving Duluth – think the only great sights of nature to enjoy are those at Gooseberry Falls and Split Rock Lighthouse state parks. There are plenty of fantastic outdoors sights to see before ever reaching those parks, though.

Among the best trails in and around Two Harbors (not including the state parks) are:
Flood Bay Beach – The crescent-shaped, agate-laden beach with a panoramic view of Lake Superior runs about 0.9-miles round trip if walking from the parking lot to one end of it then to the other end and back to the lot. About a mile north of town on Minn. Hwy. 61, between mileposts 27 and 28, look for signs to the wayside/beach and turn right/east into the parking lot.
Kelsey Beach Trail – This gem is one of the North Shore’s best kept secrets. Less than a couple of hundred feet in distance, the cobblestone beach sits at the mouth of the Stewart River as it flows into Lake Superior. To reach the trailhead, from Two Harbors take Hwy. 61 north; immediately past the Stewart River Bridge, turn right/southeast into the parking lot.
Knife River Rest Area Trail – Day hikers can amble across billion-year-old rock along a river’s edge at the Knife River Rest Area. To reach the Knife River Rest Area Trail, take Hwy. 61 south from Two Harbors. After milepost 18, exit to the left and double back to a parking area. The trail runs about 250-feet round trip.
Gitchi-Gami Trail, Silver Creek Cliff Segment – The 1-mile round trip trail makes use of the Old Hwy. 61 roadbed and offers a 4000-foot vista of Lake Superior. Park at the Silver Creek Wayside Park and walk south/west to the western end of Silver Creek Cliff.
Lake County Demonstration Forest Trail – About four miles of trails on an equal number of stacked loops can be found in the county forest. Parking and a trailhead are off of County Road 131/Drummond Grade at 2.7 miles from County Road 124/Holm Road.
Lighthouse Point Trail – The rugged 1-mile trail runs along a rocky coast and through a cedar grove on a point separating Agate and Burlington bays. Start at the southern end of the Agate Bay Beach parking lots and turn back upon reaching the junction with the Sonju (aka Two Harbors Lake Walk) Trail.
Sonju Trail – A number of great sights – a trio of Great Lakes docks, wildlife including white-tailed deer, and a lakeside pine forest – await hikers on the Sonju. Perhaps the most impressive part of the trail is the rock beach overlooking Burlington Bay. The paved bicycle and walking trail runs from Paul Van Hoven Park through Lakeview Park for about 2.4-miles round trip.
Superior Hiking Trail, Camp Creek to Encampment River segment – The 4.5-mile round trip trail through a fragrant evergreen forest connects Crow Creek and the Encampment River south of Gooseberry Falls State Park. The trailhead is on Lake County Hwy. 106/W. Castle Danger Road north of Hwy. 61; at the Castle Danger Trailhead parking lot, go west and cross Hwy. 106.
Superior Hiking Trail, McCarthy Creek segment – The 6.2-mile round trip trail heads through a sugar maple and a balsam fir forest. The parking lot off of County Road 261/Rossini Road; head east to the McCarthy Creek crossing.
Superior Hiking Trail, Wolf Rock segment – Day hikers can enjoy impressive views of Lake Superior on the 1-mile round trip. It generally is considered one of the Superior Hiking Trail’s most visually dramatic sections. Use the same lot as for the SHT's Camp Creek to Encampment River segment.
Two Harbors Breakwall – You can head about a third of a mile (0.66-miles round trip) into Agate Bay along the breakwall. Park in the lots for Agate Bay Beach at the end of Third Street.

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