Saturday, April 16, 2016

Trail heads to rocky summit on North Shore

Humpback Trail, courtesy Minnesota DNR.
Map of Humpback Trail, courtesy Minnesota DNR.

Humpback Trail runs 4.6 miles
at Crosby Manitou State Park

Day hikers can enjoy grand views of the surrounding forestland atop an ancient, rocky knoll on the Humpback Trail along Minnesota’s North Shore.

The entire trail runs 4.6-miles round trip at George H. Crosby Manitou State Park, but a shorter 1.2-mile round trip segment of it is all that’s needed for the best vistas. Autumn is an excellent time to hike the trail as the leaves are lit in gold and red harvest colors.

To reach the trailhead, from Silver Bay take Minn. Hwy. 61 north. Turn left/northwest onto Minn. Hwy. 1. In Finland, turn right/northeast onto Minn. Hwy. 7/Cramer Road. In about eight miles, Hwy. 7 reaches the park entry road; turn right/southeast onto it. Follow the road to its end where it loops back on itself. Use the parking lot there.

The trail leaves from the lot’s west side into a hardwood forest of birch and maple. Be careful not to take the Superior Hiking Trail, whose trailhead is in the lot’s northeast corner.

For 0.6 miles, the rugged trail rambles to a summit at 1560-feet elevation. It’s one of several bedrock knobs – known as humpbacks – that can be found in the park.

The knobs, which do faintly look like whale’s back, are made up of diorite. The erosion-resistant rock formed when magma beneath the earth’s surface cooled and crystallized. Eons of rain, freezing and thawing, wind and glaciers have exposed these rocks.

The summit offers an impressive vista of the Finland State Forest to the west and is a great spots to watch a sunset. If doing that romantic hike, be sure to carry flashlights for the hike back as the dense tree cover will limit moonlight.

If you have some extra energy, the trail heads for another mile to the Manitou River. There, it splits in two. Going north takes you 0.4 miles (0.8-miles round trip) to another knob just below 1400 feet that offers a great view of the river. Heading south is a 0.3 miles (0.6-miles round trip) to the river’s shores.

The Manitou River runs 25 miles from Delay Lake, descending 1351 feet before spilling into Lake Superior. Brook and rainbow trout can be found in the river.

No matter at which point you stop the hike, after taking in the views, retrace your steps back to the parking lot.

Learn more about nearby day hiking trails in my Day Hiking Trails of Northeast Minnesota guidebook.