In 2019, as a very hectic year was winding down, I took the chance to spend some quality time by myself exploring part of the world I didn’t know very well: the Gunflint Trail. Over the course of two days, I hiked 11 trails accessible on or near the Gunflint Trail.
Most were short; my goal wasn’t a ton of mileage but rather just getting the feel for the place. As someone who didn’t grow up going to the Gunflint Trail, I’d never really bonded with that part of the world. I wanted to experience it by hiking, but not go overboard. Also, while I was hiking I came down with a gnarly cold, so I decided to try for some shorter options in favor of more rest. It was a good choice. And I drank a gallon of orange juice.
- Northern Lights Lake Trail, 1 mile
This hike is not what it might appear. Some maps show it as a loop, which I did not find to be true. Others show it going down to the lake itself, which I also could not find. It is possible both of these maps are correct and that the trail just needs maintenance. In the meantime, overall: not worth the trouble.
- Moose Viewing Trail, 1.2 miles
The only trail I’d done before, but in winter when I could hardly see anything. In truth, the old car is more interesting than any wildlife encounter you’re likely to have. Because it’s so short and easy, it’s worth hiking. You may not see a moose, but you’ll appreciate the car wreckage.
- Chik Wauk Big Sag Trail, 1 mile
My first visit to Chik Wauk was a stunner. The Big Sag Trail is fun, typical North Shore terrain, with great views and a feeling of remoteness.
- Chik Wauk Tamarack Trail, 0.25 mile
Short and sweet. I’m a sucker for Tamaracks.
- Chik Wauk Rubaboo Trail, 0.3 mi.
Possibly even more fun than Big Sag. Luckily, since they’re all short, you don’t have to choose.
- Trail’s End Nature Trail, 1.6 miles
Man, you have to somehow know this is there. There’s no convenient parking and no clear sign near the road. The kiosk below is very unhelpful and is geared towards those using the canoe landing. This is a worthy hike but it does kind of dead-end in the middle of nowhere. I’m not really sure why this trail exists.
- Gunflint Fire Tower Trail, 1.5 miles
Ethereal with a true destination at the end. Very fun to poke around and listen for ghosts of the past. Highly recommended.
- Centennial Trail, 3.3 miles
Best dayhike on the Gunflint? A stunning hike along past mining operations particularly on the Kekekabic part of the hike, great views, interesting remnants of history, and a past that can hardly be fathomed. Who would believe they put a train trestle where they did? Don’t hike this without the interpretive brochure. I’m not even an interpretive brochure kinda person, so this recommendation means a lot.
- Topper Lake, .6 mile
Entering into the BWCA to see Topper Lake from the south side. I’d only ever seen it from the north. Very nice trail. Decently maintained.
- Honeymoon Bluff, .3 mile
Excellent work-to-joy ratio. Great views. Short and sweet.
- Kimball Lake Trail, 2 miles
Requires maintenance but a beautiful loop around a scenic lake. Great campground. Perfect place to rest my head. Good timing, because I came down with a massive cold.