North Country National Scenic Trail

The North Country Trail is the longest National Scenic Trail in the United States. It travels 4600 miles through America’s heartland and stretches across seven states from New York to North Dakota. In Minnesota it uses the Border Route, Kekekabic and Superior Hiking Trails to cross the state.

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A spring hike led by North Country Trail volunteers

A spring hike led by North Country Trail volunteers


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Along the Trail

The North Country Trail enters Minnesota near Jay Cooke State Park and follows the Superior Hiking Trail for 280 miles up the North Shore. It then shares another 65 miles with the Border Route Trail and follows the US/Canadian border in far northern Minnesota. At the Gunflint Trail hikers will pick up the Kekekabic Trail and head west toward Ely, MN. From there, the North Country Trail follows roads and the paved Mesabi Trail to Remer, MN, where it continues as an off road trail into Walker, MN and travels through the Chippewa National Forest and Itasca State Park.

Hiking Itasca State Park's quiet side on the North Country Trail

Hiking Itasca State Park’s quiet side

The route then turns south along the Laurentian Divide and brings hikers to the Hubbel Pond Wildlife Management Area. From there, the NCT travels to Fergus Falls, mostly on roads, then heads west to the Minnesota/North Dakota Border.
The trail is maintained by volunteers who put in tens of thousands of hours a year to expand, maintain and improve the route and keep bridges, signs and shelters in good condition.

Trail heads are well marked and feature maps on the North Country Trail

Trail heads are well marked and feature maps

Suggested Day Hikes

Fergus Falls Prairie Tour: 6 Miles

Hike one way from Red Sox Park to the Prairie Wetlands Learning Center. Continue to Fergus Falls’ wilder side along the Otter Tail River, through One Mile Prairie Nature Area, alongside the Central Lakes State Trail, through Delagoon Park, and across the Prairie Wetlands Learning Center. Return following the signed 4-mile “Urban Connector” route through downtown Fergus Falls.

Habitat Hike: 8 Miles

Hike from the State Hwy 34 trailhead (nine miles east of Detroit Lakes) north across the Hubbel Pond Wildlife Management Area and Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge to the Pine Lake parking area trailhead. This hike features a crossing of the Otter Tail River, an overlook of the historic log driving channel and large wetland complexes.

Itasca's Old Growth Pines: 6.4 Miles

A one-way hike from the South entrance/ US Hwy. 71 trailhead to the Gartner Farm/540th Avenue trailhead. Enjoy the quiet side of Itasca State Park and pass through old-growth pine forests and by several scenic back country lakes.

Laurentian Divide: 4.8 Miles

A one-way along the Continental Divide that separates the Red River of the North from the Mississippi River. Start at Elbow Lake Road trailhead and hike to State Hwy 113. Additional miles can be added north of Hwy 113 to take in some great views from atop the divide.

Itasca Moraine Chain of Lakes: 8 Miles

A one-way hike from the County Road 4 trailhead north of Emmaville to the County Road 91 trailhead south of Lake George. Pass by and between 25 lakes in the Paul Bunyan State Forest and its mixture of hardwood forests.

Lake Loops: 2.7 Miles

Hike a combination of the two interconnected loops around these two lakes or hike Nelson Lake (1.5 miles) and Lake Twentyone (1.6 miles) separately. Parking and access is at Lake Twentyone Day Use Area in the Paul Bunyan State Forest. Find a State Forest campground and a picnic area on Lake Twentyone.

Waboose Lake Loop: 4 Miles

Hike 4 miles around the Waboose Lake Loop trail starting at the Waboose Lake public access and trailhead north of Nevis in the Paul Bunyan State Forest. See old growth pines and enjoy many outstanding views of the lake and resident wildlife on this trail.

Chippewa National Forest: 10 Miles

Hike 10 miles one way from the Forest Road 3790 trailhead to the trailhead at the fourth crossing of the Woodtick Trail (Forest Road 2107). Along the way, you’ll pass by beautiful Gut Lake, through pine plantations and mixed hardwood-conifer forests, and past Moccasin Lake. This is a long day hike or an overnight hike with two fabulous back country campsites.

Milton Lake Esker: 2.9 Miles

This is a 2.9-mile out and back trip from the Milton Lake public access and trailhead north of Remer. Hike along the top of an esker, a snakelike gravel ridge remnant of the glacier, with beautiful old growth pines and hardwoods.

Forest History Center: 2.8 Miles

Hike out and back 2.8 mi. along the future North Country Trail route, a paved multi-use trail on the outskirts of Grand Rapids. Start at the Forest History Center and hike to Sylvan Point on an interpretive spur trail before reaching the city’s trailhead in southwest Grand Rapids.

Kawishiwi Falls: 0.8 Miles

This is a short hike with a grand view. Hike out and back for a 0.8-mile round trip to the 70-foot tall Kawishiwi Falls from the trailhead parking area on County Road 18 (Fernberg Road), four miles northeast of Ely. This trail, a joint project of the Minnesota DNR and Minnesota Power, will be included in the future North Country Trail route.

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