Minnesota's Most Famous Historic Trail
With a beautiful 2018 year behind us we look forward to another new year with this beautiful trail.This trail is becoming more popular in the winter, with folks putting aside there roof rakes and reaching for their snow boots.When it comes to Minnesota trails for the avid hiking individual,cross county ski trails.This is one of Minnesota's best hiking trail.
This winter has been a little more aggressive,and trail conditions have probably varied week to week,or what ever weather front decides to move in to dump another load of snow on us.The cross country skiers must love this weather,except for the brutal cold fronts of course.So make sure you call head up that way,and ask for the local conditions,and as far as ground cover goes.
The Willard Munger Trail is a system of trails between Hinckley Mn and Duluth Mn.There are 3 parts of this trail we'll discuss below.
The Hinckley to Duluth Trail (Part of the Willard Munger System)
This is the most popular part of the trail,that is a paved path that starts in Hinckley and goes north-east to Duluth.This is one of the longest trails in the world,that is a 63 mile paved stretch of path.From start to finish,you'll travel through alot of communities on this one,including Willow River,Moose Lake,Barnum, and Historic Carlton then obviously ending in Duluth.
Sure would be cool if they allowed camping along the trail,but then at the same time the peace & beauty of the trail itself,could end up on a sour note itself,and most likely was thinking if the trail was solely mine,because when thinking about it,I wouldn't want stroller byes going by my camp,nor encountering a goofy camper while enjoying the trail..:)
This trail even goes through a couple parks,and many pack for their journey while hiking it,or perhaps biking/rollerblading and camp out at Jay Cooke State Park,or bike over to Banning State Park,and rest up for the night before hitting the trail again in the morning.It's also nice having a couple places to camp along the trail,encase rainy weather moves in,that we're all use to up this way.
The most beautiful part of this trail system would have to be between Carlton and Duluth,and it's about a 15 mile stretch that is absolutely breath taking beautiful.The dense forests,the rock bluffs,and formations make some great photos to take,and have a memory of your experience while exploring this part of the trail system.So make sure you bring a camera along.Some great views of Lake Superior as well.
Many ask themselves what was the historical purpose of this trail,because it's pretty obvious that at one time,this could have been an old railroad sytem. We'll they are right.
This old railroad line was once originally part of the St Paul & Duluth Railroad.Iron Ore,including loads of lumber were hauled to be shipped out from the Duluth Harbors.As time went on,new railroad systems were created,and other means of shipping came into play,that was probably more affordable at the time,and a railroad that was once a vital organ of the wilds of Northern Minnesota became obsolete.
This trail system was named in honor of Willard Munger
Willard Munger was a state legislator who devoted his legislative career to trail development and environmental protection from 1954 until his death in 1999.He was a real pioneer at the time who cared about the wilderness of Minnesota,and wanted to preserve its beauty.A true Minnesota hero,and a trail system deserving of his name.
Let us discuss another trail segment of the Willard Munger Trail-->
Alex Laveau Memorial Trail
This part of the trail system got its named,and was named in honor of Alex Laveau. He was a former county commissioner who advocated reusing abandoned railways as recreational trails,which was a great idea at the time.Especially the old abandoned railroad systems of Northern Minnesota that cut right through some of the most beautiful wilderness in Minnesota.
This part of the trail system connects Carlton County,and the historic town of Wrenshall,and also runs just south of Jay Cooke State Park,and ends at State Highway 23.This is a great trail for bikes,and Rollerblade folk to explore some of the outskirts of the Duluth neighborhoods.
Now another part of the trail system worth mentioning->
The Boundary Segment
The Boundary Segment runs along Minnesota's eastern boundary as the name implies. Chengwatana is its starting point,and it runs northeasternly along the St Croix River,then on through the St Croix State Park.
This is also a very beautiful part of the trail system,that is breath taking beautiful as it winds its way into the St Croix State Forest, then heading north through the Nemadji State Forest,then ending near Holyoke.
This is a great trail for mountain biking,horseback riding,and is really taken advantage of in the winter months for snowmobiling.I wouldn't really paln on hiking on this trail,though most parts you can,just when planning a solid day of hiking.Some sections of it can be a tad wet in the spring/summer/and fall months.However a person does get some great seclusion while hiking this trail,because it's not overly used much in the warmer months.
So there you have it,and have a good understanding what the Willard Munger State Trail system is all about.I think most all have seen signs while traveling in the northern part of Minnesota,mentioning this trail,and access points.If you're interested in exploring this trail,then check out the Minnesota DNR website,that will give you a tad bit of more information,but more importantly some good maps to make planning you hike a lot easier,then driving around looking for access points and believe me,there are 100's of access points to this trail system,so do a bit of investigating and find an access that works for you.
Here is a map from the Minnesota DNR that will give you some good ideas where to access this trail.
Plans are in the works for future shelters but the winter months may not be taken care of unless volunteers are gathered to use snow roof rakes on the shelters. With snow and winter on the way, this may be unavoidable for the 2017 season.
There is no better way to get a good taste of not only some of the history,but also some of the beauty that this part of the state has to offer. Some of the trail follows the route of the railroad,that saved many lives during Hinckley and Cloquet fires in the 19th century.So maybe on your way up to the trail,and if you pass through Hinckley,stop in and check out their fire museum,that has some interesting facts,and memories shared from those who experienced this devastation,that also happened to be a disaster for many in this part of the state.
The wildlife is another aspect of this trail you'll enjoy,not just if you're an avid bird watcher,but also the critters on all fours,that also use this trail.The dear,fox,black bear,and an occasional moose is not an uncommon site.
Oh,and make sure you bring some insect repellent,suntan lotion,and bottled water while out,and about on this historic trail system...:)