Kekekabic Trail is a 38 mile lightly trafficked loop trail located near Isabella, Minnesota that features a lake. The trail is rated as moderate and primarily used for hiking, birding, and snowshoeing. Dogs are also able to use this trail.
The Kekekabic Trail, constructed in the 1930s for forest management and fire protection, was named after it's original destination, Kekekabic Lake, which derives its name from the Ojibway word Kekequabic, meaning hawk-cliff lake. That lake is now located in the central portion of the trail. The fire towers along the original route were abandoned in the 1940s when airplanes came into use for fire surveillance. In the 1960s, with the increasing popularity of backpacking, the Kek was cleared and upgraded to a hiking trail, though use again dwindled after the Forest Service stopped maintaining it in 1982. In 1990, a newly-formed volunteer group called the Kekekabic Trail Club, with the support of the U.S.F.S., once again cleared the trail, removed 2,000 downed trees with axes and crosscut saws, and, using hand tools, rebuilt a bridge across the Agamok River. Most of this trail is located in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, so a permit is required for camping. The western terminus of the trail is east of Ely, MN, near Snowbank Lake. The eastern terminus is located on paved Gunflint Trail (That's a road.)
I have done the trail several times. West to east seems like the best way to go. One of the best times is early October when the bugs are gone and the days are cool. We did it last time hiking 3 miles in the first day. The second to the bridge at Agomok. The third at Strup Portage and the 4th night at Becosin. If you go save some time to go down to the range cabin at Kekagabic Lake. It was in great shape Oct of 15 when I did it last hand had zero issues staying on the trail. Compared to many of the northern sections of the SHT this is a not that hard in terms of ups and downs. It's best done with two parties leaving from opposite ends. You meet in the middle and exchange car keys. After doing the last 60 miles of the JMT this summer and going over Forrester Pass and Mt. Whitney, this is a piece of cake.
I haven't done the full trail in many years. like the post before me pointed out, this is not a loop trail. it starts at snowbank lake, ends at the far north end of the gunflint. whoever wrote this review should actually hike this trail and see how moderate it is. the comment before me said it's a 2 day hike. well it can be done in 2 days, why hike a trail at a force march? isn't part of the experience to enjoy the terrain and natural surroundings. I would allow a week to cover the distance. the scenery was incredible when I last did it but that was before the storm and fires changed it. the biggest tree in Minnesota is or was a huge white pine. there was also a black forest, I don't know if either survived.
This is not a loop trail and is not by Isabella. The trail is off the Gunflint Trail on the East end and by Snowbank Lake on the West end. If you are going to through hike the trail it is a 190 mile trip by car from one end to the other.
This is one of the hardest trails you will find not only in the BWCAW but anywhere. It will take most people 3 days to complete and plan on getting lost at least 3 times as there are sections of the trail that have gone completely wild. Parts of this trail are in fire need of some attention from the USFS but they just don't have the budget needed to maintain it. (Their story, not mine.)
If you want more info there is a very nice guide book available and although it is heavy and some details are slightly inaccurate it is water proof and designed to go with you on the trail.
I have hiked it twice East to West with a hiking partner who has done it more than 20 times. Yes we lost the trail more than once each time.