Explore the most popular backpacking trails in Minnesota with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

backpacking
18 days ago

Great Trail, Great Views

Moderate hike where you get to walk through some beautiful Minnesota North woods and also peer over cliffs on these two beautiful lakes. We camped at bear lake campground and will be back!

My brother an I spent about three days on the trail and loved it. It's definitely not for the faint hearted. With the various elevation changes, make sure you've got a good pair of hiking shoes/boots that are snug and won't move on you much. You'll get blisters pretty quick on this one if they're loose.

hiking
29 days ago

I did a solo hike of the trail in August and it kicked my butt. I am a moderately experienced BWCA paddler but had never done a hiking trip let alone a solo trip. However, I did a ton of research and felt quite prepared. It was very reassuring to read Christine's review below. Everything Christine said echoes how I felt. I planned on a 3 night stay hoping to stay on Hustler and Pageant Lake. This hike completely broke me down. I also got lost at the same point she turned around but luckily found the trail after searching for 30 min..it was so easy, how could you not find it?? ;) Anywho, by the time I got to Shell lake I could barely move. I continued past the first site along the trail on the western shores because it felt like such an unwelcoming site - essentially a huge rock slab with no shade. I ended up bushwhacking my way to the NE site below Little Shell. It was a decent site but faced the bay and could not see the sunset. This only worsened my low morale. I spent the night and booked it out of there right away the next morning. I didn't have any desire to continue on this overgrown trail. I think I'll stick to paddling or trying this later in the season when the leaves have fallen.

Do your research before doing this hike and purchase All Trails Pro version. It saved my butt and honestly was the only way to get through some areas. Check out my page if you want to see my path - it varied a bit from what's posted here. Cheers and happy hiking!

Definitely a challenging trail. We hiked in late September when foggy and overcast so have to trust that views are great. Some very steep, rocky and technical (you better look where you’re stepping before you step) sections, especially at manitou river. Great camp sites along the way. No problem finding water sources along trail. It was a real workout but a fabulous experience.

Rocky but lovely. We’re were there late September when overcast and tail still fairly muddy but doable. Fantastic views as others have noted. A few spots where signage could have been clearer. Would definitely do it again! Rocky footing with some ups and downs.

Hiked just after the fresh snowfall and it was absolutely beautiful. You feel like you’re in a winter wonderland. Highly recommend the trail in all seasons.

Just did this as a short trip last weekend, one day in / one day out. We camped at one of the two sites at Bear Lake and had the place all to ourselves. Highly recommend weeknight camping- we passed many parties heading out as we were hiking in Sunday night. It’s as muddy as everyone says, but worth it. The fall colors are stunning and the overlooks along the way surprised me. I wouldn’t camp any later than mid-October... it was real chilly when we weren’t moving and snow covered the ground when we woke up. Definitely a MN gem.

I loved this hike. I was my first hike on the Northshore. I felt like this was rugged yet not hard. My dog did well. The views of this trail are amazing.

hiking
3 months ago

Great trail for day or weekend hike. Great rocky overlooks on both sides of angleworm lake. # of hikers can be moderate to heavy on early fall weekends to view beautiful fall colors.

We had a fantastic time last October. Had to cut it down to one night since there was more snow than we were expecting and the ground was not yet frozen.

backpacking
4 months ago

Great trail. Completed the loop counter-clockwise and camped for a night at the Whiskey Jack campsite. The trail was not very difficult to follow and was moderate to hard in difficulty. I will definitely hike this trail again.

$7 permit
Plenty of parking spots at the trail head. Varied terrain with decent uphill and downhill paths.

hiking
4 months ago

Two friends and I attempted to do the Sioux Hustler Trail this summer, July 29-Aug 1. Two of us are very experienced backpackers, having done other trails in the BWCA, several trips on Isle Royale, the Superior Hiking Trail, and parts of the Appalachian trail. The third member of our group is a BWCA frequent flier, but hasn't done much backpacking. The Sioux Hustler Trail turned out to be one of the worst experiences of our lives.

We met at the trailhead around noon, got all our gear situated, intending to spend 3 nights on the trail, and set out on the path. The trail was severely over grown. After about a half mile, the trail takes a 90 degree left turn, but we missed that and continued on what we THOUGHT was the trail for almost 3/4 of a mile until it turned into nothing. We finally got out our GPS to consult and realized we were more than a half mile off trail. We stamped back to the trail and after an hour wasted, continued on.

After about a mile, the trail opens up to what looks like a horrible burn/tornado/beaver mess. Trees down EVERYWHERE, rocks EVERYWHERE, no trail to be seen. After a few minutes we realized that there were some faded red and orange flags on a few trees and started following them. I want to be clear that this was not easy. We would struggled our way hundreds of yards across boulders and downed trees to get to a red flag and then spend 20 minutes looking for the next flag, and repeat repeat repeat for like 2 hours until we finally emerged on the other side and back onto the "trail."

We suffered on in silence for like another 2 hours through the buggiest hike of my life. I usually am not bothered by mosquitos, but on this hike I was slathered in Sawyer Picardin and DEET and still had thousands of bites. The backs of my upper arms were bitten so many times that the bites merged together into swollen masses on the whole backs of my arms.

Finally, we came to this bridge over a small creek that was clearly marked with an arrow like, "you should cross here." Immediately after crossing the creek, the trail disappeared into nothing. Seriously, the three of us tramped around in every direction for more than hour and never found anything resembling a trail. This wasn't even to the intersection yet. We had suffered through about 4 miles in more than 5 hours and had completely lost the trail. We were all miserable and demoralized and had no desire to continue on this horrible trail for 3 more days. We decided if we high tailed it out of there, we could get back to our cars before sunset.

We sprinted as fast as one can sprint with backpacks on...through the worst trail of my life. So it was still really slow going. Made it out after about 3 hours. My legs looked like I had gone through a wood chipper. We all had tears and holes in our clothes and were bleeding from several locations each. We had all been bitten more than ever in our lives. The trail completely broke my spirit for backpacking. It had been a dream of mine to one day hike the AT or PCT and after this demoralizing day I never wanted to look at a backpack again.

It has been more than a month now and my legs are finally starting to look normal. While I do want to go on more backpacking trips in my life, I think I will steer clear of the BWCA again unless it's in a canoe. The Sioux Hustler trail, at least during mid summer, is, in my opinion, completely impassable. I have read all the other reviews on here and I have no clue how anyone could ever describe this trail as "excellent" or "easy to follow." How are we even talking about the same trail?? Do not attempt the Sioux Hustler Trail unless you enjoy being lost in the wilderness while being eaten alive.

Great trail. Decent amount of elevation change for a MN State Park. Trails are marked very well.

This section of the SHT features great overlooks inland to Bean and Bear lakes. It’s a lovely stretch of the trail that makes a nice day hike or short overnight backpack. The trail is pretty rugged with lots of up and down, but the views are worth the effort. If you decide to camp at Bear Lake be advised that summer weekends it fills up quickly and there are only two spots on the lake that have decent space for a tent. A few hammock spots. There are a couple of flat spots up on the hill past the latrine as well. But if you get there early enough it’s a great place to camp. You won’t necessarily have solitude, but a post hike swim in this lovely lake is pretty glorious.

It’s about 7 miles round trip. Took us about 4 hours with breaks. It’s a very rocky trail but it’s worth it for those views.

Went from co rd 50 into Shingobee Rec area and back. Great trail! Clean and not overgrown but small enough and still gives that natural feeling. Bugs weren’t bad (middle August). Never saw another person.

Great hike with beautiful views. I think it was a little closer to 7 miles but still great. Once you get to bear lake, you can choose to take a different trail back or you can take the same trail. It is the same distance either way. We chose to do out and back on the same trail. I would recommend bringing a lunch with on this hike if you don’t plan to spend the night. When you factor in taking pictures, lunch and a few short breaks along the way, this hike took us about 5 hours total. If it’s hot out bring lots of water. Overall, this is the coolest hike I have done on the north shore. Would absolutely recommend.

The views were amazing. The lakes are crystal clear. This trail is a high moderate or a low difficult. There are a lot of elevation gain and decent, rocks, and muddy trails.

It was a challenging but it’s worth it! The view of the Manitou River was beautiful.

We repeat - rugged not tough! Worth hiking to the overlook at Bear Lake. You won’t be disappointed. Rocky - wear good shoes. It was dry for us, but other times of the year it looks like a lot of mud. A “can’t miss” in the area for anyone who loves a good trail.

backpacking park

backpacking
6 months ago

I did a solo backpack loop in a clockwise direction over 3 days/2 nights (Saturday, 5/26 to Monday, 5/28). Unbelievably burly trail. I have hiked in many wild places in this country (lots of off-trail climbing and camping in the Rockies) and this is arguably the most challenging backpacking trip I have ever been on!

Day 1: The first 6 miles or so from the trail head to Devil's Cascade are well-traveled and easy to follow. All crossings over beaver dams were very easy to negotiate; the footing was firm and there was no doubt about the best way to navigate these crossings. They were some annoying downed logs/trees and wet trail crossings to deal with, but nothing too cumbersome. After a nice lunch at the spacious campground perched high above Devil's Cascade, I had some difficulty re-locating the trail (it veers off to the north just prior to the Pauness-Shell Portage Trail), and for the next stretch the trail was much more overgrown and harder to follow. At times, the path was very faint, but it was still relatively easy to follow. The amount of downfall increased substantially and travel was slow all the way to my first campsite on the rocky shores of Pageant Lake. I spent a lovely, calm evening there all to my lonesome. I was visited by pairs of commons loons and trumpeter swans while at the lake.

Day 2: This day just about broke me. Generally speaking, the trail from Pageant Lake to Shell Lake was plagued by downfall and countless wet, swampy, boggy areas. On this 12 mile stretch of trail, I counted nearly 100 trees that required some amount of effort to detour around, under, or over (this does not include the countless amount of smaller trees that obstructed the trail but were easy to step over). It was critical to pay attention to the narrow trail under your feet and to look for sawed logs (the only real "trail marker" that is identifiable with any regularity) to ensure I was on route! All of the beaver dam crossings were dry and very straightforward. One of the bogs was especially precarious to cross; I'm glad I didn't slip in because I fear I might still be wrestling to get my leg free from the muck! There were lots of ups and downs along the way, and many of the rocky rises had patches of pink lady's slipper on them! I passed 2 groups along the way (I presume they were to NurseMatt 116 and Beth Huplia, see their reviews below) and altogether this 12 mile stretch took me over 9.5 hours of trail time. Hot, humid, buggy conditions only made travel more challenging. I spent the second night at the canoeing site on Shell Lake (near the Shell-Little Shell portage). Very spacious site that could definitely host a large party.

Day 3: I hit the trail at 7am and hiked more-or-less straight out along the shore of Shell Lake to the main trail junction south of Devil's Cascade. From there, it was an easy hike back out to the trail head. It took about 4.5 hours for me to cover the last 8 miles or so.

Altogether, this trail is extremely rugged and not for the faint of heart. If you are looking for solitude with a multitude of camping options, look no further. I would not recommend this trail to a beginning backpacker, as the lack of signs, ample amount of downfall, and remoteness of the loop make this more appropriate for experienced backpackers only. Kudos to whatever amazing people conduct infrequent maintenance on this trail... when you see some of the huge sawed logs and take into consideration how far they are from a motor vehicle, it's virtually unthinkable to imagine the effort it takes to clear this route!

The damage from severe weather a year prior is still apparent. The trail is extremely rough due to this and I do not suggest trying unless you are an expert hiker. A friend and me tried this hike and got half way and could not continue due to harsh terrain.

Amazing hike! Beautiful nature walk all the way up to the view of Bean Lake. The view of Bean Lake was SPECTACULAR. Very beautiful, with plenty of spots to stop and take it all in. If you continue to Bear Lake there is a nice spot to check out right on the water, where you could swim if you wanted. There were quite a few muddy spots, like others mentioned but it was doable. We wore tennis shoes, which was fine but you’d have no problem if you are wearing hiking boots. Definitely recommend this hike!

Skip the hike you were thinking about and hit this one instead. Rugged but not tough.

Excellent trail and one that I found surprisingly challenging. Be prepared for plenty of bugs and rugged terrain. Beautiful and secluded.

Great hike with amazing views at the end. We went at the beginning of June and when we decided to go all the way down by the waters edge of Bear lake, there were quite a few gardener snakes (like 8-10 in one small area), just a little helpful FYI for anyone who is particularly afraid of snakes.

backpacking
7 months ago

I was in a group of 7 that did this trail counter-clockwise. We did this trail over 4 days and 3 nights-Day 1: 6 miles, Day 2: 10 miles, Day 3: 10 miles, and Day 4: 6 miles approximately. Overall the views were incredible—no doubt about that. However, the trails were very poorly maintained and even hard to follow at times. The area definitely caters way more to people who are using canoes. The campsites were very beautiful, but the trails to get there were absolutely exhausting. There was a ton of mud and downed trees that were not removed away from the trail. BE SURE TO TAKE A BUG NET WITH YOU. BE SURE TO TAKE EXTRA SOCKS. THIS TRAIL IS NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART.

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