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.

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
1 month 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.

hiking
1 month ago

There are numerous trails for walking, a foot bridge that crosses over the Leaf River. There is an interesting section of one of the trails that goes over a swamp on sections of docking. There are signs along the trails that help identify the trees and signs that tell you about the many historic sites along the trails. The trails are all well kept up. Super park to take a hike!!

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
2 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.

backpacking
2 months ago

A friend and I just completed this trail last weekend. Of course, we had to pick one of the hottest of the year, but we found plenty of water to soak in and drink.
Went in at 1:30 p.m. on Friday and out by Sunday, 8:20 p.m. and it was pretty grueling. Both of us wanted to be out before Memorial Day so the pressure was on to complete it.
My description of this trail is: 1) wet; 2) obstructed with, I believe, the '99 blow down disaster; 3) remote, after Shell Lake; 4) easily followed, and 5) a wonderful challenge!
I want to thank everyone who worked on getting the trees cut and moved after the blow down. There is still some work needed, but it is still an awesome trail.

I suggest taking extra days to sit and enjoy the sites in this area. We saw a snapping turtle, two Great Blue Herons who seemed to follow us along, numerous moose, wolf, and bear signs, a variety of toads, a leopard frog, our state flower, the ladyslipper, and other various early season wildflowers.

Enjoy!

backpacking
2 months ago

Awesome trail loop! My daughter and I loved crossing the beavers dam. Yes it is part of the trail and plan on getting your feet wet. Went on May 19th of 2018 and bugs were almost non existent and no ticks. Weather was perfect also. Trail could use some better signage. Totally recommend a compass and good paper map. Met two people who thought the gps on their phone would work back there but they ended up going back. Lots of ups and downs so plan on a work out. Beautiful place look forward to going back.

This trail has been re opened during the summer of 2017. contact the US Forest service Kawishiwi District in Ely for current conditions.

Wonderful hike, great views and and nice little camp by Bear Lake. Been here a few times, winter camp here is extraordinary.

Beautiful run and a beautiful moose to cap off the day at Sonju Lake.

Great hike, stayed at Gut lake! Very nice scenery along the trail!

Modérate hike with wonderful views. Spring sun was wonderful

Incredible view of the lakes! Awesome hike.

Nice little suburban trail - very underused but kept up nicely. On a few spots you can see a road or some houses, but for the most part it is private and has lots of different types of trees and scenery. Almost makes you forget you are in a city. The loops are broken up into 3 trails so you can mix and match depending on how long you want to hike or how much time you have. There is a park at the trailhead with parking and portable stalls. My kids enjoy this one, pretty relaxing hike. Good spot to see some wildlife. Occasionally you will see some bikers on the trail but everyone has been respectful. I have gone back a few times, it's a nice little hike.

Amazing views and great way to spend a day or overnight.

We actually did a loop starting with the Humpback Trail then connected with the Manitou River Trail campsite #6 is a great place to stop and have a snack... great rock to rest on...campsite number 10 is perfectly beautiful...the trail is rugged... sometimes it just disappears and you have to bushwhack your own path.. climbing over trees and under or whatever in between...
I think about campsite #12 we took off on the Matt Willis Trail and continued onto the Lake Benson trail around the west side of the lake... once you get to this trail it’s a piece of cake a boardwalk all the way around the lake until you get to the road which takes you back to the parking lot. The trail is moderately hard just because the footing is difficult... ferns cover the path sometimes waist high,(so you can’t always see where your foot is going)ground was pretty moist, slippery uneven rocky trail... otherwise not too difficult... went the end of June we had a perfect weather window... it started raining as we left... we had the place to ourselves

backpacking
9 months ago

Just finished the loop this past weekend for 4 days,3 nights. Went with the same 2 guys as before. Could easily have made it 2 nights (hike out the last day instead of staying right near the fork). The trail was in excellent condition. I had a Fenix 5x gps watch and map/compass. Note the devils cascade site was occupied by canoers, something I'm guessing happens quite a bit.

We hiked this section in August from Lutsen down to Temperance River State Park. Our journey included Oberg Mountain and Carleton Peak over 2 days. Great views of Lake Superior from various points along the route. More elevation change along this section than most anywhere else along the SHT.

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