Centennial Hiking Trail
Some of you may remember an earlier post from this summer about the new Centennial Hiking Trail. It isn’t every day the USFS decides to clear an entirely new trail through the forest so it is with great enthusiasm when I say there is a new trail in town! Actually, it’s on the Gunflint Trail but it doesn’t sound right to say there’s a new trail on the Trail.
The Centennial Hiking Trail is accessed via the Kekekabik Hiking Trail. The Kek Trail is an interesting trail because of its rich or not so rich history of mining. The area was explored during the 1800’s in search of iron complete with a railroad built courtesy of the Port Arthur Duluth and Western Railway Company. It’s difficult to imagine how anyone could choose a path for a railroad with all of the obstacles in our wilderness canoe country.
Iron was found in the region but unfortunately mining on the Gunflint Trail was not to be. The quality of iron wasn’t as high of a grade as iron found elsewhere on the Iron Range. It wasn’t as easily accessible as other sources either and combined with tough economic times for investors in the area mining would not continue for long. The book Pioneers in the Wilderness by Willis H. Raff has a complete history of the hows and whys of the railroad and mining on the Gunflint Trail for those who are interested.
The USFS in Grand Marais, MN will be producing an interpretive piece to go along with the Kek and Centennial Hiking Trail so future hikers can learn about the history of the trail. There’s a trail to the location of an old fire tower and several spur trails to mine test pits along the Kek itself.
Some of you may remember the women who got lost on the Kek Trail last year. Have no fear as this portion of the Kek is very easy to follow and even has planks and signs as it is not in the Boundary Waters. Making the new portion of the Centennial Trail was made easier by the use of fire line making techniques. The explosives worked quite well to blaze the trail and getting lost should not be of anyone’s concern.
The Kekekabik Hiking Trail is accessed via the Gunflint Trail around mile marker 47. Are there even mile markers on the Gunflint Trail? It’s about 47 miles from Grand Marais and 10 miles from the end of the Gunflint Trail. To get to the bridge where the Centennial Hiking Trail begins it is a 1.3 mile hike. The trail then winds back toward the Gunflint Trail via vistas and eventually the Round Lake Road out to the Gunflint Trail for a total of 3.3 miles I believe.
The Centennial Hiking Trail provides a great loop hike for those who don’t like to cover the same territory twice. It’s a great addition to the already wonderful hiking Trails found on the Gunflint Trail. A big thank you to the USFS folks who worked on making the Centennial Trail a reality.