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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Tower area trails feature four seasons of fun

Jodi Summit
Posted 9/27/23

TOWER- The Tower-Soudan area is home to a remarkably wide variety of trails, and Wagoner Trail Club volunteer Mary Shedd gave a brief overview of all the them at the first Tower-Soudan Civic Club …

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Tower area trails feature four seasons of fun


TOWER- The Tower-Soudan area is home to a remarkably wide variety of trails, and Wagoner Trail Club volunteer Mary Shedd gave a brief overview of all the them at the first Tower-Soudan Civic Club meeting of the club’s ’23-’24 season.
“I want to let the world know about our wonderful trails,” said Shedd, a retired USFS biologist. Tower-Soudan sits at the intersection of many different types of trails, some which stretch for hundreds of miles, and some which just circle the community. Paved, natural surface (for hiking, OHV use, and horseback riding), groomed snow, and water trails await area adventurers, she said.
These trail systems are maintained by a huge number of volunteers belonging to multiple trail organizations, along with the city of Tower, Breitung Township, and the Department of Natural Resources.
Shedd’s talk centered on how to get the word out about the area trails, as well as highlighted future plans for connecting trails, creating new maps and online resources, and getting more residents and tourists out enjoying the area.
“Hundreds of people have been using the new Ancient Cedars Trail,” she said. The trail has about two miles of intersecting loops (all marked with color-coded blazes) and is also a perfect spot to snowshoe in the winter. The Pine Ridges trail, on the north side of the city, is more rugged but boasts spectacular overlooks onto Lake Vermilion. Future plans include adding a more level loop trail in that area, as well as connecting the trail to the paved trail at Hoodoo Point. The Wagoner Ski Trails have about 12 km of groomed classic cross-country trails, including a short loop trail that has newly-installed lights for night skiing. The trails are used in the off-season for hiking, hunting, and horseback riding. The Lake Vermilion Soudan Underground Mine State Park has hiking trails for all abilities, including trails that route through stands of huge old growth pines, and others with ridgetop overlooks to Lake Vermilion.
The area’s newest recreational route is a kayak trail, that directs kayakers, canoers, or paddleboarders from the East Two River, west to the West Two River, as well as east along the Lake Vermilion shoreline to Hoodoo Point, McKinley Park, and then to the newly-developed Lake Vermilion section of the state park. The kayak route has a designated access point/ parking lot on the East Two River, located just north of the Hwy. 169 bridge and accessible from a recent extension of Main Street. The launch includes a dock with an accessible kayak launch system set to be installed next year as well as a paved parking lot.
Paved trails include the Mesabi Trail (the Tower to Soudan section is currently being reconstructed). That trail stretches over 150 miles from the southwestern terminus in Grand Rapids to Ely. With this year’s completion of the Tower to Ely section, Tower is seeing a large increase in bicycle traffic.
Meanwhile, three major snowmobile trails connect in Tower, the Arrowhead, Iron Ore, and Taconite. And the newly-developed Prospector Trail system links Tower, Babbitt, and Ely, as well as connecting to other established OHV trails.
Shedd said the city’s comprehensive trail plan set goals for future trail development, and the plan has assisted the city in receiving grant monies for projects.
“The key goal is to actively promote trail use in our area,” Shedd said.
The city currently has funding to create a trailhead area by the train depot and civic center, which will include an information kiosk as well as a bathroom facility that will be open 24/7.
The civic club members, which include several local business owners, talked about ways to get information out about how to access some of the newer trails and the need for more brochures/maps for visitors. Brenda Winkelaar, co-owners of Sulu’s, said they have seen a “tremendous” increase in bicycle traffic this summer.
“We need maps,” she said.
Other business owners said they are often asked about how to access certain trails, and would welcome more information to share with their customers, as well as handouts.
User fees
Mesabi Trail bicycle (or other wheeled) users need to purchase a “Wheel Pass”, either three-day or annual (these can be purchased online). Walkers are not required to have a pass. Cross-country skiers on state grant aid trails (like Tower’s Wagoner Ski Trail) are required to have a Great Minnesota Ski Pass, either one-day, annual, or three-year (these can also be purchased online or at area businesses that sell DNR licenses). Snowmobile and OHVs also require licensing. Fees collected from these passes are the major source of funding for trail maintenance.
Tower-Soudan Civic Club
The civic club, formerly called the Tower-Soudan Civic Women’s Improvement Club, is a group of area residents, both women and men, who work on projects to benefit and beautify the community. The group meets four times a year and rotates its meetings between Tower and Soudan. The group is open to anyone in the community, and visitors are always welcome to attend to listen to the speakers. Meeting notices are published in the Timberjay.
Major projects and fundraisers include the Fourth of July pancake breakfast, Too Much Stuff Sale, Memorial Day program, Operation Santa, Lights of Love, and the maintenance of flowers at the civic center, bridge, and other locations including in Soudan.
Club meetings are held in September, October, November, and April. The club hosts its annual banquet in May. Funds raised are also donated to the Tower Area Food Shelf and for needs at the local schools. This year the club will be selling food at the Christmas Craft Sale on Saturday, Dec. 2 at the civic center.
For more information about the club, call club president Linda Haugen at 612-916-1918.