Winter Trails At Cascade State Park

11:50 p.m. on April 2, 2013 (EDT)
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The following trip report first appeared on TrailPotato.com

Winter Trails At Cascade River State Park

President’s Day weekend Jules and I headed to one of our favorites spots in Minnesota, the north shore and Grand Marais. We’ve been there several times but have never visited Cascade River State Park in the winter. We loved it!

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Bottom Line: 4.5 out of 5 Snowflakes. An easy ski through the woods and along Lake Superior offering fantastic views. Snow will be thinner by the lake so it may not be good every year. Distance about 3 miles. You will cross Highway 61 twice. Minnesota Ski Pass is required. Also, be sure to hike or snowshoe along the river to check out the waterfalls. 18 miles of hiking/snowshoeing trails and 17 miles of cross-country trails.

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lake-superior-ice.jpg?resize=300%2C225

Views like this are what make the trail along Lake Superior so cool

The Best Part

Hands down cross-country skiing along Lake Superior was the best part. According to the park ranger the last couple years there hasn’t been enough snow to have decent conditions on the trail by the lake.

First, less snow falls by the shore. I’m no meteorologist but, basically the air picks up moisture from the lake. Hits the Sawtooth Mountains and falls as snow. Hence, less snow by the lake. The other thing is the sun is more powerful by the lake so, what snow does fall tends to melt. These factors combined with lower snowfall has meant more frequent bare patches the last couple years. But not this year!

This year we’ve had good snow and cold weather so, the trail has often been in good condition. When we went it was in great condition with just one sketchy spot where there was glare ice on a hillside. I’m not sure if there was a spring or what but, there was a ton of ice making that stretch a little treacherous. I recommend you do the trail counter-clockwise (it is two-way) so you can hit the ice going uphill rather than downhill.

We parked in the trail center parking lot and as mentioned, began our loop counter-clockwise. We pieced together a stretch of trail parallel to the river for a short distance until we met Highway 61 where we had to remove our skis to cross the highway. Once across the highway the real fun started.

For the most part the trail was a flat glide through the trees and the stretch along the river had great views of Lake Superior. The coolest part was how the ice shards piled up in crazy formations. In a couple of spots we were able to kick off our skis and walk down to the lake shore to enjoy the sights and sounds of the big lake in the winter.

Another cool spot along the lake side portion of the trail was Backpack site #1. There is a three-sided shelter that makes a great spot to stop for a snack. We hope to come back to camp there sometime soon.

cascade-backcountry-shelter.jpg?resize=1

Backpack campsite shelter at Cascade State Park

Shortly after the backpack site the trail crosses Highway 61 again and you soon encounter the icy hill mentioned previously. The rest of the trail is classic northern Minnesota skiing through the woods. Fun and scenic but not unique like the lakeside portion.

Snowshoeing Along The River

On the next day we also did some snowshoeing at Cascade State Park. There are many trails to choose from and we started by the river. Near the start we crossed a bridge with great views of a waterfall. At the base of the falls there were cool chunks of ice that we called “frozen lily pads”. Later we learned they are really called “pancake ice”.

cascade-pancake-ice.jpg?resize=300%2C300

Pancake ice at Cascade State Park

After crossing the bridge the trail joined with The Superior Hiking Trail and provided great views of the river below. With lightly falling snow the hike was sublime as it gradually climbed. At the top of a steep section we turned towards Lookout Mountain for a pleasant stroll through the woods. Daylight was fading fast so we stopped short of the top and hurried back to the truck.

snowshoe-cascade.jpg?resize=150%2C150

Jules snowshoeing on Superior Hiking Trail, Cascade State Park

Cascade has 17 miles of cross-country ski trails and 18 miles of hiking trails. So, our short visit provided just a sampler. There are tons of possibilities for stringing together your own itinerary just be sure to include the lake shore (if snow is poor hike instead of skiing) and the waterfalls.

From the park website:

VISITOR FAVORITES

• Waterfalls of the Cascade River

(0.5 mile/0.8 kilometer loop hike)

• Hiking to Lookout Mountain, 600

feet above Lake Superior (3.5

miles/5.6 kilometers, round trip)

• One and a half miles of rugged

Lake Superior shore

• Hiking along the Cascade River

11:29 p.m. on April 4, 2013 (EDT)
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That's a cool area. Looks like a great weekend. We all need more like that. Ice does amazing things doesn't it?

8:36 a.m. on April 5, 2013 (EDT)
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Thanks Sage. The whole stretch of the "North Shore" from Duluth to Canada is awesome... I'm kind of surprised it doesn't get more national attention. Superior Hiking Trail, gateway to the Boundary Waters and Lake Superior. The weekend was awesome and this year there was a ton of cool ice. I've been meaning to do more than the two posts on my blog... hope to do one soon with cool pics from Artists Point.

4:24 p.m. on April 10, 2013 (EDT)
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trailpotato said:

 just one sketchy spot where there was glare ice on a hillside. I’m not sure if there was a spring or what but, there was a ton of ice making that stretch a little treacherous. 

 

South-facing slope? The freeze-thaw cycle in spring can do that, too. 

8:39 a.m. on April 11, 2013 (EDT)
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I don't think it was but can't remember for sure. It looked like it was flowing so I think there was a spring uphill.

August 28, 2014
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