Hundreds of hikers are expected to take the 10th anniversary of the North Country Hiking Fest in stride with a day packed full of family friendly and healthy activities focusing on the North Country National Scenic Trail and hiking at Itasca State Park on Saturday, Aug. 27.
Those up for a challenge can hike the entire 10.6-mile length of the North Country National Scenic Trail in Itasca State Park while those short on time or not wanting to hike the full distance can make a hiking staff and then try it out on an easier two-mile loop to Preacher’s Grove along the Brower Trail and bike trail.
“The North Country National Scenic Trail and Itasca State Park are two great destinations for hikers,” said Erika Rivers, director of Minnesota state parks and trails. “We hope this special event – which brings the two together – helps new people discover them.”
North Country National Scenic Trail, administered by the National Park Service, spans seven states and passes through 12 national forests and dozens of state parks including Maplewood and Itasca. Created by Congress in 1980, it will be 4,600 miles when complete. More than 500 miles of the trail’s 850 miles have been constructed in Minnesota, with some of the construction made possible with funding from the Parks and Trails Fund, created after voters approved the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment in November 2008. The Parks and Trails Fund receives 14.25 percent of the three-eighths percent sales tax revenue that may only be spent to support parks and trails of regional or statewide significance.
“We’re grateful to the elected officials, the local public land partners—especially the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and Itasca State Park—and the many dedicated volunteers who have made the North Country Trail possible,” said Bruce Matthews, executive director of the nonprofit North Country Trail Association. “Their ongoing support of the trail is improving Minnesota’s quality of life while also making significant contributions to the regional tourism economy. This event celebrates all these things coming together and the great hiking that results.”
The Aug. 27 Hiking Fest is the eighth in a series of 12 hiking events taking place in 2016 as part of an ongoing celebration of 125 years of Minnesota state parks and trails and 100 years of the National Park Service.
The schedule for the day:
- 10:30 a.m.: Official welcome and send-off with remarks by Erika Rivers.
- 11 a.m.-5 p.m.: Itasca State Park/North Country Trail 10.6-mile Hiking Challenge (start at Anchor Matson Road Trailhead or meet at the Jacob V. Brower Visitor Center before 10:30 a.m. to carpool to the trailhead; conclude at Highway 71 crossing.)
- 2-3:15 p.m.: Hiking 101: Tips, Tricks and Make Your Own Hiking Staff.
- 3:15-4:45 p.m.: Hike to Preacher’s Grove.
- 5-6:30 p.m.: Catered cookout (fee).
- 6:30-7:30 p.m.: Evening program at the Jacob V. Brower Visitor Center, with speakers including Connie Cox, lead naturalist at Itasca State Park, who will provide a brief history of the park and highlight some of its special features; and Cam Sholly, the National Park Service’s midwest regional director, who will talk about the NPS Centennial and citizens’ roles in shaping the next 100 years.
This event is sponsored by both Itasca State Park and the Itasca Moraine and Laurentian Lakes Chapters of the North Country Trail Association.
A vehicle permit is required to enter Minnesota state parks ($5 for a one-day permit or $25 for a year-round permit). Those who don’t already have a Minnesota state parks vehicle permit can purchase one online (www.mndnr.gov/state_parks/permit.html) or at the park office.
South entrance to Itasca State Park is 23 miles north of Park Rapids on U.S. Highway 71. From Bemidji, the east entrance is 30 miles south on U.S. Hwy 71 and 1/10 mile north on state Hwy. 200. The north entrance is 21 miles south of Bagley on state Hwy. 92/state Hwy. 200.