Hiking the North Country Trail St. Croix River Section


St. Croix National Scenic River on the North Country National Trail
St. Croix National Scenic River on the North Country National Trail

The North Country National Trail is a 4600-mile hiking route that spans between Vermont and South Dakota. The mainline of this trail crosses northern Wisconsin between Upper Michigan and Duluth Minnesota. The St. Croix River Section is a brief 2.4-mile linear footpath between a spur trail to Gordon Dam County Park and Mail Road. This length of the NCT approaches the banks of another National Parks Service property: The St. Croix National Wild and Scenic River.

The St. Croix River Section is a flat and easy hike through a mix of pine and hardwood forest. The route between Gordon Dam and Mail Road is 3 miles total (6-mile out-n-back). The Scotts Rapids Campsite is available for long-distance hikers. Camping is also available at Gordon Dam County Park, along with water and restrooms.

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Scotts Rapids Campground St. Croix National Scenic River on the North Country National Trail
Scotts Rapids Campground St. Croix National Scenic River on the North Country National Trail


The St. Croix is a legendary river, being one of the original rivers designated as a National Wild and Scenic River, and celebrating its 50th year of protection by the National Parks Service. I anticipated a wealth of scenery as I began my hike on this trail. Unfortunately, while some of the trail route is very close to the banks of the river the underbrush is so dense that views are limited to a tunnel of green along the footpath.

There are a couple of great spots to enjoy the river where it cuts close to the river; the Scott's Rapids Campsite, Gibson Cabin, and one other promontory just off the trail. Otherwise this is a woodsy hike on a grassy path. It's an easy route and moderately well maintained. The out-n-back to and from Gordon Dam took less than two hours to cover 6 miles.

The parking area at Mail Road can handle one vehicle. I'd suggest parking at Gordon Dam if you are interested in doing this hike as a day hike. Gordon Dam is an active and popular little park. There were plenty of campers set up in the sites on a weekday in the off season. The dam was filled with families dropping in fishing lines and several parties were launching kayaks from the boat launch beneath the dam.

On your hike you'll come across the Gibson Cabin, an abandoned log cabin bungalow well sited on the river. There is an application initiated to add the cabin to the national historic registry. It's a well made hand built structure that is over one hundred years old and was used as a residence in the Great Depression by the Gibson family. I entered the living room area and would have explored the home further but the floor was a bit too spongy and I decided not to tempt fate.

The Scotts Rapids rustic campsite is part of the St. Croix NPS property and is meant for canoe campers. There's no fee for the site and it is first-come-first-serve. That said, most campers at rustic sites such as these would be happy to share their site with a long distance hiker.

Scott's Rapids and Mail Road is the end of certified NCT trail heading westbound, there's a roughly 30 mile stretch of connecting roads between this section and the Pattison State Park Section just south of Superior WI. Heading eastbound from this section, the trail continues through Douglas County Forest then into the Solon Springs Bird Sanctuary.

Historic Gibson Cabin on the North Country National Trail - St Croix River Section
Historic Gibson Cabin on the North Country National Trail - St Croix River Section


North Country National Scenic Trail - St. Croix River Section


COUNTY: Douglas
COMMUNITIES: Gordon, Solon Springs

TOTAL MILES: 2.5 miles linear (3 miles between mail road and Gordon Dam)
DIFFICULTY: Easy

NEXT IAT SEGMENT EASTBOUND: Douglas County Forest Section
NEXT IAT SEGMENT WESTBOUND: Pattison Section

CAMPING: Scotts Rapids Canoe Camping Area, Gordon Dam County Park Campground

POINTS OF INTEREST: St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, St. Croix River, St. Croix Flowage, Gordon Dam, Gordon Dam County Park, Gibson Cabin




Directions and Trail Map


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Address for your GPS: 7236 Co Rd Y Gordon, WI 54838
| coordinates: 46.253167, -91.928882 |

From Milwaukee5.5 Hours
From Madison4.5 Hours
From Green Bay4.5 Hours
From Wausau3 Hours
From Minneapolis2.5 Hours
From Chicago6.5 Hours

Photos


Historic Gibson Cabin on the North Country National Trail - St Croix River Section
Historic Gibson Cabin on the North Country National Trail - St Croix River Section

footbridge over river
North Country National Trail St Croix River Section

North Country National Trail St Croix River Section
North Country National Trail St Croix River Section

fireplace in log cabin

North Country National Trail St Croix River Section
North Country National Trail St Croix River Section

North Country National Trail St Croix River Section
North Country National Trail St Croix River Section

St Croix River at Gordon Dam County Park
St Croix River at Gordon Dam County Park

St Croix River at Gordon Dam County Park
St Croix River at Gordon Dam County Park

St Croix River at Gordon Dam County Park
St Croix River at Gordon Dam County Park




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