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The Snowbank Trail is a hiking trail in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) in northern Minnesota. The trail runs the perimeter of Snowbank Lake and crosses the Kekekabic Trail at the south side of Snowbank Lake. The entire trail comprises a 24-mile (39 km) loop, numerous campsites are available. During the BWCAW Visitor' Distribution Program (May 1 - September 30), permits are required for overnight use of the trail. It is located in Fall Lake Township in northernmost Lake County.
Editor’s Note: The Following information was obtained from a 2003 Forest Service Survey of the Trail. A lot of stuff can happen over the years, including new beaver dams, bridges and campsites. But this wiki has the basic information to help someone hike the trail.
The Snowbank Trail typically passes through rolling terrain of 0 to 20%. If there are steeper grades it is noted in the text. Smitty’s on Snowbank is the closest resort to the Trailhead. It is just up the road from the trailhead. They have motel rooms, cabins and are known for their Hungry Man Breakfast. They can also transport you and your gear across Snowbank Lake if you want to do some base camp hiking. Permit are needed for hiking in the designated wilderness area. If you are just day hiking, you need to fill out a self issued permit located at the Trailhead. If you are camping overnight in the designated wilderness area, you will need to buy a fee permit which can be obtained at a Forest Service office or most Resorts and Outfitters. Voyagers North Outfitters in Ely seems to be the place that is open the latest at night. They are open until 10 pm during the season.
0 miles, We start at the combined Kekekabic Trail/Snowbank Trail Trail head on Snowbank Lake Road, about 20 miles east of Ely, Minnesota. We are hiking north from the Trailhead on the west side of Snowbank Lake. 0.2 miles - See Metal post is in the ground on our left and there are bearing trees nearby 0.4 miles - Snowbank Trail becomes a road at this point turning left 0.5 miles - Trajl turns right off of road Cairn (rock pile) at intersection. Trail begins to encounter bedrock outcroppings which are common on the Snowbank Trail 0.7 miles – Slow moving stream and wetland area 0.8 miles – Swampy area to left as you hike up to a rocky outcropping 1.1 miles – Trail crosses slow moving stream, then goes through blowndown areas 1.4 miles – Trail crosses Snowbank Lake to Flash Lake Portage. There is a campsite shown on some maps near the end of the portage on Snowbank Lake. 1.5 miles – Encounter several bare bedrock areas 1.9 miles – Trail gets very close to Snowbank Lake, within 100 feet. Then crosses a small stream 2. miles – Spur trail to right goes to a campsite. 2.1 miles – Steep uphill section, 30 to 40% grade 2.3 miles - Spur trail to right goes to a campsite. 2.4 miles – Trail traverses springs and wetland areas, crosses a beaver dam, then goes uphill 2.9 miles – Good overlook of Snowbank Lake on a bedrock ledge 3.6 miles - Spur trail to left goes to a campsite. 4 miles - Spur trail to right goes to a campsite. Then main Snowbank Trail goes downhill 4.4 miles – Small flowing Stream 4.6 miles – Small flowing Stream 5 miles – Trail crosses an old 60 ft beaver dam 5.2 miles – Trail encounters several small springs and streams over the next 1/2 mile 5.8 miles – Trail goes downhill at a 25% grade 6 miles – First view of Wooden Leg Lake 6.1 miles – better view of Wooden Leg Lake 6.3 miles – Uphill section of a 25 to 35% grade for 200 yards. 6.5 miles – Another good view of Wooden Leg Lake, Trail continues up and down pattern and starts heading away from Wooden Leg Lake. 6.7 miles – Trail traverses small marshy area and then encounters springs 6.9 miles – Trail goes across a major bedrock ledge with a good view of Snowbank Lake 7.2 miles - Spur trail to right goes to a campsite 7.3 miles – Trail goes uphill at a 30% grade for 50 yards, can see island on Snowbank Lake 8 miles – Campsite on your right 8.1 miles – Trail reaches bottom of a ravine, sharply rises for about 15 yards, then encounters a wet area 8.2 miles – First view of Grub Lake, trail sharply rises for 8 yards and encounters spring fed creeks 8.5 miles – Campsite shown on Mackenzie Map, but is not included in 2003 Forest Service Survey. 9 miles – Trail begins to go away from Grub Lake, encounters springs and wetlands over next 1/2 mile 9.7 miles – First view of Snowbank Lake again after Grub Lake. 10 miles – Trail drops to a view of small pond to the left of the trail. 10.6 miles – Trail travels across bedrock for 700 yards. 11 miles – Trail encounters a Switchback, but the Forest Service Survey doesn’t say whether it’s going uphill or downhill. Good view of cliff that is ahead and to the right of trail. 11.2 miles – Campsite to the right of the trail, then another switchback, again, unsure whether it’s going uphill or downhill. 11.3 miles – Spur trail to the right to a campsite 11.5 miles – river flowing from Snowbank Lake to Boot Lake, Bridge build here in 2009 11.6 miles – Junction of Snowbank Trail and Disappointment Trail. Snowbank Trail goes to the right. 12 miles - Spur trail to the right to a campsite 12.1 miles – Trail goes through some stands of Red and White Pine, then goes through some wetlands for the next 1/2 mile 12.8 miles – First View of Birdseye Lake 13 miles – Trail goes along Birdseye Lake, then goes through a stand of Jack Pine for 3/4 mile 13.6 miles – Trail goes through campsite on Disappointment Lake, then Jack Pine stand ends and forest is mainly made up of Apsen 14.3 miles – Trail reaches the Snowbank Lake to Disappointment Lake Portage and turns left and is a part of the portage for 10 yards until it reaches a landing. Then the Snowbank Trail turns right and takes the Disappointment Lake to Parent Lake Portage. 14.4 miles – On the portage the trail goes across a boardwalk then continues onto a straight section of the trail. 14.5 miles – The Snowbank Trail turns left off the Disappointment Lake to Parent Lake Portage. 14.8 miles – Marshy wetland on the left of the trail, then the trail crosses a small creek. 15.3 miles – Spur Trail to the right to a campsite. Then the next 1/3 mile the Snowbank Trail is an up and down affair. 15.75 miles – Junction with the Kekekabic Trail. Turn Right on Kekekabic Trail to complete Snowbank Loop. It is 6 miles back to the Snowbank Lake Road Parking Lot 16 miles – Junction of Kekekabic Trail and Bencoosin & Benezie Loop Trail. There is a pond and an undesignated campsite at this Junction. If you turn south on the Loop Trail there will be campsite in 1/2 mile on Bencoosin Lake. 16.2 miles – The Kekekabic Trail crosses a creek with stepping stones, then eventually goes across a boardwalk. The trail exits the designated wilderness area, but there is no sign marking this. 16. 7 miles – Trail enters 2008 Clear Cut Area which lasts for over 1/2 mile. Inside the clear cut area there is a spot with a good view of Pickeral Bay which is the southern portion of Snowbank Lake. Also, the trail passes an above ground beaver dam. 17. 3 miles – The Kek leaves the clear cut area, goes up a hill and travels along a ridge 18.5 Kekekabic Trail descents through gully with several big rocks. This is known as Ambush Alley because the big rocks look like places people could hide behind. 18.7 miles - Trail Crosses Beaver dam with beaver pond on right 19 miles – Trail takes a turn to the north, passes an overlook marked by a sign and goes through some rocky areas. Trail travels in a North/south direction all the way back to the trailhead. 21.75 miles – The trail is back to the Snowbank Lake Road Trail head.
A cairn trail marker on Snowbank Trail. This is a typical trail marker found across State and National parks in the United States.
SnowBank Lake from the Flash Lake portage.
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