County Road 12 (Cook County, Minnesota)

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County Road 12  marker

County Road 12
Gunflint Trail
CR 12, the Gunflint Trail, highlighted in red
Route information
Maintained by Cook County Highway Department
Length: 57 mi (92 km)
Major junctions
South end: MN 61 in Grand Marais
North end: Near Saganaga Lake
Counties: Cook
Highway system
County Roads in Cook County
Inter-County Highways

Cook County Road 12, also known as the Gunflint Trail, or County State-Aid Highway 12, is a 57-mile (92 km) paved roadway that begins in Grand Marais, Minnesota and ends at Saganaga Lake in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCA), near the U.S. border with Ontario, Canada. It is considered to be one of the two general entry areas into the BWCAW.

Route description[edit]

Originally a foot path for travelers from inland lakes to Lake Superior, the trail was eventually widened into a roadway, and designated as Cook County Road 12 (CR 12). It now serves as a route to lodges, outfitters, hiking trails and the lakes and rivers of the BWCA. A small number of people, numbering in the hundreds, have full-time residences or businesses along the road, though thousands have cabins or other part-time residential properties.


Ham Lake Fire[edit]

The Ham Lake Fire of spring 2007 severely impacted the Upper Gunflint Trail, burning over 40,000 acres (160 km2) in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and Ontario's Quetico Provincial Park. The fire lasted several weeks and claimed almost 200 structures, although no one was seriously injured or killed. It was started accidentally by an unattended campfire at a campsite on Ham Lake. The fire drew national attention and a visit from Governor Tim Pawlenty, who inspected the damage first-hand.[1] Despite the significant damage to the forest, most outfitters and commercial businesses have reopened and access to the region's lakes has resumed.

Geography and tourism[edit]

Glaciers created the area's geographical features, forming basins running east to west with the region's bedrock, and when they retreated, lakes formed. The Ojibwa and French explorers found chert, which produces sparks, at Gunflint Lake and gave the trail its name, In contemporary times, both fire and wind put stress on the area.[2]

The Ojibwa built a village that is now Grand Marais, which became a trading post and a center for logging and commercial fishing. The town today is home to artists and artisans, and tourists who visit for the Gunflint Trail's canoe routes, hiking, fishing and 120 miles (193 km) of trails for cross-country skiing.[2]

In the summer, the Gunflint Trail community is a hub of activity for campers, canoeists, hikers and fishermen. Several famous establishments can be found along the trail, including the historic Gunflint Lodge and Trail Center restaurant. There are also many outfitters for canoe trips into the BWCA, campsites, homes and several camps, including Adventurous Christians, Gunflint Wilderness Camp, and Wilderness Canoe Base.

Flora and fauna[edit]

Grouse, white-tailed deer, black bear, moose, fox, snowshoe hares, wolves, lynx and pine marten inhabit the surrounding forest which is composed of spruces, fir, pines, birch and aspen.[2] Lake trout, walleye, northern pike, and bass inhabit the many lakes along the Gunflint Trail.

Major intersections[edit]

Location mi[3] km Destinations Notes
Grand Marais 0.000 0.000 MN 61
0.170 0.274 CR 7 (5th Street)
0.945 1.521 CR 15 (5th Avenue)
  3.950 6.357 CR 8 (Devil Track Road) / CR 55 (Golf Course Road)
  27.630 44.466 CR 66 (Clearwater Road, CR 22)
  29.340 47.218 CR 65 (Hungry Jack Road, CR 21)
  44.230 71.181 CR 50 (Gunflint Lake Road, CR 20)
Saganaga Lake One-way access loop to lake
1.000 mi = 1.609 km; 1.000 km = 0.621 mi


Route map: Bing / Google

  1. ^ "Gunflint Trail fire likely to expand". 
  2. ^ a b c Breining, Greg (February 28, 2008). "A Glide Along Minnesota’s Gunflint Trail". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). Retrieved 2008-03-01. 
  3. ^ "Cook County Logpoint Listings". Minnesota Department of Transportation. 2010. Retrieved March 6, 2013.