Last updated: April 10, 2015
Having lived and hiked in the mountains of Colorado before moving to the northwoods region I have now, to some extent, traded in my backpack for a kayak and my walking stick for a paddle. Yet I occasionally still find that a walk in the forest to be a self-contemplative endeavor than gliding on the rivers. Along the St. Croix and Namekagon you will find miles of trails maintained by the Riverway, and many more miles provided by the states of Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Often overlooked, however, are two of the nation's eleven National Scenic Trails, which pass through the boundaries of the Riverway and offer access to many more remote areas and countless outdoor adventures.
When completed, the North Country National Scenic Trail (https://www.nps.gov/noco) will be approximately 4,500 miles long and pass through seven states. Stretching from western North Dakota to eastern New York this trail will eventually link the Lewis and Clark Trail to the Adirondack Mountains, and possibly even the Appalachian Trail. Almost 2,000 miles of this trail have already been completed including a section which passes along the St. Croix River in Douglas County, Wisconsin, before crossing the historic St. Croix-Brule portage.
While smaller in length, the Ice Age National Scenic Trail (https://www.nps.gov/iatr) is no less ambitious. Following along the boundary of glaciers which pressed into Wisconsin during the last Ice Age, this trail will be nearly 1,200 miles in length when complete. The western trailhead is located at Wisconsin Interstate State Park, and a short stretch of the Ice Age Trail winds along near the banks of the St. Croix River. Over half of the Ice Age Trail can be walked today, thanks to the work of hundreds of volunteers who donate thousands of hours annually to establishing and maintaining this trail.
However, if you don't have snowshoes you might want to wait until after the last snow of this long winter melts away...