- Chances are, you've never hiked to Mount Baldy.
- The fall colors will be at their peak and the views will be gorgeous.
- While hundreds of folks circle the top of popular spots like Oberg Mountain, you can have an equally beautiful view and hike all to yourself.
It's a 1.4 mile hike to Mount Baldy from the parking lot on Lax Lake Road, making for a 2.8 mile round trip experience. Before you go, download a map of the park here.
The first half of the hike in is along a wide gravel road, now closed to vehicles. This is a steep climb through rugged terrain. As you climb, watch as the forest changes from birch and fir to sugar maple and red oak.
Look out for the main trail junction at the top of the hill, labelled "J". Turn left here onto a narrow hiking trail. This trail rambles for about a half mile through a forest of maple and oak, bending around massive glacial boulders. At junction "G" you'll turn left again, and after just about 30 yards you'll reach junction "F", where you'll turn right at the sign for Mount Baldy (actually, with a few letters carefully rubbed off, the sign now reads "Mt. Bad").
The trail scampers up the rock crest of Mount Baldy and the view begins to really open up. You can see three of the state park's inland lakes, including Mic Mac Lake and a sliver of Tettegouche Lake.
The trail ends at an open overlook with a 240-degree view of inland lakes and glimmering Lake Superior in the distance. In fact, when the light is right you can pick out individual islands in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. At the peak of fall colors, this is a riot of color and light.
Special secret bonus
About 30 yards before the end of the Mount Baldy spur trail, an unmarked and unmaintained trail turns off to the left. Just 20 yards down this trail is rocky outcrop with an AMAZING view of little Nicado Lake.
Options from the top
From the top of Mount Baldy, return on the spur trail back to junction "G". From there, you can either retrace your steps directly back to the trailhead, or you can make a big loop down to Mic Mac Lake and the historic log cabins of Tettegouche Camp.
How to get there
The "front door" of Tettegouche State Park is in transition. Construction of the new visitor center means a strange new entrance to the park about half a mile west of the regular one.
For this hike, skip the main entrance on Highway 61 and head to the park's "back door".
If you're coming up the North Shore from Two Harbors, turn left at Beaver Bay on Lake County Road 4, a.k.a. Lax Lake Road. You'll follow Lax Lake Road the whole way, but it will take some sharp turns. At. 3.2 miles in, you'll reach a stop sign and T-junction. Turn left. After 2.0 miles, watch for a sharp right turn onto Lake County Road 31 (still Lax Lake Road). This will take you past Lax Lake itself. After 3.6 miles, look for a parking lot with a state park kiosk on the right. Note that a state park vehicle permit is required to use this parking lot.
If you're coming from the traditional park entrance in the area of Illgen City, turn up Minnesota Highway 1 from Highway 61, and drive 4.3 miles to Lake County 31 (Lax Lake Road). Turn left and drive 3.1 miles to the parking lot on the left.