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Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Hiking Trail Information

Kelso Mountain Trail

How to get there:
From Duluth, Minnesota, drive to Tofte on Hwy. 61, turn left onto Sawbill Trail and drive to Sawbill Lake (about 24 miles).  At the Sawbill Lake is USFS multiple site campground, parking lot, Sawbill Canoe Outfitters ( with a supplies store and showers), and canoe landing. 
Canoe portion of the route (5 miles):
From the canoe landing at Sawbill, paddle north, then west to Kelso River (30 rod portage) upstream on Kelso River (don't worry about negligible current) and continue north on Kelso Lake and into Kelso River again.  Kelso River winds and splits into two streams.  Stay to the left.  Eventually, you will approach a remnant of a beaver dam with a clear channel going through.  On east side of the BD is a large boulder, called dolmen, perched on three small rocks.  The landing and trailhead is on the west side, of the river, opposite and across from the dolmen.  Remains of a small dock are still visible under the water near shore. 
Trail portion of the route (1.25 miles to the peak)
Trail goes straight uphill, around boulders and then turns right through wet spots (depending on season and rainfall)  Trail winds around, and at one spot the path will drop ahead of you in a small valley.  You will cross an old beaver dam and on your right will be dried up lake.  After the old BD the trail veers off to the left for a few yards (don't trip over the stiff telephone wire on ground) and then to the right and uphill.  In fall, this is the most colorful part of the trail because of the mixture of birch, aspen and maple.  Eventually  you will reach Oriole Lake. At Oriole Lake, cross the beaver dam, and then follow the shore for about 50 yards.  Keep an eye on right for opening in the brush.  The brush may have overgrown the trail, but you should be able to see a pattern where it has been cleared years ago.  Seventy yards up you will see four birch trunks on the right (with orange flagging, if not taken down).  The trail turns left, and you might be able to spot an old telephone pole or two.  From now on the trail has been made scenic only by the big strom of 1999 which opened few vistas on the left.  After twisting and winding you will reach the top.  There is an outhouse, woodshed and few relics of the past.  The tower has been long removed, the cabin burned down in name of wilderness but the tower footings still remain, bearing witness that people have lived there, along with few garden type variety flowers that have survived in abandonment.

Kelso Mountain Trail is officialy off the USFS wilderness trail inventory and has been so for number of years.  It is hoped that the US Forest Service will restore the trail.  Kelso Mountain Trail has been recognized by the White House Millennium Council and designated a "Community Millennium Trail"  in a proclamation signed by Hillary Clinton in 2000.  Presently, the trail is passable except for a few treefalls, but it is not maintained by the US Forest Service,


Kelso Mountain Trail Maps


Kelso Mountain Topographic Map


PO Box 270593

Vadnais Heights

Minnesota 55127-0593


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Hiking Trails:

Arrowhead State Trail

Bear Head State Park

Border Route Trail

Cascade River State Park

Eagle Mountain

The Grand Portage

Kekekabic Trail

Kelso Mountain Trail

Pincushion Mountain

North Shore State Trail

Superior Hiking Trail

Superior National Trails

Taconite State Trail

Related Links:

Hiking Books

Area Wildlife

Snow shoeing

Area Wildflowers

Hiking Discussion