Ancient Cedars trail in Tower lets hikers experience old-growth forest

Ancient Cedars Trail
Members of the Ely Field Naturalists walk the new Ancient Cedars Trail in Tower, MN. (All photos courtesy The Timberjay)

Beautiful and slow-growing white cedars are one highlight of a new trail that was developed this summer on the edge of Tower, MN. Volunteers constructed a 500-foot boardwalk and a 1.5-mile loop on land owned by the city, county, and a private individual.

A portion of the trail passing through old-growth
white cedars.

The stand of cedar trees that the trail passes through has been identified by the Department of Natural Resources as having never been logged. The trees are believed to have started growing about 140 years ago, in 1880. Proponents say it’s a unique wilderness-type path within the city limits.

The Timberjay has reported on the trail developments this year, and editor Marshall Helmberger recently described the experience of walking through the cedar grove:

“While white cedar aren’t uncommon in Minnesota, they often grow in wet areas, making them less accessible to the general public,” Helmberger wrote. “But Tower’s cedars grow in an upland area, making it easy to walk through the extensive grove, which covers more than 100 acres. The dense canopy created by the cedars gives a primeval feel to the stand, which is primarily open underneath since most underbrush doesn’t grow well in the deep shade.”

In addition to the old-growth trees, the trail also features a high ridge with views of Tower and Lake Vermilion.

Trail-building volunteers Jodi Summit and
Miranda Kishel work on the boardwalk section.

The trail has been a partnership between the landowners, the Tower Economic Development Authority, Friends of Vermilion Country School, and Wagoner Trails Club. In addition to all volunteer labor, the project received funding of $2,000 from Lake Country Power customers through a voluntary “round-up” option on their bill, and almost $5,000 originating with the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board. Those funds paid for signs, the boardwalk, and other amenities.

“This trail represents an extraordinary opportunity given its rare and beautiful forest setting so close to town,” according to a resolution passed by the Tower city council earlier this year.

General location of Ancient Cedars Hiking Trail in Tower, Minnesota. (Map by Quetico Superior Wilderness News)
Twenty-two members of the Ely Field Naturalists club recently hiked the trail, pausing at an overlook with a view of Lake Vermilion.

The Ancient Cedars Trail is accessed from the Mesabi Trail. Users can park at the historic train depot at 404 Pine St. in Tower. Then hike 0.3 southeast miles on the Mesabi Trail, turn onto the Iron Ore Snowmobile Trail. Then cross the wooden bridge over the East Two River, and find the Ancient Cedars Trail just past the bridge on the left side.

Volunteers were wrapping up work this week, and guided hikes are planned in early October. The Timberjay provides the details:

  • Saturday, Oct 4 – 10 a.m.
  • Sunday, Oct. 4 – 2 p.m.

More information:

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