Remote Lake Loop

Savanna Portage State Forest, Minnesota

Trip Date: Sunday, September 24th, 2017
Last Updated: Monday, October 2nd, 2017
By Ricky Holzer

Hike Information

Rating ★★★★☆(4/5)
Overall Difficulty Moderate
Navigation Difficulty     Medium
Distance 5.3 miles roundtrip
Time 2.5 hours
Terrain Hilly
Best Seasons Spring, Summer, Fall
Family Friendly No
Dog Friendly Yes
Accessible No

Highlights

Hike Walkthrough

When they named it Remote Lake, they weren't kidding. This adventurous trail off the beaten path will take you up and down glacial ridges via overgrown and unmaintained forest roads and trails. Remote Lake only allows non-motorized boats, so you can enjoy the undisturbed peace of this wilderness. If you want solitude, this is your hike.

Rules aren't directly specified about pets. Since this is also a hunter walking trail and there are no rules requiring leashes, I would assume your dog can remain off leash (having to hold a dog's leash while hunting is unrealistic and defeats the purpose). Don't even think about bringing your kids on this hike; just keep driving past and go directly to Savanna Portage State Park instead and do one of the nice trails like Shumway Lake. These trails are groomed for skiing in winter and hiking is not allowed during that time. Finally, they didn't refer to this as a solitude area for no reason. You will likely be the only person, especially if it isn't hunting season.

A few things you should know about this hike. As a state forest, the purpose of this land is primarily to manage the natural resources contained within -- namely timber. This means that unlike state parks, the landscape here is constantly changing and is subject to thinning of trees and sometimes clear cutting. When I did this hike, the sides of the trail (really a forest road) were lined with logs and treadmarks on the road were filled with water after the recent heavy rains; you could tell where they thinned the trees, but it did not ruin the experience. In addition, hunting is allowed during certain parts of the year. Wear bright colors and alert hunters of your presence -- it's best not to startle people with guns. Communicate with hunters to find out where they plan on walking and modify your own route to ensure space. Lastly, this trail is not regularly maintained, nor is it well signed and marked. The areas where they drove forestry equipment recently will be clear of vegetation, but potentially muddy with big ruts. The other areas are likely overgrown and you will have to wade through scratchy grasses and shrubs. Wear long pants even in the hot summer, or else.

From the parking lot, walk past the gate and continue on the forest road. Turn right at the first intersection. As I mentioned previously, they had recently thinned the forest in this first section when I hiked here. The trail curves uphill, and here the thinned forest provides you an excellent view down the hill, pictured below (maybe forestry isn't so bad after all).

The thinned forest provides you a nice view of the evergreens at the bottom of the hill

The thinned forest provides you a nice view of the evergreens at the bottom of the hill
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On the left side you will pass a small lake, pictured below -- note that you have to go off trail to get that view. Contradictory to what I've expressed in other posts, I think going off trail here is slightly more acceptable, maybe because few people hike here, or maybe because they're just going to cut down the forest anyway so why does it matter. Some of the better sights on this hike require you go off trail, just don't make it your habit to do that everywhere else you go. Know the risks inherent in going off trail, like loose dirt, steep slopes, and poisonous plants. And make yourself obvious if there are hunters in the area (definitely don't put your hands to your head like antlers).
Pine, spruce, and tamarack reflect in this secluded lake

Pine, spruce, and tamarack reflect in this secluded lake
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Stay right at each of the intersections until you reach Remote Lake, which has a wood shelter to indicate you've arrived. The last portion before reaching the lake will require you bushwhack through the overgrown trail. Finding your way isn't difficult like you might expect because the trail is the only part where there aren't trees. The trail returns to a more normal, less overgrown trail closer to Remote Lake. The lake itself is on the right and down a hill, so you will have to travel off trail to see the lake up close and personal.

Once you return to the trail, turn left and then quickly turn left again at the intersections ahead. This segment will be overgrown. You will pass a marshy lake on the left, which was so pretty with its hints of fall color that I have to share two photos: one below and another at the top of the page.
Fall colors look nice on this lake

Fall colors look nice on this lake
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Stay right at the intersection ahead, and the trail will soon become -- surprise -- a boardwalk (see picture below)! After wishing I had a machete with me during the previous portions, the fact that someone decided to build something nice in the middle of wilderness baffled me. Enjoy it and the interesting peat bog environment the boards protect!
This boardwalk is a pleasant treat on this hike

This boardwalk is a pleasant treat on this hike
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These bog plants emulate a miniature pine forest

These bog plants emulate a miniature pine forest
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After the boardwalk, stay left at the last two intersections (although it looks like there's an overlook if you go right at the last intersection, something I overlooked because they do not show on the Savanna Portage State Park map I was using but is on the official map linked below). The final stretch takes you up to the top of a glacial ridge covered in tall pines. As you can see in the picture below, the foresters really should consider strategically thinning the trees here so you can see what would otherwise be a spectacular view.
Tall timbers partially block an otherwise tremendous view

Tall timbers partially block an otherwise tremendous view
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Eventually you'll end at the parking lot. What a journey! If you're looking for something more exciting than your standard state park trail, look no further. Let me know what you think in the comments section below and be sure to use #nocoastbestcoast on Twitter and Instagram!

Directions

From the Twin Cities, take Interstate 35W north to U.S. Highway 10 west. In Blaine, exit for Minnesota Highway 65 (Central Avenue) and turn right. Follow Minnesota Highway 65 north for about 2 hours. In McGregor, turn left, then turn right to stay on Minnesota Highway 65. Turn right on Lake Ave (County Road 14) and continue straight. The entrance is a dirt road on the left side and is easy to miss even though there is a small brown sign indicating the Remote Lakes Solitude Area. Note that this road is not currently on Google Maps, so don't be alarmed when you see a marker in the middle of nothing when you click the directions link below. Signs on the dirt road state this is a minimum maintenance road, but I had no problems driving it in a sedan. The road ends at the parking area.

Google Maps Directions

Parking, Fees, and Facilities

Unlike Minnesota State Parks, there is no vehicle fee to park in Minnesota State Forests. There is a pit toilet near the dirt lot.

External Links

Nearby Hikes

Bog Boardwalk and Lake Shumway Loop Trail

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Wolf Lake Trail

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