This snowshoe excursion can be done as an out-and-back or as a one-way trip if you have two vehicles and can park at each trailhead. As you wind through the Chippewa National Forest, which houses one of the largest breeding grounds for bald eagles in the lower 48, you may catch sight of one of these birds of prey. This trail section will bring you through a mixed forest of spruce, fir, aspen, and planted pines. Keep your eyes open for white-tailed deer. This report begins at Shingobee Recreation Area and heads east to connect with the North Country Trail (NCT).
At the Shingobee Recreational Area, enter through the west end because the parking area is a one-way road and the east side is an exit only. The trailhead is on the east end of the parking lot at the top of the Shingobee sledding hill. You will find an NCT map and information board, and the trailhead is just beyond the sign to your left.
The trail begins by heading east and paralleling Highway 34 for the first half-mile. Thankfully, the trees buffer most of the road noise. The first 1.2 miles follows groomed trails that you will want to avoid walking in. There is plenty of room to walk single file next to the groomed ski trail.
You will reach your first trail junction at mile 0.3. Follow the trail to the left using the NCT signposts as a guide. At mile 0.6 you will join with the NCT Trail, which is marked by a map. You can see the NCT continue north to your left. You will follow the groomed trail straight ahead. Veering southeast, you will quickly reach a trail intersection where you will again continue straight.
After another mile you'll reach an intersection: Take a right and continue to follow the NCT signposts. This part of the trail is wider, which makes avoiding the groomed trail easier. After passing a campsite on your right, keep an eye out for the NCT signpost at mile 1.2 directing you to follow the trail left. This is where the NCT leaves the recreational area. Look for the NCT signpost shortly after turning for reassurance that you are on the correct trail.
While it is not maintained in the winter, the trail is easy to follow. The forest begins to thin out, and you will cross a frozen bog on the famous Anoway Lake troll bridge, which offers a beautiful panoramic view. Re-entering the forest, the trail climbs above the Shingobee River and follows the river for the remainder of the hike. Once you find yourself at Co. Rd. 50, return the way you came or drive back to Shingobee Recreational Area.
Note that quite a few fallen trees block the trail, but it is easy to maneuver around them.
Winter backcountry adventures can be dangerous outdoor activities that pose significant risks as conditions affecting safety (i.e. weather, snowpack stability, avalanche hazard) are constantly changing. Prior to engaging in these activities each individual should get the proper training to make safe decisions and be equipped to use avalanche safety resources and tools. Please visit our Backcountry Skiing and Avalanche Safety post to learn more.