We’re always updating our best-selling book, Hiking the North Shore, getting ready for future reprintings. I’ve been revisiting some of my favorite trails, especially the ones off of the beaten path, in order to update the trail information in the book before we go to press and send off the final files.
I was eager to return to Mount Josephine, Hike #48. From the top, it’s one of the most dramatic views on the North Shore. Here’s the trail description text you’ll find printed in our upcoming 2017 second edition.
Hike #48 — Mount Josephine
A 2.5 mile out-and-back hike on the Grand Portage Reservation
What makes it unique. This rough and challenging trail has the steepest climb—and the most dramatic view—on the North Shore.
Finding the trailhead. Follow Highway 61 for 35 miles past Grand Marais to mile marker 144.0, the main turn-off for Grand Portage. Turn right on County Road 17 (you will stay on County Road 17 to the trailhead). Turn left at the four way stop just past the Trading Post entrance. Follow Mile Creek Road 0.9 miles, past the Grand Portage National Monument information center. Turn left on Upper Road (still County Road 17). Follow Upper Road 0.9 miles to a parking lot on left. The only signage are fire numbers 183 and 193.
Try this Google Maps link to the trailhead location.
Distance: 2.5 miles
Time: 1.5 to 2 hours
Difficulty: difficult. Best for experienced hikers with stamina and the ability to route-find on unmaintained trails. The trail climbs 600 feet in just over a half mile—perhaps the steepest climb on the North Shore.
Trailhead facilities: none
No pain, no gain is a good mantra to adopt for this hike. The terrain requires hard work. Finding the trail and following it is hard work. Fair warning: this trail is not as well maintained as other trails in the area. But the view from the top is extraordinary as you stand at the highest point directly on the Minnesota North Shore.
Once you’re parked at the nearly unmarked trailhead, you’ll see two rough old roads leaving the parking lot. Take the one on the right. The route follows an old, level roadbed, with rusted car remnants just off the trail.
Watch for the obvious turn off at about 0.6 miles. A sign reads “Summit 1 Mile,” and the route heads uphill to the left. It’s a remarkably straight traverse, with a climb about one-quarter mile long. Two switchbacks get you to a saddle, in an older hardwood forest. Deadfalls across the trail may not have been cleared, so get used to following a beaten path around them.
The last part of the trail is the rocky and steep climb to the summit. The views open gradually and remind you of why you’ve worked so hard to get here. On top, there are a series of viewpoints looking inland, toward Grand Portage Bay, and toward Hat Point. The biggest view of all is toward Pigeon Point, the Susie Islands, and distant Isle Royale.
This peak is 700 feet higher than Lake Superior below. At 1,300 feet above sea level, Mount Josephine is not as high as Carlton Peak (1,530 feet — read about Carlton Peak here and here), but it’s much closer to the lake, so the effect is really breathtaking. A solid stone foundation marks the site of a fire lookout tower. It’s a thigh-rumbling hike back down the way you came. There is no water along the hike, so bring plenty on warm summer days.
For an extra visual treat, view Grand Portage photographer Travis Novitsky’s Susie Islands photos on his website. The Susie Islands are the island cluster visible from Mount Josephine’s summit trail and are contained within the Grand Portage Reservation. Amazing Mount Josephine. Amazing Lake Superior!
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