In Late May of 2011 I explored the Old Border
Route Segment from Rengo Road (aka Otter Lake Road)
to Partridge Falls. This trail has not been maintained
for 13 years and is not a viable trail any more.
There is no sign of a trail, and it is very thickety.
It is simply not worth hiking. Instead, if you want
to hike into Grand Portage from the Eastern end
of the Border Route/Northern end of the Superior
Hiking Trail you should do the following. This
was a post that I posted on the SHT Hiker Yahoo
Group board. The directions were meant for a person
who was hiking from the Northern End of the SHT to
the Isle Royale Ferry
I'll give the directions in a little bit more detail.
First of all I would buy Mackensie Map #98
This will have the whole route I'm describing.
When you get to the Northern Terminus of the
Superior Hiking Trail you take a right onto
Otter Lake Road. After about 2 miles you come
to the junction of Jackson Lake Road. Keep
going straight on Otter Lake Road. After about
a half mile you come to a sign that says
"Welcome to the Grand Portage Indian Reservation,
Casino -12 miles." This is where Otter Lake Road
changes to Rengo Road. Otter Lake Road is a nice
gravel Forest Road, but Rengo Road degrades
to a not so nice gravel road. This is a road more
suitable for SUV's, pickups or other higher clearance
vehicles. I was a little worried driving down it
with my minivan.
Keep going straight on Rengo, which is kind
of funny because the road doesn't go very
straight. It twists around in every direction.
Eventually, you come to a clear area where
there is a Heliport for fighting fires. I'm told there
is a good overlook here. I didn't stop there.
After about 5 or 6 miles after the "Welcome to"
sign, Rengo road ends at a T. I don't know what
the name of the Road at the T is. But if you take a
left at the T and go about a half mile you will reach
Old Highway 61. This is a paved road.
This is the spot where you can either take a LEFT or
If you take a LEFT, you walk down the road about
3 miles and meet up with the Grand Portage Trail.
(on my earlier post I said it was around two miles
which is wrong.) At the Grand Portage Trail you
take a right and walk 3.75 miles down into Grand
Portage. There are no views of Lake Superior
on the trail, except for when you get to Grand
Portage and are right next to the Lake.
Once you get to Grand Portage, the historic Depot
will be in front of you. Take a right onto the road
and walk past the National Monument Heritage Center
Then about 1/8 mile down the road you will find
the Grand Portage Campground and the
However, if you are going to the Isle Royale Ferry
you need to take a left back at the Depot when
you come off the Grand Portage Trail. Then you will
be walking through the actual town of Grand Portage,
with an elementary school and other town buildings.
Take the road going to Hat Point. It is about
a 2 mile walk to the Ferry. There is a sign in the
town of Grand Portage pointing you to the ferry.
Going back to Old Highway 61. If you take a RIGHT
on Old 61 you will walk just over a mile to Mineral Center.
There is nothing at Mineral Center except
for a house or two. It used to be a town before they
moved all the Non-Indian people off the reservation in 1948.
At Mineral Center, there is a junction with another
paved road, but keep going straight on Old Highway 61.
About 1/4 mile after Mineral Center, Old Highway 61
takes a 90 degree turn to the east. Keep going around
4 1/2 miles to the new Highway 61. Somewhere on that
4 1/2 mile stretch, you will be getting views of Lake Superior as
the road comes down off the bluff. Once at the
new Highway 61 take a left, and it is less than a mile
to the Casino and Campground.
WHICH WAY IS BETTER? Depends. If you want to get a
taste of what the Grand Portage Trail is like take the
left. If you want the view of Lake Superior take a
right. I'm not sure which way is actually shorter, but
I suspect going to the right is.
HOW LONG IS THE WHOLE HIKE GOING TO TAKE.
It's about a 14 mile hike from the SHT Trailhead
of which all is pretty easy. Road walks are usually
faster than hiking a trail like the SHT, and the Grand Portage Trail is
pretty easy, too. I'm estimating that this hike will
definitely take less than a day. Probably about
8 to 10 hours for an average hiker.
By comparison, I left the Partridge Falls area around
8:30 am. I walked down Partridge Falls Road for
4.3 miles, then I took a left onto Old Highway 61.
I walked 2 miles to the Grand Portage Trail.
Then I went down the 3.75 miles and
arrived into Grand Portage around 1:30 pm.
So It took me about 5 hours to do a hike that's about
5 miles shorter than the hike from the SHT Trailhead
But I ditched my gear at the intersection of Partridge Falls Road and
Old Highway 61. My van was parked in Grand
Portage, so I returned with my van to pick up the gear.
It should also be noted that there is no cell phone
coverage along this entire route, including the
northern parts of the SHT. The town of Grand Portage
has no cell phone coverage. So bring a credit card
so you can make calls once you get to a phone in
Grand Portage. I use 1 -800-COLLECT and have them
bill my credit card.
Harriet Quarles Transportation of Grand Marais does
shuttle people to and from Grand Portage. This
must be pre-arranged. Her phone number is listed
on our hiker group home page.
Anne O is the last known backpacker to do the Rengo Road
route to the SHT Trailhead from Grand Portage. She
started hiking on the Tuesday before Memorial Day.
She is a member of our hiker group.
regards from me, Todd McMahon, aka Tman