Hundreds of hikers are expected to take the 10th anniversary of the North Country Hiking Fest in stride with a day packed full of family friendly and healthy activities focusing on the North Country National Scenic Trail and hiking at Itasca State Park on Saturday, Aug. 27.
Those up for a challenge can hike the entire 10.6-mile length of the North Country National Scenic Trail in Itasca State Park while those short on time or not wanting to hike the full distance can make a hiking staff and then try it out on an easier two-mile loop to Preacher's Grove along the Brower Trail and bike trail.
"The North Country National Scenic Trail and Itasca State Park are two great destinations for hikers," said Erika Rivers, director of Minnesota state parks and trails. "We hope this special event - which brings the two together - helps new people discover them."
North Country National Scenic Trail, administered by the National Park Service, spans seven states and passes through 12 national forests and dozens of state parks including Maplewood and Itasca. Created by Congress in 1980, it will be 4,600 miles when complete. More than 500 miles of the trail's 850 miles have been constructed in Minnesota, with some of the construction made possible with funding from the Parks and Trails Fund, created after voters approved the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment in November 2008. The Parks and Trails Fund receives 14.25 percent of the three-eighths percent sales tax revenue that may only be spent to support parks and trails of regional or statewide significance.
"We're grateful to the elected officials, the local public land partners-especially the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and Itasca State Park-and the many dedicated volunteers who have made the North Country Trail possible," said Bruce Matthews, executive director of the nonprofit North Country trail Association.
"Their ongoing support of the trail is improving Minnesota's quality of life while also making significant contributions to the regional tourism economy. This event celebrates all these things coming together and the great hiking that results."
The Aug. 27 Hiking Fest is the eighth in a series of 12 hiking events taking place in 2016 as part of an ongoing celebration of 125 years of Minnesota state parks and trails and 100 years of the National Park Service.