Cruiser Lake Trail

This past weekend a trio of friends went up to the Kabetogama Peninsula in Voyageurs National Park to hike the CRUISER LAKE TRAIL. The Kabetogama Peninsula is a 75,000 acre wilderness area within the 217,892 acre Voyageurs National Park. The Kab Peninsula is completely surrounded by water and you need some sort of watercraft to access it’s scenic shores.

We started out from Crane Lake where we would be crossing 30 miles of water to reach the trailhead.

Hanberg's Marine at Crane Lake

We had planned on heading out at 7:00 am on September 12th, but were delayed 3 1/2 hours due to extremely thick fog. We finally got going but the fog was still in the process of lifting.

Namakan Lake

The sun burned through the fog and it turned into a beautiful calm day. Perfect for travelling across 25,130 acre Namakan Lake.

Mica Bay trailhead to Beast Lake

The trailhead to Beast Lake is at the very end of Mica Bay. (Mica Bay is on the way to the Kettle Falls Hotel). There’s a good dock to park your boat and an outhouse at the landing.

Rock Cairn

First of many, many Rock Cairns marking the trail.

The trail/portage to Beast Lake is .9 miles and just before you reach the lake, the Cruiser Lake Trail branches off and heads to the south and west. You climb a steep hill before following a rock ridge that runs above the south shore of Beast Lake.

Beast Lake

View of Beast Lake.

We were headed to Brown Lake where we planned on setting up a base camp. The campsite was an easy 3 mile hike from the trailhead. Right before we got to the site however, we had to climb down a rather steep descent over slippery rocks. With a heavy pack on your back it presents its own challenges to the uninitiated. We found the lakes up in this region to be set deep down in the valleys with rock ridges running between.

View from Brown Lake campsite

We found the great campsite and set up camp. The view from the tent over Brown Lake was gorgeous.

The site had a fire ring, tent pad, latrine, and a bear pole!

Bear Pole

We hung our food on the pole for safe-keeping after a lunch of Tuna wraps. Boy, food sure tastes good when you’re out in the wilderness!

After lunch we took a quick swim, yes swimming on Sept 12th in northern Minnesota is invigorating! We gathered enough firewood for dinner that night and then we decided to hike the 1.9 miles south to Cruiser Lake at about 3:30 in the afternoon.

Cruiser Lake is the highest lake in the park at 1,246 feet above sea level. This must explain why we didn’t have to go down a steep descent when we reached this lake. Brown lake where we were camping was at 1,176 feet – a bit lower than Cruiser Lake. The waters of Cruiser Lake are cystal clear. I believe there are Lake Trout present in this lake. It is clear, deep, and cold.

Hiking back to our camp, we crossed a beaver pond. The Park Service has built a nice boardwalk going through the wet area. Birds were abundant in this area. Canada Geese were on the pond along with a couple Mallards and Ring-necked Ducks. Pine Siskins were chattering away from the tops of the Spruce trees where they were feeding on the cones.

As we walked along the rock ridges, Rock Cairns marked the trail. It was a good thing because this part of the trail goes over a lot of exposed rock and there is no evidence of a trail worn into the ground. You must keep a close eye on the Cairns as getting lost up here would not be a good thing.

At one point we surprised a big FISHER MARTEN! He dashed into the woods just as quickly as we saw him. What a beautiful creature! His thick dark brown coat of fur and long tail make this relative of the weasel worth seeing.

Getting back to camp we started making dinner when we heard a Barred Owl hooting: “who cooks for you, who cooks for you all“. Tonight we had foil dinner baked in the campfire. The foil packet contained chicken breast, mixed vegetables, and hand-parched wild rice. Dove chocolate bars were for dessert.

As it got dark we watched the campfire burn and then we heard Wolves start howling. Ahh, the sound of the wilderness. It was a late night before we turned in, the full moon and warm temperatures made the evening very enjoyable.


The next morning after a hardy breakfast of Kashi Go Lean 7-grain cereal with fresh raspberries, we got ready for our day hike to Rainy Lake. The Cruiser Lake Trail heads north to Anderson Bay on Rainy Lake and our hike would be about 7.5 miles round trip. We were going light with only day packs for our lunch.

Cruiser Lake Trail directional sign

We followed the rock ridges north to Peary Lake. At one point we were high above a very scenic beaver pond.

Kabetogama Peninsula Beaver Pond

The rock ridges here were formed by the glaciers and generally the rock rifts run from the northwest to the southeast. (keep this in mind if you ever find yourself lost in Voyageur country) In between the ridges are deep crevices. When we got to Peary Lake (elevation 1126), again we climbed down a steep descent. There’s a beautiful campsite on this lake and we decided to swim here. The frigid waters really wake up the senses!

Marsh St. John's Wort

There were lots of wildflowers blooming around the shoreline like the Marsh St. John’s Wort shown above (which hasn’t quite bloomed yet – isn’t it a little late?).

Rainy Lake from Anderson Bay cliffs

On to Rainy Lake where we hiked the loop that goes up on the Anderson Bay Cliffs. What a view!


In places the Bearberry plants were abundant.

Cruiser Lake Trail

Then about 1p.m. it started to drizzle. We got out our raingear and started heading back to camp. A Fox crossed our path as we watched closely for the next Rock Cairn. The forest on these rock ridges consists mainly of scrub Oak and Jack Pine. I guess there’s not too much soil for the trees to live in. Scrub Oak leaves turn a deep red in the fall and are the last trees to turn and lose their leaves. It’ll be a few weeks before their color starts changing.

Back at camp we huddled under a Balsam tree where the thick branches protected us from the rain, which had started coming down heavier. After a dinner of dehydrated spagetti, hitting the sack was easy. The rain on the roof of the tent had a hypnotic effect and sleep was easy to come by.

The next morning we packed up early, but first, we had gotten lazy the night before and didn’t use the bear pole to tie up the food. We’d just covered the food up with a tarp to keep it dry. Well, the next morning when I went to make the coffee we had a fat little mouse visiting! He’d nibbled on some trail mix and didn’t cause too much damage. I guess the “bear” pole protects your food from a few other critters too.

We got back to Namakan Lake and the powerboat around 10:30 a.m. The wind and drizzle was whipping up a little and we were thankful we had a big boat and motor to cross Namakan. You can get tossed around on this lake pretty easily when the waves get rolling. We made it back to Crane Lake by noon where we had a hot pot of coffee waiting for us.

What a great trip!


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1 Response to Cruiser Lake Trail

  1. sandy Martin says:

    hello – did you rent the powerboat that you took to the Mica trailhead? and then leave it at the dock for a return trip?

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