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Area hiking trail fun

Combine exercise and outdoors

The Pelican Nature Trail at Upper Souris NWR is short but offers a very interesting view of the National Wildlife Refuge below Lake Darling Dam. Four other walking trails at Upper Souris NWR, covering various terrain and lengths, are available to the public. Kim Fundingsland/MDN

By KIM FUNDINGSLAND

Outdoors/Staff Writer

kfundingsland@minotdailynews.com

With the winter season in the rear view mirror thoughts quite naturally turn to spending quality time outdoors, which often takes the form of exercise. Utilizing an area hiking trail is an ideal way to accomplish both.

There is no shortage of hiking trails in and around the Minot area, within and outside the city limits. Also, there’s a darn good selection, whether your preference be scenery or wildlife, level or challenging terrain. Here’s a few hiking trails worth stepping on.

Kim Fundingsland/MDN Minot Parks Woodland Trail has become increasingly popular with Minot residents wishing to step into a nearby outdoors environment. The trail crosses Souris River loops at two locations.

Upper Souris National Wildlife Refuge Trails

Five hiking trails of various lengths and configurations can be found at the Upper Souris NWR northwest of Minot. One of them, the Oxbow Nature Trail located at the Outlet Fishing Area below Lake Darling Dam, is an excellent choice for casual or serious hikers with a keen interest in the outdoors.

Visitors can choose from a half-mile or full mile trail through prime river bottom habitat along the Souris River. Sights include woodlands, grassland edges, and a river oxbow. Interpretive signs are placed along the trail to enhance the experience.

Another wonderful hike, just a 1/2 mile long, at Upper Souris NWR is the Pelican Nature Trail with its trailhead located at the start of the refuge’s Prairie-Marsh Scenic Drive. Pelicans, geese, a variety of ducks, muskrat, mink and more are often encountered on this trail that begins on the grassland and quickly enters wooded bottomland along the Souris River. A special attraction is a photography blind at the end of the trail where the hiker can sit and observe wildlife from a secluded hiding place.

If a bit more challenging terrain is to your liking then the Overlook Nature Trail and Cottonwood Nature Trail are good choices. Both involve some hill climbing and spectacular views of the river bottom. After traversing a mowed grass trail a hiker can take a seat on a bench and absorb a splendid view.

Kim Fundingsland/MDN Tall trees along the river bottom are featured throughout the Woodland Trail. The City Park is located south of the Bark Park on Minot’s southwest edge.

The Cottonwood Nature Trail is one of the stops on the Prairie-Marsh Scenic Drive. The trailhead is located near a large stand of towering cottonwood trees planted by the Civilian Conservation Corps during construction of the refuge in the late 1930’s.

There are two loops that comprise the Cottonwood Trail, both of which are mowed for identification and ease of walking. One loop is a half-mile long and features an scenic overlook and bench. The second loop is one mile long and winds through a coulee and surrounding ridges.

At the north end of Upper Souris NWR, at Mouse River Park, is the Centennial Wildlife Nature Trail. It is a mowed grass trail that meanders through grasslands and meadows for approximately two miles.

Minot Parks Woodland Trail

Located on Minot’s southwest edge, south of the Jack Hoeven Baseball Complex and Bark Park, is the Woodland Trail. One of the newest parks in the Minot Parks system, it features an improved parking lot and a comfort station.

Several trails are located inside the wooded park, making it easy for a person to walk a little or a lot. In all, there is slightly more than 1.4 miles of trail to cover if the longest trek is chosen. There are two bridge crossings of a Souris River loop along the Woodland Trail, which add to the experience.

The tall trees and shrubbery are also home to a variety of birds, making the Woodland Trail an ideal spot for bird watchers and photographers. Additionally, the pathways in the park are almost flat with very little climbing or descending which makes the Woodland Trail a good choice for the casual hiker.

More area hiking trails

Additional hiking trails can be found below the Garrison Dam National Fish Hatchery, at Tasker’s Coulee on the Des Lacs NWR near Kenmare, and the Sandhills Walk at J. Clark NWR. Also, not to be overlooked are sections of the North Country Trail and Audubon NWR and Lake Sakakawea State Park at Pick City. Several trails are also available to the public at Fort Stevenson State Park south of Garrison.

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