Hiking The Lost Forty

Minnesota The Lost Forty Trailhead

  • Activities:

    Chillin, Photography, Hiking

  • Skill Level:


  • Season:

    Year Round

Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Picnic Area

Distance: 0.5 - 1.5 miles round trip. Get up close and personal with 400-year-old virgin pine trees. A day of solitude and silence in the Chippewa National Forest. Learn about the interesting history of Minnesota's north woods.

A little known section of the Chippewa National Forest called “The Lost Forty" leads day hikers through some of the last remaining virgin red and white pine trees in Minnesota. These trees are 300-400 years old and measure between 22 and 48 inches in diameter. But even more incredible than the age and size of the trees is their back story. In 1882, a land surveyor accidentally mapped this section of forest as nearby Coddington Lake. Therefore, the trees went untouched by loggers moving through the area. Today, they are a living reminder of what the north woods used to look like in its virgin state.

The largest nearby city is Bemidji, about an hour southwest. This is a vibrant tourist town that offers a nice variety of restaurants, bars, lodging and recreational opportunities. It's also the home of Paul Bunyan and Babe, as denoted by their massive statues welcoming visitors into town. Getting to the The Lost Forty from Bemidji involves navigating a series of rural highways. Print directions ahead of time because cell phone reception is not guaranteed as the roads get increasingly remote. When in doubt, simply follow the ‘Point of Interest’ signs that begin popping up as you enter the Chippewa National Forest.

Upon arrival at The Lost Forty, park in the small roundabout near the picnic area and pit toilet. Parking is free, but limited. Then again, so are the crowds in this area. Pick up the trailhead just across the forest road. The hike is short; the front quarter-mile loop weaves through the old-growth pine. The back loop winds three-quarters of a mile along rolling hills, with pine that originated after a fire at the turn of the century.

While the distance of this hike is short, its impact is big: almost immediately upon entering the woods, you will be surrounded by staggeringly massive creatures from the old world. Everything about these trees looks ancient – from their thick, craggy bark to their massive limbs high overhead. As if standing beside mountains or the ocean, that familiar feeling of being very small in a very big and wild world will start to set in.

Allow plenty of time to stop, stare and possibly even hug a tree or two. These things simply don't grow in the wild (or city) anymore.

Pack List

  • Daypack containing water and a Salted Nut Roll or two
  • Camera
  • Warm layers (it's cold in northern MN)
  • Printed directions/map
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We venture up to the Lost Forty every spring to see the beautiful trees and enjoy a quick, easy, beautiful hike --- the woods smells so wonderful in the spring!

5 months ago
5 months ago

Robin Pfeifer

An endlessly curious travel writer who simply cannot sit still.

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