David Dill/Arrowhead State Trail

David Dill/Arrowhead State Trail

The 135-mile David Dill/Arrowhead State Trail extends from ten miles west of Tower at the intersection with the Taconite State Trail, to Ericsburg, ten miles south of International Falls. This long-distance, natural surface trail was developed mainly for winter use and is used primarily for snowmobiling. Approximately 69 miles of the trail are suitable for horseback riding, mountain biking and hiking in the summer, but some sections of the trail may be impassable with standing water. Call the nearest Parks and Trails area office prior to your trip to enquire about current trail conditions.

Visitor alert

  • The state trail is closed to all motorized use until further notice to prevent resource damage. For more information, call Tower DNR Parks and Trails at 218-300-7841 or visit mndnr.gov/trailconditions.
  • The trail is closed between Hwy 53 and the Hagerman Grant-in-Aid trail for replacement of a trail bridge. There is reflective signage on both sides of the project notifying trail users of the closure and routing them around on the Slatinski and Hagerman Grant-in-Aid Trails.

(Updated March 19, 2021)

Landscape

The southern part of the trail features rolling hills with numerous lakes and streams. Many of the hills have large areas of exposed rock and enormous boulders. This part is heavily timbered with a mix of hardwoods and conifers. This mix of trees is spectacularly colorful in autumn. The northern part of the trail is relatively flat between International Falls and the Ash River. The higher ground is mainly forested with aspen; lower ground has a mix of spruce and ash. The trail goes through a number of areas that have standing water in the summer, which makes these portions of the trail mostly suited to winter use.

The landscape of the area is a result of the underlying geology. The area's bedrock formation is known as the Canadian Shield. It was formed by volcanic action approximately 2.7 billion years ago, and is some of the oldest rock on Earth. Later, ancient seas laid down the valuable iron ore that is still mined in the area today. Further volcanic activity swept away the sea and formed two mountain ranges. The advancing and receding of glaciers and millions of years of erosion have worn the mountains down, leaving behind the rugged landscape now found along much of the trail.

Wildlife

Native northern Minnesota wildlife is abundant along the trail. Some species to watch for are moose, timber wolf, brush wolf, white-tailed deer, black bear, lynx, porcupine, snowshoe hare, fisher, pine marten and red squirrel. 

Over 100 varieties of birds live in the area. Some birds, like the grosbeaks, nuthatches, chickadees and pileated woodpeckers, inhabit the area year-round. Birds like the snow bunting and snowy owl migrate south from the Arctic for the winter; the bald eagle, osprey, warblers, and fly catchers migrate north to this area for the summer. 

A variety of game fish including walleye, northern pike, trout and smallmouth bass are found in the area's large number of lakes and rivers.

History

The earliest known inhabitants of the area lived thousands of years ago. They left pictographs (rock paintings) and petroglyphs (rock carvings) north of the present trail area. Many Indian tribes had settled in the area, including the Lakota, Dakota and more recently, the Anishinaabe (Ojibwe).

European immigration forced the Anishinaabe to move west along the St. Lawrence Seaway and Great Lakes. They entered present-day northern Minnesota in the late 1600s. The lake and forest resources provided the Anishinaabe with abundant fish and wildlife in spite of the harsh winters. However, continued immigration eventually forced them from most of their land. 

Fur trade began in this area in 1679. French-Canadian voyageurs from Montreal and Quebec came west to participate in the fur trade with the American Indians. The trade was dominated first by the French, then British, and finally the Americans. The fur trade era lasted about 175 years. When it ended, many voyageurs and new immigrants turned to logging. 

During the early years of logging in the area, thousands of acres of virgin red and white pine were cut down to supply the building boom in cities across the country. After the vast stands of mature growth pines were removed, aspen forests established themselves. They support a thriving wood products industry which produces paper and building products. The trail passes through a variety of public and private lands that are managed for forest products.

Timber harvesting is often done in the winter when the ground is frozen, which makes it easier to access harvesting sites that would be inaccessible in the summer due to wet conditions.

The major tree species found along the trail include aspen, white and black spruce, Norway pine and white pine. Aspen - a pioneer species - is harvested by clearcutting to allow sunlight to reach the roots of the recently cut trees, which will then sprout and produce aspen suckers in the first year after cutting. Black spruce is also harvested in this manner, but it is usually seeded to get new trees on the site. White spruce, Norway and white pine are usually thinned a number of times before the final harvest is undertaken when all remaining trees are removed and the site is replanted with seedlings. 

Most tree species harvested in Minnesota are used to make paper and waferboard, but larger trees are also used to make lumber, cabinets, and furniture parts. When traveling near a harvesting site, please watch out for logging trucks and other equipment. 

In addition to the natural resources provided by the forest, the discovery of iron ore dramatically changed northern Minnesota. The rich iron ore deposits contributed to the industrialization of the whole country. The development of the mining industry created a large demand for labor, which led to a wave of European immigration and to the growth of the "Iron Range" and its associated mining towns. The mining industry started to decline as the rich ore was used up. The industry was reinvigorated for a time by the development of taconite, the mining process that made mining of lower grade iron ore economically viable. The mining industry has experienced ongoing restructuring, which results in lower employment levels. 

Trail uses

hikingHiking

mountain bikingMountain biking

horsebackHorseback

snowmobilingSnowmobiling

Trail events

Events Calendar

Scroll table right to see more »

There are currently no event listings.

Permits
  • You will need a Horse Pass if you will be horseback riding or carriage driving.
  • You will need a Ski Pass if you will be cross-country skiing on groomed trail. Ungroomed trail does not require a pass.
  • Snowmobiles must be registered or have a snowmobile state trail sticker.
  • No other fees or passes are required to use the trail.
Trail shelters

From International Falls, east to Tower. For winter trail users, use the Interactive Snowmobile Trails map.

  • Western trailhead
    • Junction of the Blue Ox Trail map and David Dill/Arrowhead State Trail.
    • Junction of the Haggerman Trail and David Dill/Arrowhead State Trail.
    • Junction of the Voyageur Trail and David Dill/Arrowhead State Trail west of County Road 122.
  • Kabetogama State Forest 
    • Located east of Ash River.
    • Located along the Black Duck River.
    • Joint paths of the Voyageur Country Trail and David Dill/Arrowhead State Trail, west of County Road 180.
    • Located along the north edge of Myrtle Lake.
    • Located along West Elbow Lake at the junction of the Orr Spur South/Voyageur Trail and David Dill/Arrowhead State Trail.
    • South of the junction of the Cook Area Trail along the David Dill/Arrowhead State Trail.
  • Sturgeon River State Forest
    • North of County Road 115 along the David Dill/Arrowhead State Trail, southeast of Lake Vermilion.
  • Superior National Forest
    • Located along County Road 65, west of Highway 73.
    • North of Lake Leander, near Lake Leander Road.
  • David Dill/Arrowhead and David Dill/Taconite Junction
    • Along the Pike River Flowage, south of State Highway 1, west of Tower.
Parking

Do not leave valuables in your vehicle!

Parking is available in trail communities and along the winter grant-in-aid snowmobile trail network.

  • Cook: In town.
  • International Falls: In town.
  • Kabetogama River State Forest: At forest campgrounds.
  • Tower: Trailhead parking 2 miles west of Highway 169 on Highway 1.
Restrooms

Most communities provide public restrooms nearby with some in local parks in proximity to the trail. Organizations such as chambers of commerce or tourism agencies provide restroom facilities within some larger communities. Local businesses provide restroom facilities for customers.

Master Plan Review

The DNR has developed a new master plan for the David Dill/Arrowhead State Trail. The original master plan was written in 1980 and revised in 1983. The new plan accommodates new recreational trends and land owner agreements. Before final approval, the public will have the opportunity to review and comment on the draft plan. The public may review and comment on the updated plan through July 29 by using the online comment form or mailing:

Joe Unger
DNR Parks and Trails
500 Lafayette Rd
St. Paul, MN 55155

 

Additionally, the DNR will host an open house from 6 to 8 p.m. on July 7 at the Cook Community Center, located at 510 Gopher Drive, Cook, MN, 55723.

Draft plan

Trail planning sections:

Section 1

Section 2

Section 3

Section 4

Section 5

Section 6

Section 7

Section 8

Frequently asked questions 

Commonly used terms

1980 Master Plan