Kekekabic Trail
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Nearest Entry Point: Kekekabic Trail (west) #74 Fishing: Many lakes along the trail offer fishing opportunities. Too many to list.
Maps: Fisher F-10, F-11, F-12; McKenzie 9, 8, 7 Trail Water Views: Extensive, including waterfalls and rapids. Agamok Falls, Muller Falls. Views of Gabimichigami Lake and Lake Kekekabic.
Fire History: Eastern end of trail heavily impacted by Cavity Lake Fire and Ham Lake Fire - several smaller fires (i.e. Harness Lake Fire) and a 2011 fire near Bakekana Lake
Wildlife Seen on Visit:
Campsites: 8 to 14 depending on whether your willing to hike off trail along several connecting trails Highest Trail Elevation: About 1,959 feet near the Kekekabic Fire Lookout Tower Site (tower has been removed)
Last Visited: September 4, 2016 Scenic Overlooks: Many expansive views
Connections: Benezie Loop Trail, Old Pines Trail, Snowbank Lake Trail, many portage crossings
Trailheads: Snowbank Lake Road (west end) and Gunflint Trail (east end)

Kekekabic Trail

Kawishiwi Ranger District

The only part of the Kekekabic ("The Kek") Trail that is on this website so far is the western entry point (BWCA Entry Point #74). The same entry point is used by the Snowbank Lake Trail.

The trails is named for Lake Kekekabic and the old fire lookout tower that once stood near that lake. "Kekekabic" is derived from the Ojibwe languages word, "Keke-quabec", "Keke-quabic", "Cacacowabic" or "Cacaquabic" (depending on how the map maker decided to spell it) and has been interpreted to mean "A hawk nest up on the rocks" or "hawk iron cliffs" or "Hawk Cliff Lake" (Source: Treuer, Anton - Bemidji State University and Johnson, Lee - United States Forest Service). All these names refer to Lake Kekekabic. "Gekek" means "hawk" in the Ojibwe language. The modern day spelling of Kekekabic in the Ojibwe language is "Gekekwaabikosag".

The Kek is maintained by the Kekekabic Trail Club. As of 2019, the Kek is now part of the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCNST). The trail was established as a hiking trail in the 1960's. It has been maintained by volunteers since 1990.

The trail was originally established to provide access to the Kekekabic Fire Tower, which is near Kekekabic Lake and was built in the 1930's by the Civilian Conservation Corp. The eastern end of the trail near the Gunflint Trail trailhead was formed from the remnants of an old wagon trail dating back to the 1880's that led to the defunct Paulson Mine near Mine Lake. Another fire lookout tower stood near the eastern trailhead. This was the Gunflint Lookout Tower and was removed in 1979.

The Kekekabic Trail is anywhere from 37 miles to 42 miles in length, depending on whose measurement you want to use. Officially the Kekekabic Trail Club lists it at 38.6 miles. The trail is quite rugged, often difficult to follow (especially the eastern end) and commonly has obstacles like blowdown, beaver dams and mud to deal with. To mark the trail blazes and some ribbons are used (usually blue in color, but not always). Also to help follow the trail look for cut timber which is leftover from any trail clearing activities. For this hike, you will definitely want a compass and/or GPS along with some maps of the trail. Pick up the most recent edition of the Kekekabic Trail Guide published by the Kekekabic Trail Chapter of the NCTA for the most current information. It's a high quality guide with excellent maps.

Beymer, Robert, Boundary Waters Canoe Area – Volume 2 – Eastern Region (Berkeley: Wilderness Press, 2006), 156, 162, 173, 185.
Pauly, Daniel, Exploring the Boundary Waters (Minneapolis:  University of Minnesota Press, 2005), 175.
Rom, William N., M.D., Canoe Country Wilderness (Stillwater: Voyageur Press, 1987), 21, 31.

Hiking the Kekekabic Trail

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Here is a brief overview of the hike starting from the west end near Snowbank Lake (BWCA Entry Point #74) and heading east until you reach the Gunflint Trail (BWCA Entry Point #56). (Note: Will fill out this web page as soon as we can get the data.):

This section is contained on McKenzie Map 9:
1) BWCA Entry Point #74.

The trail starts on the far right of your view (notice the faint sign with a blue blaze just above it).

This is the start of the west end of the Kekekabic Trail on the south side of the Snowbank Lake Road.

2) The Kekekabic Trail and the Snowbank Lake Trail extend for about 4 miles or so outside of the BWCA. During this stretch they are the same trail. The trail passes just south of Pickerel Bay of Snowbank Lake. It enters the BWCA just south of Parent Lake and just northwest of Becoosin Lake.

3) Shortly after entering the BWCA (about 1/4 mile), you come to an off shoot of the trail called the Benezie Loop. This loop trail is about a two mile oval that provides access to Benezie Lake and Becoosin Lake. There are four campsites on the Benezie Loop Trail (two on each lake).

4) A 1/4 mile past the first interested with the Benezie Loop Trail, you come to another interesection. Again this provides access to the Benezie Loop Trail, but also marks the start of the Old Pines Trail. In addition another trail heads off to the northeast here. This is the Snowbank Lake Trail which has been one and the same as the Kekekabic Trail to this point.

5) Now following the combined Kekekabic Trail / Old Pines Trail, continue about 3/4 mile until you come to a three-way interestion. Going right (south) puts you on the Benezie Loop Trail. Heading left (northeast) continues the combined Kekekabic Trail / Old Pines Trail.

6) For just over 2 miles, the Kekekabic Trail / Old Pines Trail continue northeast and pass just south of Disappointment Lake. At the end of this strech on the very southeastern point of Disappointment Lake, you come to another three-way intersection. Heading left (northwest) is the Disappointment Lake Trail. Heading right (east) is the still combined Kekekabic Trail / Old Pines Trail.

7) About 1/2 mile east, the trail passes just north of Drumstick Lake. This lake is the headwaters of Drumstick Creek.

8) Another 1 mile further on, you combe to another three-way interestion. Turning right (south) puts you on the Old Pines Trail. Continuing straight (east) keeps you on the Kekekabic Trail. You can actually go either way at this point as these trails join up only about 1 mile further down the trail. Taking a right will be more difficult as the Old Pines Trail is not well maintained and it is also the longer path.

9) A mile further along, the Old Pines Trail and Kekekabic Trail rejoin between Moiyaka Lake and Medas Lake. There is also an old portage here that I don't think is maintained any longer that extends from Medas Lake, along the east side of Moiyaka Lake up to Alworth Lake. The portage is about 280 rods long. Where the two trails reconnect along with the old portage now too, there are two campsites in this area. One on south shore of Moiyaka Lake and one on the north shore of Medas Lake.

This section is contained on McKenzie Map 8:
10) Once past the three-way junction between Moiyaka Lake and Medas Lake, continue generally east on the Kekekabic Trail. A half mile farther the trail crosses a faint winter use trail that you'll likely not notice.

11) About 1 1/2 miles past the last three-way interestion, you arrive at a creek crossing. There is a portage here connecting Thomas Lake to your right (east) with navigable creek on your left that leads to Hatchet Lake and Ima Lake not far upstream.

12) A long stretch of 4 1/2 miles takes you northeast to Strup Lake's northwest corner. The trail continues for about a 1/2 mile along Strup Lake's north shoreline, crossing an 85 rod portage between Strup Lake and Lake Kekekabic. You should walk the portage here if you want to see Lake Kekekabic as this is the only time The Kek provides access to it. Just past the portage is a campsite on the south side of the trail on the north shore of Strup Lake. Finally the trail passes just south of Whist Lake another 50 rods or so past the campsite.

13) Past Whist Lake the trail is hilly and rugged for the next 2 miles. The trail continues northeast through this section. At the end of this stretch, just as the trail bends to the southeast, is the site of the old Kekekabic Lookout Tower. The elevation of the trail at this point is 1,919 feet. The site of the old tower is just off the trail.

14) Past the lookout tower, the trail runs southeast for about 1 mile and then bends to the northeast for another 1/2 mile until it passes between two small lakes (Loki Lake to the north and Harness Lake to the south).

15) Another 1/2 mile down the trail which is now running mostly east, the Kekekabic Trail passes just south of Bushwah Lake. It is also possible to hike down to Travois Lake (south of the trail), but it is difficult. Travois Lake is in the Mugwump Lake Primitive Management Area of the BWCA. The trail again becomes very undulating as it winds generally east. About 1 mile past Bushwah Lake the trail crosses a small creek. A 1/2 mile past this creek the trail reaches the northwest corner of Agamok Lake. There is a campsite here.

16) From the campsite on the northwest corner of Agamok Lake, the trail runs north about 1/4 mile and comes to Agamok Falls. There is a bridge crossing here. A very scenic area. There are three other campsites in this area. Also Mueller Lake is here and one of the campsites is on its eastern tip.

This section is contained on McKenzie Map 7:
17) After taking in Agamok Falls, the trail passes immediately between two steep hills (one to the north and one to the south of the trail) and then continues roughly eastward. Just past the two hills, the trail enters the burn area which will be with you the rest of the way to the eastern end of the trail. This particular area was burned by the Cavity Lake Fire. Further on, the burnt forest will look the same, but the fire will have been a result of a different fire called the Ham Lake Fire. The trail can be difficult to follow through this burned section. In 2 miles the trail reaches the very northern tip of Gabimichigami Lake, a large lake. Gabimichigami Lake is the deepest lake entirely within the State of Minnesota (and the deepest in the BWCA obviously) at 209 feet. There is a campsite here on Gabimichigami Lake.

18) For the rest of the way, the Kekekabic Trail continues on a fairly straight path to the east. About 1 1/2 miles past Gabimichigami Lake the trail intersects the north point of Howard Lake. There is another campsite here.

19) Another 1 mile east and the trail runs along the north shoreline of Chip Lake. A 1/2 mile or so past that and you reach Seahorse Lake. There are no campsites at either lake.

20) From Seahorse Lake, continue another 1/2 mile east until you reach Warclub Lake. You will have to cross the creek that connects Warclub Lake and Seahorse Lake. There is a short 15 rod portage that avoids a short unnavigable section of the creek here. Once across the creek, the Kekekabic Trail runs along the south shore of Warclub Lake and then once past the east end of the lake, along the south bank of the Chub River. Just before reaching Fay Lake, The Kek crosses the Chub River. There is a 45 rod portage used by canoeists at this point.

21) From the west end of Fay Lake, the trail proceeds along that lakes north shore and just south of Glee Lake for about 1/2 mile eventually coming to a portage crossing that connects these two lakes. This 25 rod portage provides access to Glee Lake on the north and Fay Lake on the south.

22) About 1/4 mile east of the portage between Glee Lake and Fay Lake, the trail follows the same path as a 55 rod portage that connects the east end of Glee Lake to Bingshick Lake along a small creek. The trail cross the creek just west of Bingshick Lake. The trail follows the north shore of Bingshick Lake for about 1/2 mile and comes to another portage crossing. This is a 15 rod portage that connects Honker Lake to the north to Bingshick Lake to the south. Another 1/4 mile farther on and The Kek heads east of the west end of Bingshick Lake. There are two campsites on Bingshick Lake. Just a 1/2 mile past Bingshick Lake, the Kekekabic Trail leaves the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.

23) The last three miles of the Kekekabic Trail run almost due east through the remains of the scorched forest. The last lake the trail passes heading east is Mine Lake. The trail runs along the north shore of this lake about 2 1/2 miles from BWCA Entry Point #56 (the east end of the trail). You reach the trailhead on the Gunflint Trail. (Note: Just a few hundred feet up the Gunflint Trail, across the road, is the trailhead for the Magnetic Rock Trail. This short trail continues further east to an interesting rock formation for which the trail is named.)

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