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U.S. Forest Service

Eastern Region Viewing Area


Petasites frigidus. Sweet coltsfoot (Petasites frigidus). Photo by Jack Greenlee, Superior National Forest.

Cypripedium parviflorum var. pubescens. Yellow lady's slipper (Cypripedium parviflorum var. pubescens). Photo by Jack Greenlee, Superior National Forest.

Agrimonia gryposepala. Common agrimony (Agrimonia gryposepala). Photo by Jack Greenlee, Superior National Forest.

Otto Lake

Forest: Superior National Forest

District: Laurentian Ranger District

Description: Otto Lake is a 140-acre lake with a 3-mile hiking trail that makes a loop around the lake. It is located in the Toimi Drumlins. Drumlins are a glacial landform – they are essentially a low, elongated hill that looks a little like a half-buried egg. Looking at a map of the area, you would notice that all the hills (or rather, drumlins), creeks, and lakes lie in a southwest to northeast orientation, which reveals the direction the glacier was moving during the last glaciation. The trail around Otto Lake passes through two main forest types, lowland black spruce swamp, and upland forest dominated by quaking aspen and paper birch. On the east end of the lake, the trail climbs up and runs along the top of another glacial landform, an esker. Eskers are long, winding ridges made of gravel that used to be a melt water stream underneath a glacier. If you are out looking for wildflowers along the Otto Lake Trail, watch for these clues to the area's glacial history.

Wildflower Viewing Information: Different wildflowers can be found blooming the entire summer along the Otto Lake Trail. Some of the first things to bloom in May are sweet coltsfoot (Petasites frigidus) and marsh marigold (Caltha palustris) in low, wet areas. Early in June is a good time to find both abundant mosquitoes and, if you are lucky, yellow lady's slipper (Cypripedium parviflorum var. pubescens) in a forested wetland on the far side of Otto Lake. Early summer is also the best time to see Canada mayflower (Maianthemum canadense), bluebead lily (Clintonia borealis), wood anemone (Anemone quinquefolia), juneberry (Amelanchier sp.), and pincherry (Prunus pensylvanica). Mid-summer wildflowers seen along the trail include pale vetchling (Lathyrus ochroleucus), bunchberry (Cornus canadensis), rose twistedstalk (Streptopus lanceolatus), and wild comfrey (Cynoglossum virginianum var. boreale). Spurred gentian (Halenia deflexa), with its rosy-green flowers, is common along the trail in later summer. At this time you might also find the small bristle-covered seeds of common agrimony (Agrimonia gryposepala) hitchhiking on your socks. This trail is also a nice place to hike on a warm fall day when the aspen and birch leaves are at their peak color. Watch for princess pine (Lycopodium dendroideum) at this time with its cone-like fruiting structures full of spores that it will release in a yellow puff with the lightest touch from you.

Safety First: Always bring drinking water and a snack. The hiking trail can be uneven with loose gravel or tree roots, so sturdy hiking boots are helpful. Expect plenty of biting insects in June, July, and August. The trail is maintained and easy to follow.

Directions: Starting at the east end of the Iron Range in Hoyt Lakes, MN, go southeast out of town on St. Louis County 110 until it intersects St. Louis County 16. Head east on St. Louis County 16 for about 4 miles to Forest Road 416. Turn right or south on Forest Road 416 and go about 4 miles to the trailhead for Otto Lake trail.

Ownership and Management: U.S. Forest Service, Superior National Forest, Laurentian Ranger District. For more information contact the Laurentian Ranger District at (218) 229-8800.

Closest Town: Hoyt Lakes, Minnesota.