Sitting a mile and a half off the Gunflint Trail in Northern Minnesota is an impressive rock known as the Magnetic Rock. The rock is a 60-foot rock, soaring 30 feet into the air from its 10 by 20-foot base. Not only does the monumental-like appearance of the rock make it unique, but as its name suggests, the rock is magnetic.
The large rock gets its magnetic properties from the mineral magnetite. Magnetite is the same mineral that is found in the underlying bedrock of the Gunflint Iron formation that runs from Northern Minnesota into Ontario.
If you plan on visiting the Magnetic Rock, be sure to be sure to bring a compass with you to check the magnetic properties of it. In order to do so, hold the compass near the rock's surface and move the compass slowly across the surface. Because the rock is magnetic, the needle of the compass will spin. If the rock was not magnetic the needle would point north. Many other rocks nearby are also magnetic, so don’t put your compass away!
The Magnetic Rock can be found along the Magnetic Rock Trail that begins on the Gunflint Trail about 50 miles north of Grand Marais. The hike is an easy 1.5-mile out-and-back hike (though the Gunflint Lake trails continue past the rock). The trail passes over Larch Creek and meanders through jack pine and paper birch trees. Moose, bear, beaver and many other animals call the area home. Signs of the 1999 blowdown, the prescribed burn from 2002 and the 2007 Ham Lake wildfire are evident along the trail.
If you’re a geology lover, you’ll want to hike the Magnetic Rock Trail for another reason. Rocks from 2.7 billion, 1.8 billion, and 1.1 billion years ago are distinctly found near the trail, including rocks from the Sudbury meteor strike, the world’s second largest meteor.
To find the Magnetic Rock Trail, take the Gunflint Trail/County Road 12 north (away from Lake Superior) from Grand Marais. Drive approximately 47.8 miles northwest of Grand Marais. The trailhead is located in a parking lot on the right (east) side of the road. Look for the Magnetic Rock Trail sign. The hiking trail resides in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, so a self-issued day pass, which is available at the trail head, is required.