Gandy Dancer State Trail

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4/5 (6 reviews)
Moose Lake, Minnesota (Pine County)
Last Updated: 11/02/2023
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Trail Information


Forest Category Icon Forest
Overland Category Icon Overland

The Gandy Dancer State Trail is a gentle and scenic drive through the Nemadji and St. Croix State Forests. The trail follows an abandoned railroad track and provides the only vehicle access to the Black Lake Bog State Natural Area. A gandy dancer was a slang term for railroad workers who built the original track. The workers used tools manufactured by the Gandy Manufacturing Company. The railroad crews were known to sing in unison with their repetitive tasks, like hammering in railroad spikes, which led to them being described as dancers. The trail is famous for birders, wildlife sightings, and wildflowers.

Trail Difficulty and Assessment

Trail Navigation

Before you leave for the trail, check the latest open and closure status of Minnesota Department of Natural Resource trails here.

The Gandy Dancer State Trail is an abandoned railroad grade with a maintained surface suitable for any high-clearance vehicle. The trail can be driven in any direction and has multiple pavement crossings where one can enter or exit to drive just portions of the road if desired. The Minnesota portion of the trail is open to all offroad vehicles.

Bring a saw: It is highly possible that downed timber could block the trail if you travel it shortly after a wind event. Have a saw with you in case you need to clear the road.

Winter use: The trail is groomed and is shared with ATVs and snowmobiles, connecting to the other groomed trails open to snowmobile and ATV use in MN and WI. Vehicles and ATVs are asked to stay off the trail if the temperature is above 30 degrees. Once Grooming starts, the trails are closed to ORVs.

Trail Reviews

4/5 (6)
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Rated 4/5
Visited: 06/13/2023

This is a beautiful country drive, and the Black Bog area is worth seeing at least once. I hoped to see more wildlife this trip, but only encountered birds. Had the trail to myself on a mid-week run. The blowdown issue is real; bring a saw!
Rated 4/5
Visited: 08/30/2020

I entered the Gandy Dancer trail on the South end from the East Arm Road heading North. On the date of my visit, 8/30/2020, the first 1/3 of the trail heading North or just prior to the boundary of Nemadji, the trail was littered with substantial wash-boarding, making what otherwise would be a relaxing drive a rather bumpy affair. Admittedly, both myself and the Jeep grew pretty tired of it after a bit and ended up re-routing over to HWY 31 for 5 miles until the Omans Drive connection. Once you enter the park on the Gandy Dancer trail it seems to almost completely subside. Other than the wash-boarding, the trail was absolutely beautiful. A great way, the only way, to go between the trails in Saint Croix and those in the northern portion of Nemadji. Straight as an arrow for the most part, this trail had very little traffic on it for my trip but was filled with all sorts of scenery. Take your time and enjoy the ride, just be sure to watch out for those washboards, they can loosen up your hardware if not taken too seriously.
Trail Review: Gandy Dancer State Trail - Matt Charles
Trail Review: Gandy Dancer State Trail - Matt Charles
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Visited: 08/04/2020

First local (Northern MN) trail I’ve tried from this site. GPS coordinates were spot on, found the trailhead easily. The first 400-500 yards of the trail are awesome. Some bumps, rocks, twists, and slopes. Once you get to the main portion of the trail, you’ve pretty much made your last turn for about 15 miles. Gorgeous landscape and perfect drive on a nice day, but you can essentially set your cruise at 20mph and not worry about much else. Overall, decent trail for a beginner or someone trying out a new vehicle. Once you’ve done it once, probably unlikely to need a 2nd time.
Trail Review: Gandy Dancer State Trail - Cory Flesch
Trail Review: Gandy Dancer State Trail - Cory Flesch
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Rated 4/5
Visited: 05/27/2019

The trail head at the north end was very easy to find, either following the given directions, or punching the coordinates into GPS and letting it lead you. The trail is definitely and easy trail and for most of the trip pretty flat. Having been 25 years since I last had a true offroad vehicle, and fairly recently into this one, it was a good starter trail to help get used to the handling as I was traversing the pot holes, dips, and puddles on the trail. For a trail, it is rather well maintained. I don't know that traveling north or south would be better then the other, but if you hadn't been to the trail before, I could see it being a bit harder to find and get on the trail with it's proximity to dirt roads in the area.
Temporary Closure
Visited: 07/16/2018

We were really excited to run the Gandy from N to S after doing some other trails in the area. Unfortunately, Harlis Road is closed just E of the Matthew Lourey Trail with a barrier and then a closed gate. This is on the N end. We didn't get a chance to check the S trailhead, so I can't speak to whether the entire trail is closed.

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