Hundreds of hikers – young and old – are expected to take part in the 13th annual North Country Hiking Fest at Itasca State Park on Saturday, Aug. 24.

Sponsored by the North Country Trail Association (NCT) and Itasca State Park, the event will feature a day packed full of family-friendly and healthy activities focusing on hiking.

Carter Hedeen, president of the NCT Itasca Moraine Chapter said that “our annual event kicks off in the morning with challenge hikes on the North Country National Scenic Trail that hikes west, across the Hubbard County forest. Hikers can choose from either a 4.5-, 10- or 12.5-mile hike back to the park’s south entrance and NCTA volunteers will provide shuttles and guide the hikers on their way.”

Those hikes start at 10 a.m. and hikers should meet outside the front entrance to the Jacob Brower Visitor’s Center.

According to Barb Jauquet-Kalinoski, president of the NCT Laurentian Lakes Chapter, “This year’s event theme is kids hiking, and there are lots of activities scheduled to help kids and their parents get started. At the event, kids can make their own hiking sticks and pack their own trail snack for free.” Those staffed events will be ongoing from 1-2:30pm inside the visitor’s center. There will also be on-your-own activities dealing with where to hike, what you might find in nature along the way and info on staying safe on the trail.

At 2:45 p.m., there will be two guided family hikes – one short “Tots on the Trail Story hike” leaving from the visitor’s center and another “Hike the Hiking Club Trail” leaving from Forest Inn. Both hikes will wrap up by 4 p.m.

Kids that obtain stamps at all six stations/activities will be entered into the grand prize drawing to be drawn following the ice cream social (4:30-5:30 p.m.) and before the evening concert by Kraig James (5-7 p.m.) at the new Lake Itasca amphitheater.

More information on the NCT, volunteer opportunities and area hikes will be available at the information station tent at the visitor’s center from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The full schedule for the day can be found at /www.facebook.com/NCTinMN.

This event is free and open to the public, but a vehicle permit is required to enter Minnesota state parks.

For more information about the North Country Hiking Fest or Itasca State Park, call 218-699-7251 or visit www.mndnr.gov/itasca.

Matthew Davis is regional trail coordinator for Minnesota and North Dakota, North Country Trail Association.