By Go Getter Alyssa Hei
Minnesotans are best known for our accent and elongating any word containing a vowel, our calorie-filled hot dishes (to fuel all the adventures we take), getting outside regardless of whether or not the thermometer is reading -45, and loving our hiking trails.
The Superior Hiking Trail (#hikethatsht) winds along the shores of Lake Superior – also known as the North Shore – and it isn’t just your average dirt trail through the woods. It’s a complex trail system made for hikers, trail runners, and their canine companions alike. Starting in the outskirts of Duluth Minnesota, the SHT continues 300 miles to the Canadian Border, with hike-in campsites and State Parks along the way.
Trailing along some of the highest peaks in Minnesota, it boasts breathtaking views of many of our 10,000 lakes, including some in the Boundary Waters (BWCA), a must do camping experience for any person looking to get lost in the woods in one of the most remote protected areas in Minnesota. Just be sure to bring a canoe (or rent one in Grand Marais if you can’t fit one on the plane ride up here) or you won’t be making it too close to your campsite, as a series of lakes and rivers guide you to where you set up camp. Also, don’t forget to bring warm clothes – even in the summer the weather gods like to send chilly days that can leave you shivering in your tent wondering when the summer is coming. Trust me, I’ve been there one warm 30 degree day on July 25th. The end of July.
The Superior Hiking Trail runs parallel to Lake Superior nearly the whole time, and although it’s not always visible from the trail, Lake Superior is a site to be seen on it’s own – often boasting waves that trick you into thinking you’re standing next to the ocean (minus those scary sharks, but with the same riptides & waves to trick you into thinking it’s more than a lake).
Sheer granite cliffs dotting the northern side of Lake Superior make for excellent climbing opportunities, but stay away when there’s a storm around. I’ve felt mist from a hundred or so feet above the lake, making for some slippery adventures along the cliffs, and plenty of cursing at friends looking to get closer to the edge.
Palisade Head is the most popular of these cliffs. Overlooking Lake Superior, Palisade is popular to tourists as it’s a quick stop off the scenic highway and a fun place to watch climbers risk its steep sides. Shovel Point is another great stop to view Lake Superior from above – worth every second of the popular hike just for a quick glimpse of the carved out valley.
Dotting along the SHT are many large overlook areas, inland lakes, and campsites every few miles for those looking to stay out in the woods for a weekend of hiking. My personal favorite section on the SHT is Bean and Bear Lakes – a 7.6 mile loop starting in the outskirts of Silver Bay and winding along the steep cliffs of the two twin lakes. Hiking here for fall colors is literally a small slice of Heaven on Earth.
Tying for beauty, with an equally strenuous hike is Mount Trudee – left on the Superior Hiking Trail for about 3.4 miles out of Tettegouche State Park (another camping opportunity close to Duluth with cart-in sites and hike-in sites depending on how adventurous you feel like being for your stay). Mount Trudee sits high on a ridge where you can watch eagles fly at eye level and moose in the lakes below. Just be sure to wear good hiking shoes as the climb there seems to be uphill both ways.
Be sure to go far enough up the shore to the Kadunce River on the Superior Hiking Trail, winding along gorges that could compete with the moss covered ones in Oregon. Don’t forget water shoes, you can get right into the water to hike up the river, it dead ends at some incredible waterfalls and makes for a fun day trip especially when the weather heats up. It’s the one time I would say be sure to NOT take the trail!
End your trip on the shores of Lake Superior looking for agates and geodes. They say if you throw a rock into it’s waves that it takes another thousand years for it to reach the shores again – so make sure to kiss each rock goodbye before you toss it into the waves!