Superior Hiking Trail | Minnesota, USA, 2011

Distance:  296 miles (476 km)

Avg. Time: 14-17 days

Start / Finish:

  • South – Jay Cooke State Park
  • North – Otter Lake Road

Transport:

Season:

  • April to October
  • September to early October is ideal…………no bugs, cooler temps and gorgeous fall colours near the end of the period.

Maps / Info:

  • Guide to the Superior Hiking Trail – contains basic maps along with all the logistical information required (i.e. resupply, campsite locations, water sources, mile-by-mile trail descriptions, town details, GPS info, etc.).

  • Click here for an overview map from the SHTA website.
  • No fees or permits required.

  • Sleeping: As of 2014, there are more than 90 campsites located along the trail. Stealth camping is not permitted.

Route / Conditions:

  • The Superior Hiking Trail (SHT) is just that……….a hiking trail. No motorized vehicles, mountain bikes or horses allowed.

  • The SHT runs along the northern side of Lake Superior. Following an undulating ridge line, it affords the hiker periodic vistas over the lake. The path regularly drops into river and creek valleys, which boast an impressive array of cascades.
  • Well marked with signs and blue blazes. Easy to follow from start to finish.
  • There are no big ascents on the SHT. Just a lot of short, sharp 300 to 900 ft climbs. The highest point on the trail is 1829 ft; the lowest 602 ft.
  • Routing: Despite its name, the SHT spends very little time by the lake itself. Indeed, there is just one short stretch north of Grand Marais where the trail is actually routed along the lake shore.

  • Regular trailheads (generally every 5-10 miles) means that quite a few roads need to be crossed during the SHT. This is a real boon for day hikers as the trail can be easily accessed. For thru-hikers, it means that you never quite have that ‘”out in the wilderness” feel that you enjoy on many other long distance trails in the United States.
  • Beavers: The prevalence of beaver dams throughout much of the hike, means that most of the water along the SHT should be treated.

Highlights:

  • Sunrises & sunsets: Sublime early morning and late afternoon vistas over Lake Superior.

  • Cascades: The multitude of waterfalls along the SHT were a scenic highlight. Standouts included Gooseberry, Split Rock, Caribou and my favourite, Cascade Falls, which was actually just one of a series of impressive falls along the Cascade River.
  • Wildlife: Moose, eagles, grouse and deer. Although I heard them at night and spotted a considerable amount of scat, I was not fortunate enough to see any wolves. My most memorable wildlife encounter on the SHT was a nocturnal visit of the bull moose-kind not more than 20 yards away from my campsite.

Notes & Musings:

  • Minnesotan Hospitality: Whilst hiking the SHT in late October, 2011, I ran into a group of four people out for a day hike (Steve, Jenny, Stefan and Mary). After chatting for a short time, they were kind enough to invite me to their lakeside “cabin” for what promised to be a huge meal, washed down by multiple microbrews. After about three milliseconds of contemplation I decided to accept their offer, on the proviso that I needed to finish a couple more sections (worked out to about 13 miles) before coming to dinner. The next 3.5 hours I hiked like the wind (it never ceases to amaze me what motivating factors food and beer can be) and arrived at my destination just before 7 pm. It turned out the “cabin” was something akin to the Corleone residence on Lake Tahoe in “The Godfather 2”. Definitely a step up from my 9 x 5.5 poncho tarp!

 

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