Minnesotans are best known for our accent and for pronouncing any word containing the letter “O”, 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—territory best 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 and their canine companions alike. Starting in the outskirts of Duluth Minnesota, the SHT continues all the way up to the Canadian Border along HWY 61, 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 camp 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 July the weather gods like to send chilly days and you can be left sitting in your tent wondering when the summer is coming. Trust me, I’ve been there one warm 30 degree day in July—not as seen below, but it felt pretty darn close!
On Lake Superior one blissful -55° wind-chilled to the bones day.
The Superior Hiking Trail runs parallel to Lake Superior, 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 to back it).
Sheer granite cliffs dotting the northern side of Lake Superior make for excellent climbing opportunities, but stay away when there’s a storm a-brewin’! 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—seen below and worth every second of the popular hike just for a quick glimpse of the carved out valley.
Shovel Point in Tettegouche State Park looking towards Palisade Head, North Shore Minnesota.
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.
Bean and Bear Lakes on the Superior Hiking Trail.
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 rough and tumble 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.
Mount Trudee on the Superior Hiking Trail.
If you make it far enough up the shore stop in Grand Marais for a quick bite to eat, preferably for some fresh caught fish right out of Lake Superior and the World’s Best Doughnuts (probably given the name by hungry hikers coming out of the BWCA who would find any food the “World’s Best” after spending a week or so eating camp food).
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!
North Shore Minnesota.
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!
Lake Superior in all her glory.
About the author: Alyssa is an adventure enthusiast who never leaves home without a road map & entirely too much candy. When home she can be found snuggling her kitties, dealing with an endless cycle of weeds in her garden, hiking alongside her two rescue pups, & blasting oldies tunes on her record player. Check out her photos of the North Shore of Lake Superior on Instagram by visiting her page @youreseethrough.
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