Quick Adventure Facts:
What - Superior Hiking Trail
When - September 15th to September 30th 2016 | 15 Days
The Superior Hiking Trail is a truly a hidden gem for long distance hikers in the United States. With a northern terminus at the Canadian Border, the trail follows, in close proximity, the western coast of the largest of all the great lake, Lake Superior, as it makes it way to the southern terminus at the Wisconsin border.Length
The SHT is currently ~310 miles long. Many people choose to do the original, 235 mile, section that ended in Two Harbors or tack on the additional 58 miles to end at the southern terminus of the first SHT extension that ends on the edge of Duluth.Terrain
The Superior Hiking Trail is very reminiscent of parts of the AT. It can be rugged and rocky and there can be a ton of slip-sliding mud. Luckily, most of the climbs are not very high but be weary, the constant ups and downs can make for pretty formidable daily elevation gainsWeather
A typical late summer thru-hike will see temperatures in the low 40's or upper 30's at night and the low can be in 50's to 60's during the day. Rain is very common and a simply change in direction of the wind can result in a 20 to 30 degree temperature drop.
Most hikers choose to hike the SHT in late summer or early fall. The heat, humidity and bugs are all huge deterrents to attempting a thru-hike of the trail during warmer months which make it worthwhile to wait for the temperature to drop.
There isn't much in this part of Minnesota (or in Minnesota in general) but, luckily, a main route follows the coast allowing for easy access of the trail. While the northern terminus is a little out of the way, there is a great shuttle service that you can book for the ride. Hikers can fly into Minneapolis or Duluth before catching a ride.Resupply
While the trail is primarily in very remote sections of the state, there are a couple great towns for resupply. Grand Marais, Silver Lake and Two Harbors are all fantastic options for resupply that require only very short hitches.Gear
By: Will Wood
On September 15th, 2016 we began our hike heading southbound from essentially the Canadian border with Minnesota to Duluth, Minnesota on the beautiful Superior Hiking Trail. This incredible trail follows along Lake Superior providing constant views of the lake as you traverse in and out of boreal forests speckled with spruce, hemlock and pine trees. The trail, especially the northern section, reminded me of Maine on the Appalachian Trail. We would spend about 16 days hiking roughly 255 miles of this stunning trail.
The northern section can be described in one word, Wild! As we approached the northern terminus we nearly ran right into the biggest moose any of us had ever seen in our entire lives. There were moose droppings everywhere and honestly I was a bit surprised that we didn’t have more moose sightings on this adventure. The seclusion of the northern section of the trail allowed for a very peaceful and relaxing atmosphere while we hiked. We reached the high point of the entire trail on day one at 558m/1,829’. This trail travels along the Sawtooth Mountain range but is less about climbing mountains and more about hiking by beautiful brooks, rushing waterfalls and experiencing beaver pond after beaver pond. The beauty of this trail is hard to match.
Something that makes this trail truly special are the 93 fee-free backcountry campsites to discover along the footpath. This makes finding great water sources and tenting locations easy and helps when planning out your trip. We personally want to thank the Superior Hiking Trail Association for maintaining this beautiful trail and all of the incredible backcountry campsites.
Just because the trail doesn’t have tall mountains does not mean that you will not be constantly going up and down. The trail has a total elevation gain of 37,800’ and loss of 37,400’. We had many days with over 3,000’ of climbing and 3,000’ of descent. So don’t be fooled this is still a tough trail. We also experienced a ton of rain on our journey. This made the trail muddy and slowed us down quite a bit. One the coolest experiences, literally, was when the trail took a turn to the east and dropped down from the mountains right to Lake Superior for a stroll along the sandy beach for a little over a mile. What an experience. It was a rainy morning when we arrived but this did not stop us from taking a dip in the lake. Not many trails offer this kind of experience and we made sure to enjoy every moment.
As we continued southbound on our hike we passed through some amazing trail towns with great local restaurants and hitching in and out of towns was really quick as the people in this part of the country are very friendly, outdoorsy people. Resupplying was also easy with the conveniently located trail towns. The trail also passes right by Lutsen Ski Resort which is one of the nations northern most ski resorts outside of Alaska and is the largest ski resort in the midwest. The resort was only a couple tenths of a mile of trail and had some great restaurants that we made sure to visit. We cant recommend that place enough for a nice meal and a great place to mail a package.
We ended our hike on the Superior Hiking Trail at the unofficial end of the trail just outside of Duluth. The trail had recently been extended on a 20 mile road walk or so through Duluth and into a section of forest south of the city that runs for another 20 to 30 miles. However we decided to forgo this section due to the difficulty with getting a ride from the southern terminus and the camping restrictions that exist for the last 30 miles of trail. We greatly enjoyed every moment on the stunning Superior Hiking Trail and cant recommend it enough!
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