Linking people with nature by footpath along Lake Superior's North Shore.
The Superior Hiking Trail is designed as a footpath only, comprised principally of an 18-inch treadway through a clearing approximately four feet in width. SHTA policy prohibits the use of motorized vehicles, mountain bikes and horses on the Trail. The steepness and narrowness of the Trail in most areas makes it unsuitable for cross country skiing, although snowshoe travel is possible in many areas.
The Trail is routed principally along the ridgeline overlooking Lake Superior. At its lowest point, the Trail goes along the lakeshore, which is 602 feet above sea level. At its highest point the Trail is 1750 feet above sea level and more than 1000 feet above Lake Superior. The Trail is characterized by ascents to rock outcroppings and cliffs, and descents into numerous river and creek valleys crossed by attractive and functional bridges. Panoramic overlooks of Lake Superior, the Sawtooth Mountains and inland woodlands, lakes and rivers are abundant along the length of the Trail. At many points, the Trail follows rivers and creeks, often for distances of a mile or more, show-casing waterfalls and rapids, bends and deep gorges where thousands of years of rushing water has cut into layers of ancient volcanic rock.
Hikers enjoy varied forest scenes. The gradual transition from oak, maple and basswood to the boreal forest of balsam, pines, spruces, cedar and tamarack is interrupted by re-growth forest of aspen and birch. Wildlife abounds: encounters with deer are common and sightings of moose, beaver, black bear, eagles and grouse. Fortunate hikers will remember many varieties of songbirds. Wildflowers are especially prevalent in the spring, but some varieties are evident through the hiking season. Wild blueberries and raspberries provide a special midsummer treat at many points along the Trail.
The Trail crosses national forest and state park lands, state and county property, and private property. The Trail connects and traverses seven state parks. Many property owners - individuals and corporations, in addition to governmental units - have granted easements or permissions to cross their land for the construction of the Trail. In some areas, special restrictions apply as conditions of the permissions that have been granted on private lands. Please observe and obey all posted restrictions (such as requirements to stay on the Trail through private property, or prohibitions on fires, camping or hunting). The privilege to use these private lands depends upon the cooperation of Trail users and their respect for the special restrictions.
The one constant feature of the Trail, and the characteristic that distinguishes it from other forest trails, is the presence of Lake Superior - the legendary lake Native Americans celebrated in song and story as 'Gitche Gumme' (Gi-chee GOO-me). The Trail features many spectacular views of the Lake, as well as many more subtle views through the trees, allowing the hiker an endless selection of spots to rest, lunch and meditate against the backdrop of Lake Superior's many moods and colors. From some vantage points, the Wisconsin/Michigan shoreline is visible on the horizon; other views feature islands - Isle Royale on the northern part of the Trail, and the Apostles on the southern end.
The Superior Hiking Trail is accessible directly from Minnesota Highway 61, on spur trails accessed from 61, or on many intersecting roads. Seven of the state parks along the North Shore (including Crosby-Manitou State Park, which is inland) are connected by the Superior Hiking Trail and provide access to it. Along Highway 61, look for the brown signs with the Superior Hiking Trail logo on them. The distance between access points - most from five to ten miles apart - makes the Trail easily divisible into one-way day-hikes, accomplished by leaving a vehicle at the access point destination and shuttling to the next access point to begin the hike. If your party does not have two vehicles, shuttles may be arranged through some of the local resorts, outfitters or the Superior Shuttle.
When planning a hike, allow one hour for every one to two miles. Day-hikers should carry a pack with adequate water (river and lake water along the Trail must be treated before it is consumed), snacks, sunscreen, bug repellent, toilet paper, compass, flashlight, and an extra clothing layer and raingear if conditions warrant. Remember that weather conditions can change rapidly; dark storm clouds and chilly winds sometimes move in quickly and unexpectedly on what began as a warm, cloudless day. If you plan to hike more than one or two hours, it is best to be prepared for weather changes.
The Trail is also ideally suited for long-distance backpacking. The hiker seeking an extended trip can hike the 255 miles of the Superior Hiking Trail from the Martin Road Trailhead on the northern boundary of the City of Duluth to the Otter Lake Road Trailhead, just shy of Canada. This stretch has 93 backcountry campsites located every 5-10 miles.
One of the more interesting aspects of the Trail is that it has a lot of elevation changes. The table below show the changes:
|Section||Distance (miles)||Northbound gain/ Southbound loss (feet)||Northbound loss/ Southbound gain (feet)||Beginning (South) Elevation (feet)||Ending (North) Elevation (feet)||Net Elevation Gain or Loss (-) (feet)|
|Jay Cooke SP TH to Martin Rd TH||41.3||5723||5449||942||1216||274|
|North Shore Section|
|Martin Rd TH to Lismore Rd TH||6.9||650||492||1216||1374||158|
|Lismore Rd TH to Normanna Rd TH||6.9||427||423||1374||1378||4|
|Normanna Rd TH to Sucker River Spur Jct||8.1||771||719||1378||1430||52|
|Sucker River Spur Jct to Fox Farm Rd TH||4.1||539||678||1430||1291||-139|
|Fox Farm Rd TH to Rossini Rd TH||6.4||755||556||1291||1490||199|
|Rossini Rd TH to Demonstration Forest Spur Jct||5.7||738||730||1490||1498||8|
|Demonstration Forest Spur Jct to Reeves Rd TH||9.8||693||940||1498||1251||-247|
|Reeves Rd TH to Lake County Rd 301 TH||5.4||281||678||1251||854||-397|
|Lake County Rd 301 TH to Castle Danger TH||6.3||1048||979||854||923||69|
|Castle Danger TH to Gooseberry Falls SP Spur Jct||8.9||760||919||923||764||-159|
|Gooseberry Falls SP Spur Jct to Split Rock River South Spur Jct||5.3||835||955||764||644||-120|
|Split Rock River South Spur Jct to Split Rock River North Spur Jct||3.8||1045||832||644||857||213|
|Split Rock River North Spur Jct to Lake County Rd 4 (Beaver Bay) TH||10.8||1748||1682||857||923||66|
|Lake County Rd 4 (Beaver Bay) TH to Lake County Rd 5 (Silver Bay) TH||4.7||987||796||923||1114||191|
|Lake County Rd 5 (Silver Bay) to State Hwy 1 (Tettegouche SP) TH||11.1||2334||2508||1114||940||-174|
|State Hwy 1 (Tettegouche SP) TH to Lake County Rd 6 TH||6.8||1707||1482||940||1165||225|
|Lake County Rd 6 TH to Finland Recreation Center Spur Jct||7.3||1323||1168||1165||1320||155|
|Finland Recreation Center Spur Jct to Crosby-Manitou SP TH||11.5||1375||1240||1320||1455||135|
|Crosby-Manitou SP TH to Caribou River Spur Jct||7.3||1256||1796||1455||915||-540|
|Caribou River Spur Jct to Cook County Rd 1 TH||8.3||1189||823||915||1281||366|
|Cook County Rd 1 TH to Temperance River Spur Jct||7.8||833||1403||1281||711||-570|
|Temperance River Spur Jct to Cook County Rd 2 (Britton Peak) TH||4.6||1162||663||711||1210||499|
|Cook County Rd 2 (Britton Peak) TH to Forest Rd 336 (Oberg Mtn) TH||5.7||771||760||1210||1221||11|
|Forest Rd 336 (Oberg Mtn) TH to Lutsen Mtn Spur Jct||6.6||1433||1363||1221||1291||70|
|Lutsen Mtn Spur Jct to Cook County Rd 4 (Caribou Trail) Spur Jct||5.2||960||790||1291||1461||170|
|Cook County Rd 4 (Caribou Trail) Spur Jct to Cascade River Spur Jct||10.0||1456||2224||1461||693||-768|
|Cascade River Spur Jct to Forest Rd 158 (Bally Creek Rd) TH||9.3||2119||1268||693||1544||851|
|Forest Rd 158 (Bally Creek Rd) TH to Pincushion Mtn (Grand Marais) TH||8.3||716||1052||1544||1208||-336|
|Pincushion Mtn (Grand Marais) TH to Cook County Rd 58 TH||4.9||917||1339||1208||786||-422|
|Cook County Rd 58 TH to Kadunce River Spur Jct||8.5||1480||1456||786||810||24|
|Kadunce River Spur Jct to Judge Magney SP TH||9.3||774||941||810||643||-167|
|Judge Magney SP TH to Cook County Rd 70 TH||6.6||1261||546||643||1358||715|
|Cook County Rd 70 TH to Arrowhead Trail Spur Jct||8.5||818||1016||1358||1160||-198|
|Arrowhead Trail Spur Jct to Jackson Lake Rd TH||5.1||1183||905||1160||1438||278|
|Jackson Lake Rd TH to Otter Lake Rd TH||8.7||1140||1163||1438||1415||-23|
|Otter Lake Rd TH to 270 Degree Overlook||1.2||337||87||1415||1665||250|
|North Shore Section Totals||255.7||37821||37372||1216||1665||449|
1. GPS data were obtained from the SHTA (http://www.shta.org/Trail/TrailGPS.php), downloaded 11/22/13. The KML file of 30,000 points and corresponding tracks in Google Maps and Google Earth were used to identify the main SHT path. Spur trails were excluded.
2. Elevations along these tracks were obtained using Google Earth. The elevation profile function provided summary statistics, including elevation gain and loss, of trail segments.
3. Elevations were spot checked using USGS and ESRI topographic maps (http://www.mappingsupport.com/p/gmap4.php).
4. Distances computed by Google Earth and Google Maps generally aligned with those listed in the Guide to the Superior Hiking Trail. Where there were discrepancies that could not be explained, distances listed in the Guide were used in this table.
12/3/2013, John Sowell, SHTA Volunteer
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