Planning for the Superior Hiking Trail

Superior lake from the SHTOne of the outdoor highlights of Minnesota is the Superior Hiking Trail (SHT), a 300 mile footpath connecting Duluth and Canada along the shore of Lake Superior in northern Minnesota.

The trail has superior accessibility – just off the highway (MN-61), with parking every 5 to 10 miles. In some sections it gets a little too accessible – you may hear a chainsaw or someone riding their quad to the fruit stand, and the vistas may be obstructed by a water tower or a guy in a straw hat chasing squirrels with his pitchfork. But these distractions are part of the rural northern Minnesota experience and they’re well worth the convenience of free parking and free camping.

The SHT doesn’t excel in distributing good information about itself on the web. The Superior Hiking Trail Association website has some basic maps, with descriptions of each section and campsite. Otherwise, you might talk to the guy with the pitchfork. If it’s your first time, I recommend the Silver Bay section, which passes through Tettegouche State Park.

Here are three things to do before you go:

  1. Get a map. For about $6 you can get a pocket-sized spiral-bound version, printed on waterproof paper. The SHT handbook costs around $16.
  2. Check conditions. Given that it’s maintained by volunteers who also have other things to do, like make granola and weave things out of hemp, some sections need a little TLC. Call (218-834-2700) or email (hike-at-shta.org) to check on trail conditions, especially in the winter and spring.
  3. Research your campsite. Given that it’s free, campsite quality depends a lot on location – elevation, vegetation, hydration, etc. Higher, dryer, and sunnier typically mean more firewood, fewer mosquitoes, and better views.

Superior Hiking Trail in the Spring

Sunset over Sonju lakeMinnesota is waterlogged this time of year. Winter has outstayed its welcome and spring has finally taken a stand, liquefying the snow much faster than the earth can soak it up. Hiking trails are soggy. Campsites are more mud than dirt. Nevertheless, in celebration of spring’s triumph, my son and I spent May 6th and 7th on the Superior Hiking Trail, in northern MN.

Sonju lake campsiteDespite the snow melt and overgrowth the hiking was great. We covered a few miles of the George Crosby section, just north of Little Marais, MN, and spent the night on Sonju Lake.

The single campsite on Sonju is on the north side of a small hill with lots of shade – most of it was either under snow or puddle and there wasn’t a single dry stick to burn. Conclusions: in the spring months, don’t camp on Sonju or plan on a bonfire. Also, watch out for ticks.

Here are more pics and a link to the Superior Hiking Trail Association. And here’s a map of the campsites, parking lots, and trail section, about 23 miles, from County Rd 6, through the state park, to Hwy 61:


View Superior Hiking Trail: George Crosby Section in a larger map