Panoramic overlooks of Lake Superior. Rapids and waterfalls. Wildlife. Boreal forests. Well-marked backcountry campsites. 200+ miles of nature’s playground. Minnesota at its finest.
The Superior Hiking Trail, running from Duluth to the Canadian border along the North Shore of Lake Superior, offers all of the above—and then some. If you’re looking for a backpacking adventure, this trail, dubbed simply the “SHT” to those in the know, is just a few hours drive from the metro and, as one hiker described, “one of the most beautiful places on earth.”
The trail is especially beautiful in the fall, when the leaves are beginning to change.
Backpacking amidst all this natural beauty provides an opportunity to clear your mind of cobwebs and—as naturalist John Muir famously said—“keep close to nature’s heart … and wash your spirit clean.” It’s a chance to break out of your comfort zone and test your boundaries.
You can park at Lutsen Mountains or a number of trailheads and take a shuttle as far as you want, then hike back to your car. Some people spend a day hiking along the trail, some spend a weekend backpacking, some hike and camp for a week (or longer). The hike itself is considered moderate, depending on your ability. There is good, clear signage along the trail, making it easy to follow. Don’t, however, be so intent on getting from Point A to Point B that you fail to notice your surroundings. When you reach those vistas and overlooks, stop, sit back, and enjoy the view. Take it all in. After all, that’s why you’re there.
To plan your hike, pick up a trail map at REI or Midwest Mountaineering or visit the Superior Hiking Trail Association at www.shta.org. The SHTA builds, maintains, and manages the trail with the help of hundreds of volunteers.
TIPS FOR BACKPACKING ALONG THE SUPERIOR HIKING TRAIL:
My good friend Jeremy, who has hiked the SHT numerous times, came up with this gear checklist for those hiking the SHT. You can never be over-prepared, right?
• Backpacking tent
• Backpack—research different types available and what is the most comfortable for you.
• A map, compass, GPS
• A food bag that can easily be hung from a rope
• Backpacking stove fuel
• Sleeping bag and sleeping pad—research different types available and what is right for your trip and lowest temperature you expect to encounter.
• A water bottle
• A first aid kit
• Compression sack or dry bag—for clothes/toiletries
Layering is key:
• T-shirt base layer (polyester or wool)
• Long-sleeved shirt (polyester or wool)
• Hiking pants – preferably quick dry
• Thermal underwear
• Wool socks
• Fleece jacket
• Compressible down jacket (if 40 or below)
• Rain jacket (keeps your rain coat in the top lid of your pack for easy access)
• Hat and gloves (also store in the top of your pack)
• Camp towel
• Garbage bag – in case it rains (to keep your pack dry)
• Digital camera
• Rope for hanging a bear bag (to protect your food from bears)
• Cook set
• Backpacking stove
• Water filter
• Collapsible bucket for doing dishes or filtering water
• Cup, plate and utensils
You can’t beat looking at the fall colors from a spot in the woods.
Overlooking the Poplar River Valley.
PhotoS by Jeremy Nelson
How can you be stressed when the scenery is this stunning?