The Superior Hiking Trail would typically not make a top ten list of things Minnesota is known for. Most people would list the 10,000 lakes, Bob Dylan, Jesse Ventura or maybe Lake Superior. It is understandable. At face value Minnesota and world class hiking would not seem to go together. If you asked the average person what going for a hike in Minnesota would be like, they would probably think of a walk through a corn field or a prairie - generally flat and nothing overly scenic. The truth is the Superior Hiking Trail is one of the greatest natural attractions in Minnesota.
The Superior Hiking Trail is located in one of Minnesota's most beautiful areas - the North Shore of Lake Superior. This area is very different from the central plains area of the state and home to the Sawtooth Mountains. No, the Sawtooth Mountains are nothing like the Rocky Mountains in terms of altitude, but still provide many equally stunning views. This area boasts numerous waterfalls, gorges, panoramic views of Lake Superior and much more.
The Superior Hiking Trail currently consists of two main sections. The southern most section starts south of Duluth at Jay Cooke State Park and finishes 39 miles later on the Northeast side of Duluth at Martin Road. The longest section of the trail is over 200 miles long, stretching from Two Harbors, MN to the Canadian border. Over this section, the Superior Hiking Trail mostly follows the Lake Superior shoreline and runs through seven state parks.
Growing up in Minnesota, I had always headed west to mountain states such as Colorado and Wyoming for my backpacking adventures. It wasn't until I was in my 30s that I discovered the Superior Hiking Trail. Standing on top of Pincushion Mountain or the cliffs above Bean and Bear Lakes rival many of the views I have enjoyed from the tops of 14ers but without the oxygen deprivation or the airfare. Much of the terrain is like you would encounter on a mountain hike but with more diversity. The trail takes you through dark and cool cedar forests, massive rock overlooks, 200' cliffs above lakes, numerous waterfalls and countless panoramic views of Lake Superior. While it is a different experience than a high altitude hike, this trail provides every bit as good of an experience. Best of all, as a Minnesotan, it is in my backyard.
But don't take my word for it.
- "Minnesota's 235-mile Superior Hiking Trail may be named for the lake, but it is an adjective too. This ridgeline trip is crazy with cliff top views, lakes, and waterfalls" - Backpacker magazine, August 2010, Backpacker's New Life List
- According to Andrew Skurka of National Geographic, Superior Hiking Trail is one of his ten favorite hikes in America
- In the May, 2005, Readers Digest listed Superior Hiking Trail as one of the "5 Best Hikes in America"
- In December, 2000, Backpacker Magazine named the Superior Hiking Trail the trail with the "Best Trail/Camp/Shelter conditions," the trail with the "Best Signage" in the country, and one of the most scenic trails in the nation.