Superior Hiking Trail

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Superior Hiking Trail
Superior Hiking Trail sign cropped.jpg
A sign at a Superior Hiking Trail trailhead near Finland, Minnesota
Length 296 mi (476 km)
Location Cook / Lake / Saint Louis counties, Minnesota, USA
Trailheads Near Jay Cooke State Park ;
Canadian-U.S. Border near Lake Superior
Use Hiking
Highest point 1,829 ft (557 m)
Lowest point Lake Superior, 602 ft (183 m)
Hiking details
Trail difficulty Moderate
Season Late Spring to Early Fall
Sights Lake Superior, Iron Range, State Parks
Hazards Severe Weather, Black Bears, Lyme Disease

The Superior Hiking Trail, also known as The “SHT,” is a 296-mile (476 km) long footpath in Northeastern Minnesota that follows the ridgeline overlooking Lake Superior for most of its length. The path is 18-inches wide and is set in the middle of a 4 foot clearing. The footpath travels through forests of birch, aspen, pine, fir, and cedar. Hikers enjoy views of boreal forests, the Sawtooth Mountains, babbling brooks, rushing waterfalls, and abundant wildlife. The lowest point in the path is 602 feet (183 m) above sea level and the highest point is 1,829 feet (558 m) above sea level.[1] The footpath is intended for hiking only. Motorized vehicles, mountain bikes, and horses are not allowed on the trail.[2] Many people use the footpath for long distance hiking. Facilitating this purpose are 92 backcountry, fee-free campsites.[3]


Construction of the Superior Hiking Trail began in the mid-1980s in Duluth MN and it now extends 296 miles (442 km) to the Canadian border. Inspiration for building the trail came from the Appalachian Trail, which extends from Georgia to Maine. The Superior Hiking Trail Association (SHTA) was formed in 1986 to manage the construction, planning, and day-to-day care of the trail. The SHTA received several grants from the State of Minnesota, three of which were from the Legislative Commission on Minnesota Resources. This money helped jump start the construction of the trail and funded construction for the first few years.[4] In 1987, the trail had an opening ceremony at Britton Peak to celebrate the beginning of construction. The ceremony included a log-cutting event and many state government officials and SHTA founders attended. Three years later, in August 1990, the trail had reached a half-way mark and another celebration was held. That celebration included a 140-mile (225 km) hike for about a dozen brave hikers who completed it in 12 days. Since 1991, a 100 mile (161 km) marathon known as the "Superior 100", along with several other races, has been hosted annually on the Superior Hiking Trail.[5] In 1995, Paul Hlina, who was paralyzed from the waist down, hiked the entire trail on crutches and is now known as the first hiker to thru-hike the trail. He raised $16,000 in pledges for the Superior Hiking Trail Association, the non-profit organization which maintains the trail.[6] The trail has gained national recognition from articles in several magazines and there are plans to lengthen the trail.

Sections of the Trail[edit]

Crow Creek in winter from the SHT

There are two primary sections to the SHT.

The southern section of the trail comprises 39 miles (63 km) and starts southwest of the city of Duluth at a trail head in Jay Cooke State Park. The trail extends to the northeast through the Spirit Mountain Recreation area, through Brewer Park, Enger Park, the Historic Downtown Area, Canal Park, the Lakewalk, and Hartley Nature Center,[7] before it ends at a trailhead located on Martin Road on the north side of the city.

The northern portion of the trail is 255 continuous miles (378 km) and begins at the Martin Road Trailhead on the northern boundary of the City of Duluth. From there, the trail extends to the northeast along Lake Superior through seven state parks, including Gooseberry Falls State Park, Split Rock Lighthouse and Tettegouche State Park. This section of the SHT passes near the towns of Lutsen and Grand Marais, and ends just before the Canada – United States border.

On the northern end the trail is connected to the 65-mile (150 km) long Border Route Trail which starts a short distance from the trail head on Otter Lake Road.[8] This then connects to the 41 mile (66 km) long Kekekabic Trail which gives the hiker the ability to hike all the way through the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and end near Ely. There are also plans to lengthening the southern section by connecting with the North Country National Scenic Trail.[9]

The Superior Hiking Trail Association[edit]

Looking east from Lookout Mountain in Cascade River State Park
Temperance River State Park Bridge

The Superior Hiking Trail Association (SHTA) builds, promotes and maintains the trail. It is a Minnesota based non-profit corporation with more than 3200 members. The association produces a quarterly newsletter called The Ridgeline for its members which contains noteworthy news of the trail, trail volunteer bios, and association financial information. The most visible activities of the SHTA are the popular organized hikes featuring leaders with interpretive skills, such as naturalists, geologists, photographers, and historians and ranging from day hikes to backpacking trips of several days' duration.

The trail was mostly built by crews of people that were hired from local towns or by the Minnesota Conservation Corps. Most of the trail is maintained by groups of volunteers, scout troops or other outdoor organizations. Some groups have chosen to take a section of the trail to do upkeep on, others participate in scheduled maintenance hikes. There is currently construction on a 5.1-mile (8.2-km) section between Fox Farm Road/East Trailhead and Fox Farm Road/West Trailhead between Duluth and Two Harbors that is being done with volunteer labor.[10]


Looking upstream on the Caribou River

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.[11]

According to Andrew Skurka of National Geographic, Superior Hiking Trail is one of his ten favorite hikes in America [12]

In the May, 2005, Readers Digest listed Superior Hiking Trail as one of the "5 Best Hikes in America".[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Superior Hiking Trail Association: Guide to the Superior Hiking Trail, Page 1, Ridgeline Press, 2007.
  2. ^ Superior Hiking Trail Association: Guide to the Superior Hiking Trail, Page 1, Ridgeline Press, 2007.
  3. ^
  4. ^ Superior Hiking Trail Association: Guide to the Superior Hiking Trail, Page 10, Ridgeline Press, 2007.
  5. ^
  6. ^ Superior Hiking Trail Association: Guide to the Superior Hiking Trail, Page 11, Ridgeline Press, 2007.
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
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  12. ^
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External links[edit]

Coordinates: 47°34′25″N 90°50′10″W / 47.57361°N 90.83611°W / 47.57361; -90.83611