Superior Hiking Trail : Planning for the Trip
I have been working on plans for awhile to hike the Superior Hiking Trail (SHT). Due to work commitments I am unable to take several weeks off in a row to complete the trip in one undertaking, therefore I have put together a plan to conquer the entire 306 mile trail over a 3 year period.
Living in Oklahoma, I originally began looking for cooler places to hike in the hot summer months in the southwest. After researching the trail, it appears that late September to early October is the best time of year to go for several reasons:
- The trees will be turning their fall colors, turning the vistas into magnificent views of reds, oranges, and yellows.
- The cooler nights will keep the mosquitoes at bay, however ticks and no-see-ums may still be a minor annoyance
- Fall is usually less rainy, keeping rivers and creek levels a little lower (if you need to cross) and less chance of mud on the trail – I think this is just a wish on my part, all information indicates you should expect muddy sections anytime you hike the SHT.
My plan would be to hike the entire 306 miles of the SHT from the Wisconsin Border south of Jay Cooke State Park all the way to the 270 degree lookout near the Canadian border. This seems to be somewhat nontraditional as most hikers avoid the sections from Duluth south.
Why hike through the city of Duluth? I’m glad you asked! In reviewing the Guide to the Superior Hiking Trail, 8th Edition and researching on Google Maps (yes, most of the trails is actual shown on Google maps), much of the trails through Duluth is through parks, green-ways, and urban wilderness areas – many with excellent views of Lake Superior and the city of Duluth. This is broken up by the occasional suburban neighborhood, city parks, downtown Duluth – including the Lakewalk, and even through the University of Minnesota- Duluth campus. Overall this section seems to provide a tremendously large variety of trails all within a 51 mile section of trail.
But there is no camping in that section! You are correct. The only official camping in this section is the Red River Valley Campsite at 0.3 miles from the Wisconsin border. Hardly a distance to consider it a viable campsite (at least not until the North Country Trail connects to the SHT in the future). There are some options:
- Jay Cooke State Park – 4 backcountry campsites reservable in advance, also a State park campground near the visitors center.
- Fond du Lac Campground – Private campground near Fond du Lac Trailhead
- Spirit Mountain Campground – Private Campground near Spirit Mountain Recreation Area
- Bagley Nature Area Campground – 6 sites near the University of Minnesota campus
- Hotels – Downtown Duluth has numerous hotel options with many just steps off the Lakewalk portion of the SHT
So to get to the point – Here is my plan:
I will be hiking a 103.6 section of trail from the Wisconsin State Line to the County Road 301 just north of Two Harbors. I will be camping all but one night which I will stay in a hotel in downtown Duluth.
Day 1 – 7.1 Miles Ending Point: Jay Cooke Backcountry Campsite
Arrive at Duluth Airport – Catch a Uber from the airport to the Wild Valley Road Trailhead (don’t forget to stop and get cooking fuel on the way). Begin hiking Southbound from Wild Valley Road to Wisconsin State Line. Turn around and hike 5.6 miles to Jay Cook Backcountry Campsite (High Landing previously reserved).
Day 2 – 11.9 Miles Ending Point: Fond duLac Campground
Leave campsite and follow SHT to through Jay Cooke State Park, Mission Creek area and end at Fond Du Lac Trailhead. Campground is about 0.6 miles from trailhead.
Day 3 – 9.3 Miles Ending Point: Spirit Mountain Campground
Retrace route back to the SHT and proceed toward Ely Peak, Bardon Peak, Stewart Creek and into Spirit Mountain. Bypass spur trail to campground and continue on SHT to the Knowlton Creek bridge. Take the spur trail to Duluth Alpine Club Building parking lot. Campground will be about 0.5 miles south on Skyline parkway.
Day 4 – 14.3 Miles Ending Point: Downtown Duluth Hotel
Today is a longer day, Return to the trail and proceed North on the SHT through Kingsbury creek, Keene Creek, Brewer Park, and Enger Park. Check out the Enger Tower while in Enger park. The trail then switches to an urban route as it enters the downtown Duluth Lakewalk area. Reserve your favorite hotel in advance to ensure room availability. Rest up. The pace pick up after a good nights sleep in a hotel.
Day 5 – 15.2 Miles – Ending Point: White Pine Campsite
The pace picks up as we head out of Duluth today. Continue north on the SHT through the Rose Garden, Chester Creek, University of Minnesota – Duluth, Hartley Nature Center, and past Martin Road as you leave town. Camp at White Pine Campsite for the night.
Day 6 – 16.1 Miles – Ending Point: Fox Farm Pond Campsite
Follow the SHT North as you continue through mixed forest, occasional ponds, and along the sucker River. Make camp at Fox Farm Pond Campsite
Day 7 – 19.9 Miles Ending Point: Stewart River Campsite
This is the longest day of the trip in order to be in position for a shuttle pickup on day 8. As you continue North on the SHT we will pass several Beaver ponds, the Knife River, 12 Mile View (of Lake Superior), McCarthy Creek, and finally the Stewart River. Make Camp at the Stewart River Campsite for the night.
Day 8 – 11.3 Miles Ending Point: County Road 301 – Shuttle pickup
Last Day. Follow the SHT north as you continue past Reeves Falls, descent of rock cliff on stairs, and Silver creek. Finish at Highway 301 Trailhead to meet shuttle.
Well, That’s the plan. I’ll post a trip report afterward with lots of pictures and additional details as I make the trip.
I hope this will help others who are thinking of hiking the Superior Hiking Trail, but are concerned about camping arrangements. I feel confident I can make it through town with only one night in a hotel. After 3 nights camping I’m sure a shower, real food & beer, and a real bed will feel great. Can’t wait to get this trip underway.