Michael and I started the Superior Hiking Trail, a 310-mile trail along Lake Superior in Minnesota, on August 16.
Below is my Superior Hiking Trail Part 1 with daily recaps from the first four days hiking the 270 Degree Overlook to Grand Marais.
Superior Hiking Trail Day 1
270 Degree Overlook to North Carlson Pond – 17.1 miles (including a 1-mile spur trail) – 7 hours, 45 minutes
It’s our first day on the Superior Hiking Trail!
Michael and I officially started hiking at 11:50 am. It was a couple hours later than planned.
We were ready to leave Grand Marais by 9:00 am, but first I had to find a I watch. I forgot my Garmin charger in Denver. Ugh! I didn’t need a fancy GPS watch, but wanted something that could simply just tell me the time. A $25 Casio from Ben Franklin came to the rescue! Then we headed up to the trailhead, which was an hour from Grand Marais. The gravel roads didn’t treat us well and we ended up with a flat tire. Michael and my dad fixed it. After that, goodbyes, and a couple of pictures we were finally off!
It was so awesome of my parents to drop us off at the trailhead!
Unfortunately we had to hike 1 mile up to the northern terminus, 270 Degree Overlook, of the Superior Hiking Trail first.
Then, as I said before, we officially started the trail. Woohoo!
After we waved goodbye to Canada we started heading south. There was a little bit of a road walk, first on a gravel road and then on an abandoned forest service road. From there we were mostly walking through a green tunnel of trees for the rest of the day with some short stretches out in the open.
We took our first break at Andy Lake Road, a logging road, at 1:30 pm.
The trail alternated between uphills and downhills, everything was short and steep, so I guess this kept us from getting too bored!
We reached the highest point, 1829 feet, of the entire trail at about mile 5. Unfortunately there weren’t any views to go with it.
We took another break at 3:00 pm to have another snack and hydrate. The afternoon was pretty hot and humid, so we needed to cool down a bit.
We got our first view of Lake Superior from the Hellacious Overlook. It was pretty exciting! We’re both eager to be walking closer to lake.
It’s really hard to see in pictures. Lake Superior just blends right into the sky.
The rest of the afternoon was more up and down hills through trees with quick glances of Lake Superior in between.
We filtered water from a dirty, little beaver pond. We were waiting to filter water in hopes that we would come across a flowing stream, but nope. It was beaver pond water for us.
Check out that lovely shade of light brown. It tasted like dirt water.
We continued walking up and down those hills and finally made it to our campsite at North Carlson Pond at 7:15 pm, just before the mosquitoes got too bad.
There were two guys and two dogs at the campsite, so we chatted with them while we set up our tent and made dinner.
We were both pretty tired, so we didn’t linger long and crawled into the tent shortly afterwards.
A great first day! I’m looking forward to see what the rest of the trail has to offer.
Superior Hiking Trail Day 2
North Carlson Pond to North Little Brule River – 18 miles (including .8 miles of backtracking) – 8 hours, 15 minutes
We didn’t set an alarm and slept in until about 8:30 am. We took our time cooking breakfast and packing up, while chatting with our camp neighbors, so it was 9:45 am by the time we hit the trail.
The terrain was very similar to yesterday with rolling hills through trees and the occasional boardwalk. We did have a couple road walks, one for 1.3 miles on an old lodging road and one for 1.7 miles on Camp Road 20. Neither of them were bad. It was a nice break from stepping over large roots and rocks.
The most exciting part of the day was walking through Judge C. R. Magney State Park. We walked along the Brule River, which was an actual rushing river, and passed both the Devil’s Kettle and the Upper Falls. It was a nice change of pace from the continuous trees!
On our way out of the state park the SHT took us through the campsite where they had actual bathrooms with running water. Man, it felt good to wash my hands and face! So luxurious.
From there we continued on the trail a few more miles to a cluster of campsites along the Brule River, which doesn’t have any water flowing through it in this area. We went to the farthest one, but all the sites were so slanted with either large rocks or roots, so we backtracked .4 miles to the previous campsite.
We set up camp at North Little Brule River. While dinner was cooking we made our plan for the next three days. Since we want to get to Lutsen by Monday we’ll have to hike 20+ miles for the next two days.
It’ll be tough, but I think we can do it. My feet are hurting quite a bit, but the rest of my body feels totally fine.
I’m going to massage my feet and then try to sleep!
Superior Hiking Trail Day 3
North Little Brule River to West Devil’s Track River – 16.9 miles – 9 hours, 40 minutes
Since we wanted to do 22 miles today we decided we better get our butts out of bed and start hiking early. We set our alarm for 6:30 am and were out on the trail at 7:20 am.
We hiked for a few miles through the forest (so many spiderwebs!) and then crossed Highway 61 for a 1.5 mile beach walk along Lake Superior. We were so excited to be walking along the lake! And to filter fresh water!
The lake looked gorgeous with the gray skies.
After about 5 minutes of walking on the stones the novelty was over. It was really hard to walk on the beach and we were moving so slow!
I still loved being able to see beautiful Lake Superior and the fresh water was totally worth it.
From there we were back into the trees.
After hiking about 8 miles we saw a sign that said “Lutsen Ski Hill 59.9 miles”, which didn’t make sense to us. Our plan was to re-supply in Lutsen, which was about 85 miles from the start of the trail. We definitely hiked more that 25 miles. The math didn’t add up. I think the sign was wrong, but we took a break and started looking at our maps to make sure our plan of getting to Lutsen was feasible.
I screwed up when we were planning yesterday evening thinking that we would be heading to a campsite 22 miles away instead of 17 miles away. The next campsite was another 10 miles after that. Since we are close to Grand Marais we decided to stop there to resupply instead. We know it has an outfitter, laundromat, and grocery store, AKA everything that we need.
We felt happy about this plan. Despite my mistake, that Lutsen sign is still wrong.
Once we started hiking again we realized it was 11:30 am and we only had 9 miles left to hike before getting to our campsite. We took our sweet time to get there and stopped for more frequent and longer breaks. It wasn’t terrible!
The terrain leading up to West Devil’s Track River was my favorite on the hike so far. The trail itself was more open and it no longer felt like we were hiking through a green tunnel. We could still see trees, but we could see more than just the ones right in front of us.
Walking through this grove of red pines (I think they’re red pines) has been one of my favorites parts of the trail so far.
We made it to our campsite at about 5:00 pm.
There was a trail register at the entrance, which we both signed with a little note.
The campsite was beautiful – lots of space, flat tent pads, and right by some flowing water.
We set up camp and then walked down to the water. We filtered water and I soaked my feet a bit. Dang, it felt good! My feet are still getting used to the whole hiking 17 miles per day thing.
While we cooked and ate dinner we took another look at the maps to figure out our next few resupplies. Instead of Lutsen and Beaver Bay (~85-mile stretches), we are going to do Grand Marais, Tofte, and Silver Bay (~55-mile stretches). We also made sure that the upcoming campsites lined up with the mileage that we needed/wanted.
It has been a productive evening!
And now it’s time for sleep. I’ll probably dream about the beer and the shower I’ll get in Grand Marais tomorrow!
Superior Hiking Trail Day 4
West Devil’s Track River to Grand Marais – 4.5 miles (including a 1-mile road walk) – 1 hour, 45 minutes
It’s a town day! We wanted to spend most of the day in Grand Marais, so we woke up at 7:00 am, ate breakfast, packed up, and hit the trail by 8:15 am.
We hiked for about .4 miles and then got on an old road for another 2 miles.
The road spit us out at a parking lot for Pincushion Mountain and Gunflint Trail. We decided to keep walking on the trail for another mile since it intersected with Gunflint again closer to Grand Marais. Then it was a 1-mile road walk straight to the laundromat.
After laundry we stopped by our hotel to see if we could check in. We couldn’t, but they let us leave our backpacks there while we walked around the town. That was a relief. We grabbed lunch and went to an outfitter to grab some extra supplies (fuel canister, bug spray). Then we went to resupply a grocery store, except it turns out that grocery stores aren’t open on Sundays in Grand Marais? The only one open was a Whole Foods-type store, which didn’t really have what we needed. So we went to a Holiday Station and bought some bars, ramen, and oatmeal. Guess that’ll work!
Since our hotel room still wasn’t ready we went across the street to Voyageur Brewing Company for a beer. It wasn’t a bad time killer.
Afterwards we could finally check in, which meant that we could finally shower. Good stuff.
After relaxing for a bit we went to pick up some sandwiches, salad, ice cream (we need the Talenti containers, and beer. Then it was back to the hotel room for a nights of movies and food.
Tomorrow we hit the trail again!
Superior Hiking Trail Observations So Far
From what I’ve noticed so far the Superior Hiking Trail is very well marked. There are signs and blue blazes posted consistently along the trail. There are also mile marker signs posted at every road crossing, which there have been a number of so far.
The trail itself is well maintained. Although there are some areas that are overgrown and it’s like walking through fields of long grass.
The rocks and roots that cover the trail make it difficult to walk too fast, but maybe that’s a good thing?
So far the scenery hasn’t been anything too exciting, mostly tree tunnels with the occasional glimpse of Lake Superior. I think we spoiled ourselves with all the views we saw on our backpacking trips earlier this summer. I do hear that it becomes more scenic the further south we go, so I’m looking forward to that!
Superior Hiking Trail Mileage Totals
53.7 miles on the Superior Hiking Trail + 2.8 additional miles = 56.5 total miles