You can do an out-and-back hike on a section of Minnesota’s Superior Hiking Trail, a 310-mile footpath that traverses a ridge overlooking Lake Superior, the world’s largest freshwater lake. But savvy hikers walk end-to-end segments, arranging a shuttle (you can book one through Superior Hiking Shuttle) so they can cover more miles and not see the same views twice.
Built and maintained by the Superior Hiking Trail Association, the trail begins at Jay Cooke State Park, located about three hours from the Minneapolis–St. Paul area. It travels north through eight state parks en route to the Canadian border, winding through the city of Duluth on the way.
The trail is about to see a few major upgrades. Two new projects, slated for completion over the next couple of years, will add additional loops in Duluth and an extension of the trail to the Wisconsin border.
First discussed in 1994, the plan to lengthen the trail to Wisconsin is finally coming to fruition. This involves adding a six-mile segment from Wild Valley Road to the Wisconsin border, where it will meet up with the North Country National Scenic Trail, a historic long-distance trail 4,600 miles in length. The new section will also include a backcountry campsite (adding to the 93 that already exist on the trail) and a new bridge to cross a once-flooded section of the Red River. Volunteers will ideally start building the trail in 2016, with the goal of opening on National Trails Day in June of 2017.
“This extension will increase hiking opportunities in the area and it’ll also allow our regional trail to become part of a really important nationally scenic trail,” says Gayle Coyer, the executive director of the Superior Hiking Trail Association.
The Superior Hiking Trail already travels 39 miles through the city of Duluth, named one of the country’s best towns by Outside magazine. The Duluth section of the trail provides access to Hawk Ridge, where 94,000 raptors fly overhead each year, plus vistas atop Ely’s Peak, Bardon Peak, Brewer Park and Spirit Mountain.
The several miles of new loops in Duluth, part of a multi-million-dollar city project known as the St. Louis River Corridor Recreation Project, should be completed by 2016. “Duluth is positioning itself to be the trail capital of the Midwest,” says Coyer. “The city is nestled along a ridgeline above Lake Superior and much of the land is undeveloped, so there’s an amazing amount of green space. At the top of the ridge, you can look down onto the lake.”
A favorite trail for long-distance backpackers, the Superior Hiking Trail is also the site of around ten endurance running races, including the Superior 100, one of the most difficult ultra-marathons in the U.S. The trail is rolling and challenging in parts—it gains and loses over 37,000 feet in elevation.
After a hike, head to Burrito Union, located trailside in Duluth, for an oversized burrito and a pint of Fitger’s Brewhouse Superior Trail IPA. You’ve earned it.
REI will donate $5.9 million in 2015 to help care for and increase access to more than 1,000 outdoor places in the U.S.