Superior Hiking Trail

Not unlike a hiker finishing a long walk, those responsible for building the Superior Hiking Trail from Duluth to the Canadian border, are pacing themselves toward completion of Minnesota’s award-winning hiking trail by 2010.

Superior Hiking Trail

With construction of the 39 mile section through the city of Duluth now striding into the second of a projected three year work period, trail managers and hikers are looking eagerly to what will be the final chunk of untracked North Shore forest – the roughly 30 mile stretch from the east end of Duluth to the current start of continuous trail near Two Harbors – and to completion, after some 25 years of planning and effort, of the trail’s winding 275 mile footpath.

“We want to start building that link starting in 2007,” Superior Hiking Trail Association Executive Director Gayle Coyer explained. “If we can keep the momentum going, we’ll keep doing a chunk of trail every year. I always tell people it would be nice to have the trail done by 2010.”

Currently, the trail ambles continuously for 205 miles from Lake County Road 301 northeast of Two Harbors to Otter Lake Road, just short of the Canadian border (and up the road from the start of the Border Route Trail.) Ambitious hikers can currently piece together a 350 mile forest trek that would take them from Two Harbors to the Pigeon River and then across the BWCAW via the Border Route and Kekakabic Trails to just east of Ely.

The SHT, Border Route, and Kek are all elements of the North Country National Scenic Trail which ultimately hopes to connect Crown Point, New York to Lake Sakakawea, North Dakota via footpath.

The SHT, which has earned accolades from Backpacker, Prevention, and Reader’s Digest, stepped into being with a burst of construction in the late 80s and early 90s. Grants from the Legislative Commission on Minnesota Resources totaling more than a million dollars provided a trail construction coordinator on loan from the DNR and pay for trail workers, including laid-off LTV Steel employees. The SHT officially opened – with a ceremonial log-cutting, no less – in 1987. By August 1990 140 miles of trail were completed.

Since 1993, the SHTA has relied largely on volunteer labor and other funding sources to complete and maintain the trail. Prior to its current focus on the Duluth section, the SHTA, the 3,500-member-strong organization that oversees the trail, had focused efforts on closing two 15 mile gaps in the original layout – one stretch near
Little Marais, the other near Hovland.

The section of trail through Duluth built last year and to be officially opened on June 4, National Trails Day, begins at the Willard Munger Trail parking lot at 123rd Avenue West, off Beck’s Road. It winds roughly seven miles to a trailhead on Spirit Mountain.

“It’s a really, really great trail route,” Coyer said. “It takes in Ely’s Peak and Bardon’s Peak and goes through the Magney-Snively old-growth forest, goes through the Spirit Mountain recreation area. There are just these undiscovered treasures in Duluth.”

Another 14 miles of trail through Duluth is tabbed to be developed this year. Ultimately, the Duluth section will track to Hawk Ridge in eastern Duluth via Enger Park, the Lakewalk, and Chester Creek Park.

Route planning for the final, Hawk Ridge-to-Two Harbors stretch is just beginning. Coyer expects that section to parallel the North Shore State Trail and to use St. Louis County lands primarily.

“We want to kind of be in that same corridor as the North Shore State Trail because it follows the high ridge,” Coyer said.

For More Information:
For more information on the Superior Hiking Trail Association, trail conditions, points of interest, lodging, shuttle service, maps and guide book visit on line: www.shta.org

By Charlie Mahler, Wilderness News Contributor


This article appeared in Wilderness News Spring 2005

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