Last spring, I took a walk on the miracle of a forested path that runs 326 miles through some of Minnesota’s most beautiful terrain, the Superior Hiking Trail. In planning, I discovered that more than a mile of the section I hoped to hike was shut down, rerouted along the paved Gitchi-Gami Trail.
I chose a different section and wound up sloshing through a wetland. My boots doubled in weight from the sludge that clung to them. I liked the muddy challenge, but still, that hike — and the hoped for but unrealized one — prove that Minnesota’s beloved footpath faces challenges of its own.
“It is 32 years old and showing its age,” read a recent blog post from the Superior Hiking Trail Association, which builds, cares for and promotes the trail. The Two Harbors-based nonprofit is focusing on the first two of those tasks as it undertakes a trail renewal program.
It vows to keep the SHT “a superior outdoor experience.” It already is. In fact, many people hike parts without realizing it, since it leads to North Shore waterfalls, from the swirling Temperance River as it tumbles toward Superior to the Brule’s heart-pounding Devil’s Kettle.
The organization spent last fall assessing the conditions and found pockets that need touching up as well as stretches that require major work. Those have been dubbed the “Big Bad Five” (and include thee two trails I zeroed in on last spring).
A section north of Gooseberry Falls, will be closed at a private landowner’s request while the group finds a new route. The Split Rock River Loop awaits a new bridge. Two sections between Britton Peak and Lutsen Mountains need revamping since they pass through wetlands. The section that rims picturesque Bean and Bear lakes also need help.
Don’t let the Big Five scare you off the trail; the vast majority is in great shape. Maybe even hit the trail as a volunteer to help rebuild it. Find more information on the trail, including conditions and how to help, at superiorhiking.org.
Send your questions or tips to Travel Editor Kerri Westenberg at email@example.com, and follow her on Twitter: @kerriwestenberg.