Accessible and Scenic Hikes, Part 2: North Shore
by Superior Hiking Trail Volunteer and Special Correspondent Anna Swarts
This is part two of my list of more accessible scenic spots along the SHT. As mentioned before, it is not an exhaustive list, but instead is a list of some of my favorite spots for day hiking.
One of my favorite spots to hit either on a day hike or on an extended trip are the magnificent anorthosite cliffs dubbed ‘Section 13’ by rock climbers and hiking enthusiasts. Park off of Lake County Road 6 and hike about one mile in to the first outcrop view (continue along the ridge for more). It is true – though short, this hike does involve hiking up a hill, but the mud is minimal, and the view makes up for the bit of huffing and puffing. This is a great spot for lounging and picnicking on the rocks while you take in the view.
If you want to hike up a big hill, you can reach this spot from Temperance River State Park. However, if you want to cut out some work, park at the Britton Peak parking area off of the Sawbill Trail. Hike south a mile and a half to the spur to the summit. Most of this section (heading south) is a pretty gradual climb. There’s a steep push on a short spur to the summit (make sure to write in the trail register at the intersection). This is another great spot to have a picnic. Also, for those that must post selfies after their summit successes, there is excellent cell service up here to go along with nearly 360 degrees of view. A family once shared some donuts with me here while I was thru hiking the trail, so it has a special place in my heart!
If you are super short on time and don’t want to climb the previous peak, a spur right near the parking lot takes you up 0.2 miles to this summit. Note that, even though it is short, it is steep – it makes this list because it is only a short distance from the parking lot. From this vantage point you get a great view of Carlton Peak to the south.
Parking is located off of Onion River road. Cross over the road and head north about a quarter mile to where the trail splits for the Oberg Mountain loop. Turn right, and head counterclockwise up the hill and around the loop. The loop is a little less than two miles around. There are many view points along the way, so before you know it, you’ll find you’re back where you started. Picture credit goes to Casey Fitchett of Grand Marais.
To reach Lake Agnes by the shortest hike, park off of Caribou Lake Trail. A spur trail will take you in a little less than a mile to the lake. For the slightly adventurous, there is a spur trail off of the spur trail to take you about a tenth of a mile up to an overlook of Caribou Lake (at White Sky Rock). For those just heading to the water, turn right (west) when you hit the main SHT if you want to head toward the campsites. I have enjoyed swimming here, to clean up from backpacking, but anyone could enjoy its chilly water and picturesque rocks for sunning on. A perfect spot for a picnic and a lazy summer day!
Okay, okay, this can be a challenging hike if you decide to go far. But I’ve included it because it is so lovely (and you only have to hike a little ways to see some of the beautiful Cascade River. You can choose to park at the state park and explore from there, or at a parking area off of County Road 45. Again, this is choose your own adventure. It can be challenging if you make it that way, but you don’t have to. The whole section is lovely.
The actual hike here takes some time and effort, but you don’t even have to leave your car for nice views of the city and harbor of Grand Marais! Drive up the Gunflint Trail and straight into the parking lot. Perfect for those who prefer not to get out of your car. It is also a lovely spot to ski from, for those of you energetic types — just make sure to get a MN ski pass, and no hiking on groomed ski trails! Check out Pincushion Mountain, if you do decide to hike or ski here. The hike isn’t very steep (until the final push up to the summit) but it will take you a little while until you can see the views (a little less than two miles).
Devil Track River
This is actually kind of a challenging section, but the views just don’t quit, so I’ve included it. Park off of Lindskog road, north of Grand Marais. Hike south about a quarter mile to the first overlook, with more to come. The trail follows along the edge of the gorge (until it descends into it). Watch out though – if you hike far, you’ll hit some steep hills and stairs that can get icy during the winter. As this whole blog is about avoiding working hard, to avoid unwanted effort, be mindful that you’ll have to go up everything that you go down. Turn around, marveling at the change in view while hiking in the opposite direction. This is also an excellent spot to go snowshoeing. Disclaimer: the picture below is taken from hiking all the way down to the river. This involves hiking all the way back up again!
Devil’s Kettle Falls
Park at Judge CR Magney State Park (park pass required). Hike about a mile up the accessible trail to the falls. Check out a waterfall where the water falls 50 feet before seemingly disappearing in the ground forever. Creepy cool stuff.
270 Degree Overlook
Park off of Otter Lake Road. Hike north just over a mile to the overlook at the terminus of the SHT, where it intersects with the Boarder Route Trail. Because we aren’t looking to work hard, turn around and hike back to your car after taking in the lovely slights of Canada. For those of you who decide that you do want to work hard, turn left at the intersection of trails near the overlook and hike to Ely.
I hope you enjoy these hikes. I feel so lucky to be able to share a few of my favorite spots with you all – and there are so many more to discover. Even though the weather is frigid, winter is one of the best times to get out there (think winter wonderland and no mosquitoes)! Or, of course, you can daydream and plan your summer adventures from beneath a load of blankets with a hot cup of tea. Whatever you decide, best wishes in the New Year!