The Superior Hiking Trail is a footpath only, with a natural surface 18-inch treadway through a clearing approximately four feet in width.
- No motorized vehicles, mountain bikes, or horses on the trail except in limited corridors where the trail is shared with other multi-use trail groups.
- The steepness and narrowness of the trail in most areas makes it unsuitable for cross country skiing, although snowshoe travel is possible in many areas.
The entire trail is marked with either paint blazes or SHT logo signs.
- The main SHT is mostly marked by blue painted rectangles.
- Spur trails and overlook trails are marked with white painted rectangles.
- Turns in the trail are marked with two rectangles, one slightly higher than the other. The higher one indicates the direction the trail turns.
- SHT logo markers are also posted at places along the trail, mostly at intersections with roads or other trails, or in more populated areas such as the Lakewalk in the city of Duluth.
- The distance between the section gridlines on all maps is 1 mile.
A footpath above Lake Superior
The trail is routed principally along the ridgeline overlooking Lake Superior.
- The SHT is 326 miles if each section is hiked separately. This breaks down into 310 miles of main trail and 16 miles of spur trail.
- The southernmost segment from the Minnesota border through the city of Duluth is 43 miles (41 main trail miles and 2 miles of spur trails). This section provides only day hike opportunities.
- The North Shore segment from the northern city limit of Duluth (Martin Road Trailhead) to the northern end of the trail is 269 miles if each section is hiked separately (255 miles of main trail and 14 miles of spur trails.) This segment provides both day hiking and backpack camping opportunities.
The Trail is characterized by ascents to rock outcroppings and cliffs, and descents into numerous river and creek valleys. Most rivers and streams are crossed by bridges. Overlooks of Lake Superior, the Sawtooth Mountains and inland woodlands, lakes and rivers are abundant. The trail follows rivers and creeks, often for distances of a mile or more, showcasing waterfalls and rapids, bends and deep gorges where thousands of years of rushing water has cut into layers of ancient volcanic rock.
One of the more challenging aspects of hiking the trail is the elevation changes. Instead of long climbs and descents found in mountains, the SHT is constantly ascending and descending.
- At its lowest point, the trail goes along the lakeshore, which is 602 feet above sea level.
- At its highest point the trail is 1829 feet above sea level and more than 1000 feet above Lake Superior.
- View a table of the elevation changes by trail section.
Passing through varied habitat
Hikers enjoy varied forest scenes.
- Gradual transition from oak, maple and basswood to the boreal forest of balsam, pines, spruces, cedar and tamarack alternates with high maple ridges that blaze glowing color in the fall.
- Deer, moose, beaver, black bear, eagles, grouse and many varieties of songbirds are occasionally seen or heard.
- Wildflowers are especially prevalent in the spring, but some species are evident through the hiking season.
- Wild blueberries and raspberries provide a special midsummer treat at many points along the Trail.
Crossing public lands and private properties
The trail crosses national forest and state parks, state, county and municipal property, and private property. Landowners — individuals and corporations, in addition to governmental units — have granted easements or permissions for the trail to to cross their land.
Follow these simple rules of trail use.
- Follow blue blazes for main trail, white blazes for spur or overlook trails.
- Respect private landowner rights by staying on the trail.
- Camp only at designated campsites; campsites and fire rings must be shared by parties.
- Dogs are allowed on leash only.
Trailheads every 3-11 miles, 93 backcountry campsites
The distance between trailheads – most from 3 to 11 miles apart with a parking lot on each end – makes the trail easily divisible into day hikes or backpacking trips. Shuttle services are available along the trail.
- Southern sections of the Superior Hiking Trail are accessed from Interstate Highway 35 and Duluth city streets.
- North of Duluth the trail is accessible directly from Minnesota Highway 61, on spur trails accessed from 61, or on many intersecting roads. Look for the brown signs with the Superior Hiking Trail logo.
- Eight state parks are connected by the Superior Hiking Trail and provide access to it.
The 93 backcountry campsites are located along the trail every 5-10 miles from the Martin Road Trailhead on the northern boundary of the City of Duluth to the Otter Lake Road Trailhead at the end of the trail.
- Each campsite has 2-6 tent pads, a common fire ring and benches, and a backcountry latrine.
- Backpackers are required to stay at designated campsites. Campsites must be shared and can not be reserved.
Be prepared for the the type of terrain and weather conditions you may encounter.
- Wear sturdy footwear.
- Carry adequate water (river and lake water along the Trail must be treated before it is consumed).
- Pack an extra clothing layer and rain gear if conditions warrant.
- Use insect and tick repellant.
Know your hike route.
- Check the SHTA Conditions before setting out.
- Observe and follow trail signs and blazing.
- Carry a map and compass. Shop for guide books and map sets.
- Let someone know your plans, especially if you are hiking alone.
- Know where you are on the trail. In an emergency, assistance may be delayed if you cannot describe your location.
- In an emergency requiring immediate medical or law-enforcement response call 911. There are Search and Rescue crews in each county the trail crosses.