One of the most important ways you can help protect and preserve the Superior Hiking Trail experience is to practice the seven principles of Leave No Trace.
Below are those research-based, common sense principles. We’ve suggested how you can put each into practice on specifically on the SHT. Please take a moment to read through these, consider how you might implement them on your next trip, and share these principles and actions with fellow trail users. Together we can preserve the Trail and the environment surrounding it.
Plan ahead and prepare.
- The most important step to avoid impacting the landscape is to be prepared for what you’ll encounter on the Trail. Know your camping arrangements ahead of time, be prepared with a seal-able bag to pack out your waste, be ready to store your food properly, and anticipate the many challenges of the Trail.
- Choose a section appropriate for your skill level.
- Carry at least a map or a guidebook of the section of trail you’re going to explore. You can purchase our Guide to the Superior Hiking Trail and our map set here.
- Research the gear and supplies necessary to have a safe trip — remember that summer does not always mean warmth on the North Shore!
- Check the Conditions Page before setting off so you know what to expect — wet water crossings, trailhead closures, etc.
Travel and camp on durable surfaces.
- On the SHT, “durable” means not only resilient terrain, but sustainable locations. Staying on the trail and camping ONLY at designated campsites limits the impact of visitors to our fragile ecosystem and ensures that our private and public landowners remain supporters of our Trail. It’s easier than you think to permanently damage vegetation by camping outside of designated areas.
- When you encounter mud, go right through it. Avoiding mud pits widens the Trail corridor and costs even more time and money to fix. If you encounter more than a few wet or muddy areas, consider staying off entirely to protect it from further damage. During the spring thaw (between March and May) and fall freeze (between October and November) the SHT is particularly sensitive to damage. The Trail inside the city of Duluth is officially closed for a few weeks during these times every year, so we recommend you plan your trips for another time of the year.
- If you plan to use a hammock at a campsite, use tree-friendly straps and avoid trampling existing vegetation.
Dispose of waste properly.
- Pack it in, pack it out! There are no SHTA-sponsored garbage cans or garbage services, so bring a designated baggie for your trash and carry it out with you.
- As for human waste, it can be really hard to dig a 6-8 inch hole in our soil. Whenever possible use one of our 94 campsite latrines. Toilet paper can go in the latrines (or you can pack it out), but no other trash. In case the timing doesn’t work, it’s best to have a trowel handy.
- Food scraps — and this includes your orange peels and seed shells — must be packed out. They take many months to biodegrade in warm weather and can harm wildlife who are not accustomed to eating your snacks.
- Even biodegradable soap and toothpaste can damage water sources along the Trail. Be sure to use these at least 200 ft (or 70 big steps) away from waterways, and consider skipping the toothpaste on trips shorter than a week.
Leave what you find.
- Don’t take anything from the trail (and don’t leave anything!). Don’t cut names into trees.
- Be mindful of invasive species. Use a boot brush or other device to clean your gear before and after traveling on the Trail or between sections. The Duluth area, in particular, has seen the spread of invasive plants like buckthorn, knotweed, tansies and more. All trail users can do their part to stop the spread of invasives.
Minimize campfire impacts.
- On the SHT, campfires are only allowed in the designated fire rings (1 per campsite). Campfire rings have to be shared between parties – no group can “claim” the campfire ring.
- Do not build new campfire rings! SHTA has excavated each of our fire rings to ensure that no roots etc. will catch on fire.
- Never leave your campsite until you have put out your fire 100%.
- Consider packing a camp stove to avoid the need for a fire in the first place.
- Do not burn trash or aluminum cans. This releases harmful carcinogens and other compounds into the air, putting you and your fellow trail users at risk. Plus, it’s even more work for our volunteer campsite maintainers to clean up. Pack it out, don’t burn it!
- Keep your dog on a leash. It’s the rule of the Trail and the law of the land in many sections. Skunks, porcupines, and wolves all call the SHT home — we are the visitors. If you make the effort to bag your dog waste, be sure to pack it out with you too.
- Campers: make sure you secure your food. This means carrying a bear canister or diligently bear-bagging your food. Bears that become habituated to messy campsites may lead to closed campsites and dire circumstances for the bear. It takes only a few successful encounters for a bear and other wildlife to become food habituated. Do your part to avoid this outcome!
- Wild animals are not pets. Please leave them in their wild state.
Be considerate of other visitors.
- Keep your dog on a leash! It’s not just for wild animals that we ask you to do this, but also for the enjoyment of other hikers. “He’s friendly” is not a substitute for a leash.
- Remember that people enjoy the SHT in many ways: some hike, some run, some meander at half a mile per hour. Our Trail is a shared, beloved resource. Treat everyone with respect.
- Campers: SHT campsites must be shared with other users. Be courteous and welcoming.
- Avoid using bluetooth or other loud speakers on the Trail and at campsites. If you listen, you’ll hear nature’s songs playing for you.
SHTA will continue to do our part to make the best Leave No Trace practice the easiest option for all trail users, but we need you to do your part too. Please contact us with any questions about how to practice Leave No Trace on the SHT. Thanks!