State Park Camping the SHT: The Best of Both Worlds
Are you looking for a multi-day adventure on the Superior Hiking Trail but you’re not a backpacker? Like to camp but need a few more amenities? Want to hike, but also want to bike or kayak? Car camping in Minnesota’ North Shore state park campgrounds may be just right for you!
The SHT connects seven of the North Shore state parks along its route from the Minnesota border with Wisconsin to Canada. These parks offer camp sites for tents to RVs; many have showers, flush toilets, camper cabins, naturalist programs and other park services. You can even reserve your favorite site! Go to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources website (MNDNR.gov) for more information on each park or to make a reservation.
Pick-up a map of the park as you check in (or download one from the DNR website). The SHT will be designated by ★★★. Look for connecting park trails right from the campground and map out your own loop. Or, use your Guide to the Superior Hiking Trail – Seventh Edition to identify a nearby trailhead and catch the Superior Shuttle to the start point of a one-way hike. Always carry park and SHT maps and a compass with you as the trail intersections are not always clearly marked and may be confusing.
At Jay Cooke State Park the SHT traverses the park sharing park trails and crosses the St. Louis River on the iconic swinging bridge. From the park Visitor Center take the Silver Creek and Bear Chase trails southbound towards the current (Spring 2016) start of the SHT at the Wild Valley Road Trailhead, 5.9 miles one-way. The park has 79 campsites, 5 camper cabins, 3 walk-in sites, and 4 backpack sites. In addition to hiking, the park also has 13 miles of mountain bike trails. The paved multi-use Willard Munger State Trail intersects the park.
Gooseberry Falls State Park campground is lakeside and the perfect base camp for a multi-sport vacation. There is access to the SHT, the paved Gitchi Gami Bike Trail, and the Lake Superior Water Trail. The park has 69 campsites. Follow the River View Trail to the Visitor center. From the Visitor Center take the Fifth Falls Trail to access the SHT southbound towards Castle Danger, 9.1 miles one-way. (Note: Currently the SHT northbound is detoured along the Gitchi Gami Trail to Blueberry Hill Road. Construction of a permanent reroute is expected to begin in 2016.)
The 20 cart-in campsites at Split Rock State Park are a great choice for a more secluded camping experience. Several have stunning views of the Split Rock Lighthouse. There are also 4 backpack sites within the park. The Split Rock River Loop, one of the SHT’s most popular day hikes is an 8 mile round trip from the campground. Again there’s access to the paved Gitchi Gami Bike Trail, and kayakers can put in in the sheltered Little Two Harbors cove below the lighthouse.
At Tettegouche State Park the SHT runs just north of the Baptism River campground. There’s lots of hiking options in all directions. Head southbound from the park’s Trail Center over Mount Trudee to Bean and Bear Lakes and Silver Bay, 11.1 miles one-way. Go northbound, cross the Baptism River and head towards Fantasia and Sawmill Dome to County Rd 6, 6.8 miles one-way. The park has 28 drive-in sites, 6 walk-in sites, 13 cart-in sites nearer the lake, 5 kayak sites, and 5 backpack sites. Cabins are available at Tettegouche Camp and Illgen Falls.
Temperance River State Park makes a fantastic base camp for fall hiking in an area rich with maples. A hike to Carlton Peak from the campground would be about 3 miles one-way. A shuttle option would be to start from the Britton Peak Trailhead and return to the park, 4.8 miles. Hiking in the opposite direction (southbound) you might make an out-and back to the Cross River your destination, 8.4 miles round trip from the park. There’s a 3 mile segment of the Gitchi Gami Bike Trail from the park to the town of Schroeder with another 7.3 miles just north near Tofte. Lake Superior water access is available in Schroeder. The park’s campground has great Lake Superior views with 52 drive-in campsites and 6 cart-in sites.
The SHT runs right past the campground in Cascade State Park. Follow the SHT along the west side of the Cascade River (a bridge is out at Trout Creek which may make the east side trail impassable) to the County Road 45 Trailhead, 3.8 miles one-way. Park trails circle Lookout Mountain with a spectacular view of Lake Superior. The park has 40 drive-in sites and 5 backpack sites for camping.
The Brule River with its mysterious Devil’s Kettle Falls is the centerpiece of Judge C.R. Magney State Park. For a longer hike option that includes the only section of the SHT on a Lake Superior beach, shuttle to the Kadunce River Wayside and make your way back to the park, 10 miles one-way. The campground has 27 drive-in campsites.
The Minnesota State park campgrounds offer a wonderful way to combine the wild scenery of the Superior Hiking Trail with the comforts of a well equipped campsite at the end of the day.