- Check out our Backpacking Page for general backpacking information, seasonal considerations, and shuttle information
- To help thru-hikers, a volunteer has created a reference sheet with accumulative south-to-north mileages, campsites, and services to be used in conjunction with the “Guide to the Superior Hiking Trail.”
- Thru-hikers may find helpful information and trip-planning advice at the Superior Hiking Trail Facebook Group which is run by volunteers.
Traditional Vs. Total Thru-hike
There are two types of thru-hikes on the Superior Hiking Trail:
- A Traditional Thru-hike begins at Martin Road Trailhead in northern Duluth and is about 260 miles long, not including spur trails. Traditional thru-hikers are able to use 93 of the SHTA’s 94 free backcountry campsites.
- A Total Thru-hike begins at the Wild Valley Road Trailhead and winds through the City of Duluth on its way north and is about 310 miles long, not including spur trails. While there is a campsite near the southern terminus in the Red River Valley, there are no backcountry campsites in the Duluth section of the Superior Hiking Trail and stealth-camping (camping in undesignated areas) and campfires are strictly prohibited. Total thru-hikers must make arrangements to be transported to a campground or motel each night until they are through Duluth.
- It is possible that one day, the SHTA may gain permission to put in campsites in the Duluth section, which would eliminate the need for the two separate thru-hike definitions. However, this is not in the foreseeable future. In the meantime, there is a campsite near the southern terminus in the Red River Valley.
- For both of these hikes, the northern terminus is at the 270 Degree Overlook 1.2 miles north of Otter Lake Road Trailhead near the Canadian border.
- Thru-hikers generally take 2-4 weeks to finish the trail. Taking a shake-down trip of 1-2 nights will help you to determine your pace and will give you a chance to field test your gear before setting off. Without firsthand knowledge of pace and gear, thru-hikers are much less likely to achieve their goals.
Northbound Vs. Southbound
- Southbound hikers begin in the most remote section of the trail where cell reception is limited. It is much harder to arrange a bail-out (vehicle pick-up) early in the trip if plans change. It is recommended that southbound thru-hikers have previous backpacking experience and be comfortable in extremely remote areas.
- Northbound hikers start with gentler terrain between Duluth and Two Harbors and have easier bail-out points in the event of a change of plans. This makes it a much better choice for beginning backpackers. However, scheduling a pick-up at the northern terminus can be challenging due to more limited cell phone reception in the north, so for this reason many people choose to start at the northern end.
- One popular method of thru-hiking the trail is a “flip-flop” hike, where thru-hikers hike north to Grand Marais, arrange a shuttle from Grand Marais to the northern terminus, and then hike south back to Grand Marais. This eliminates the stress of arranging a pick-up at the remote northern terminus.
- Dogs are welcome to thru-hike the Superior Hiking Trail with human supervision but even thru-hiking dogs must be kept on a leash regardless of how well-trained the dog is. This rule applies to your dog! This is for the protection of wild animals, plants, and the comfort level of fellow hikers.
- Seriously consider whether your dog will be able to complete a thru-hike. Lots of roots and rocks on the trail become challenging over time for dogs – remember they have twice as many feet as you do. Some hikers have had to end their hikes due to their dog not being able to continue.
- Post Office Information: Supplies can be picked up in several small towns not directly on the Trail. It will require walking into town or finding a ride.
- Package Hold Options: Some businesses allow hikers to drop off or mail a package – prior arrangements must be made!
- Never send packages to a business or organization without contacting them first.