Current Trail Conditions
It’s winter on the Superior Hiking Trail. Here’s what that means for you (updated December 10):
1. Be a good neighbor: stay off of groomed ski trails if you are hiking or snowshoeing. Joint SHT-ski trails are heavily concentrated at Pincushion in Grand Marais and Jay Cooke State Park.
2. Know the snow before you go. The MN DNR maintains this snow-coverage map, generally updated once per week. This is your best bet for learning about snow conditions. You can also ask about conditions on the SHT Facebook Group. Conditions change rapidly; we do not keep track of the snow depth or specific snow conditions on any given section of Trail. Expect some combination of snow and ice.
3. Plan your parking carefully. Many trailheads are unplowed in the winter and parking on the side of the road, especially this time of the year, is not recommended. Do not park in anyone’s driveway or in any way impede traffic. Have a backup plan in case the trailhead you wanted is full or unplowed.
The following trailheads are generally plowed:
- Wild Valley Road
- Jay Cooke State Park Visitor Center and Grand Portage Parking Lot
- Munger Trail at 123rd Ave West
- Magney-Snively Park
- Spirit Mountain Lower Chalet and Upper Chalet
- Rose Garden
- Hartley Nature Center
- Martin Road
- Normanna Road
- Fox Farm Road
- Lake County Demonstration Forest
- Gooseberry Falls State Park
- Split Rock River Wayside and Split Rock Lighthouse State Park
- Beaver Bay
- Silver Bay – Penn Boulevard
- Tettegouche State Park
- Finland Recreation Center
- Crosby-Manitou State Park
- Temperance River Wayside
- Britton Peak
- Oberg Mountain
- Lutsen Mountains Recreation Area
- Caribou Trail (possibly)
- Cascade River State Park
- Bally Creek Road (northern parking lot only)
- Pincushion (see note below!)
- Kadunce River Wayside
- Judge Magney State Park (the big parking lot isn’t plowed but there is room to park cars right by the contact station)
Other things to know about parking:
- Caribou Falls State Wayside: This has been sporadically plowed some years, but last year was mostly unplowed. Do not rely on this parking lot being accessible, and do not park on Highway 61 here. It’s in a dangerous curve.
- Pincushion at Grand Marais: this trailhead is plowed, but hiking north from Pincushion is not allowed due to ski trails. This area is considered closed until ski season is over. If you want to access the Devil Track River, do so from Lindskog Road/Cook Co. Rd. 58.
- Arrowhead Trail: This road is plowed in the winter, but our trailhead often gets buried in snow. The road is not wide enough to safely park on. While it is likely fine to park here early in the season, it may be better to avoid it in mid-winter.
- Jackson Lake Road, Andy Lake Road, and Otter Lake Road: These roads are generally not plowed at all during winter. There is no reliable access to the northern terminus. Even in spring, the roads may be temporarily impassible due to mud, holes, and washouts.
TRAIL DETOURS AND ISSUES (updated December 3):
1. October winds: A heavy windstorm on October 3rd with an additional wind event on October 10 have severely impacted the Superior Hiking Trail.
In the Duluth area: As of October 25, the City of Duluth had closed some of the Lakewalk, but reopened the section from the pier to Endion Station. We will offer an alternate route once things settle down there. For now, plan to use this alternate route between Leif Erickson Park and Endion Station.
In Cook County: We estimate, based on reports from Trail users and our own assessments, that the number of downed trees is in the high hundreds. Most of these will not be able to be removed until spring chainsaw clearing. For more information, check out our recent blog post on the storm.
The US Forest Service has cleared two sections of heavily-impacted Trail for us: Pincushion to Cook County Road 58 and Cook County Road 58 to Cook County Road 14 (southwestern crossing). Expect all other sections of SHT north of Grand Marais to be severely impacted by many downed trees.
Specific section reports related to the windstorm:
- Finland area: Expect more downed trees than usual for October, but the worst report we’ve had so far is 6 downed trees in a mile.
- Britton Peak to Oberg Mountain: There are some downed trees in this section but not as many as other parts of Cook County.
- Oberg Mountain Lutsen and Lutsen to Caribou Trail: We’ve received reports of many downed trees. Take caution and be prepared to climb over or around downed trees until we can clear them.
- Cook County Road 14 to Kadunce River Wayside: Remains uncleared. Expect downed trees.
- Kadunce River Wayside Spur Trail to Judge Magney SP: We’ve cleared a few dozen trees on the spur from Hwy. 61 to the footbridge. However, we also had a report of many snarly trees down between Kadunce River and the Lakewalk.
- Judge Magney SP to Cook County Road 70 (Camp 20 Rd.): Be ready for some serious tree-climbing. For some reason, the blown-down trees in this stretch of the Trail decided to all fall onto the Trail, not perpendicular to it. Be careful: you could lose your way here, until hikers beat down detours.
- Cook County Road 70 (Camp 20 Rd.) to Jackson Lake Road: Expect mostly clear sailing between Camp 20 Rd. and where the SHT goes back into the woods off Tom Lake Rd. From that point, be ready to high-step, crunch under or squeeze around 100+ downed trees.
2. Non-windstorm trail detours and issues:
- Enger Park to Rose Garden Section: Even though it appears you can’t access the I-35 pedestrian bridge between Railroad Drive and Michigan Street because of construction on Michigan Street, you can indeed get through; they have maintained pedestrian access there. But be aware that that could change.
- Enger Park to Rose Garden Section: In Canal Park, note a short detour along Harbor Drive near the Minnesota Slip (pedestrian) bridge that avoids construction on the sea wall there. Follow the well marked detour along the edge of the DECC (convention center) that gets you to the pedestrian lift bridge (or vice versa).
As of October 1 through possibly mid-November, that pedestrian lift bridge connecting Harbor Drive to Canal Park will be in the upright/uncrossable position due to work being done on the William A. Irvin. Continue down Harbor Drive to sidewalk at end of canal and cross to Baywalk (or vice versa). This detour will add approximately 0.3 miles to the section.
- The Gooseberry Re-route: A 1.6 mile section of the SHT is closed permanently between Gooseberry Falls State Park to Split Rock River Wayside, from the northern boundary of Gooseberry Falls State Park to Blueberry Hill Road. There is a sparsely-signed detour on the paved Gitchi Gami State Trail to go around this section. Bring these directions with you! Here is a map you can also use.
The detour starts at the Gooseberry Falls State Park Visitor Center, crosses on the pedestrian bridge under Hwy. 61 over the Gooseberry River and travels for 2.1 miles on the Gitchi Gami State Trail to the Blueberry Hill Road intersection. This intersection is located at about Highway 61, milepost 41.6 by blue fire number #3486. You will need to watch for the fire number! Cross Highway 61 and walk 1.2 miles north on Blueberry Hill Road, a gravel forest road, to connect to the SHT and then continue east on the SHT to Split Rock River Wayside. No parking on Blueberry Hill Road!
This detour will continue through 2018 as we pursue wetlands permitting and assess route finalization.
TRAILHEAD CLOSURES AND ISSUES (Updated December 10):
- Lismore Road Trailhead had a couple of car break-ins this year. As with any trailhead, hikers are reminded not to leave valuables in your cars. Take extra precaution when parking at Lismore. Martin Road may be a better choice.
- Sucker River Trailhead and Fox Farm Road Trailhead are affected by a road bridge construction project between the two trailheads. You can access Sucker River Trailhead from the Duluth area (via Pequaywan Lake Road to Fox Farm Road) and you can access Fox Farm Trailhead from the Two Harbors area. Note that this bridge construction project remains ongoing as of 10/1/18.
- See also winter parking tips above.
WATER CONDITIONS (updated October 15, 2018):
- Co Rd 301/Fors Road to Castle Danger: The Encampment River is a wet-water crossing. Under normal circumstances, it’s an easy crossing with many large rocks. It is only a problem if there has been a large rain event within 48 hours or during spring snowmelt season. Here is a roadwalk detour map you can print and bring with you, but we suggest hiking to the river to assess it before concluding that a roadwalk is necessary.
- Co Rd 301/Fors Road to Castle Danger: Several small bridges washed out during a recent heavy rain event. The Trail should be passable without those bridges. This includes Crow Creek near West Castle Danger Road. Like the Encampment River, this creek is rarely high.
- Split Rock River Loop: Split Rock River Bridge is out. Long-distance hikers can take spur trails to continue their hike through if the water level is high: Northbound, at junction with spur trail turn right (south-east) toward the Split Rock River Wayside. From the wayside, take paved trail to Hwy 61 underpass and turn left. After 0.2 miles, spur trail to main SHT is on left across Hwy 61. Follow spur trail 0.4 miles to junction with main SHT.
- Split Rock and Beaver Bay: Just north of Fault Line Creek Campsite, a short section of the trail is flooded due to persistent beavers. The trail is fordable, but prepare for wet feet and legs. Some hikers have walked across the beaver dam.
- Cascade River State Park to Bally Creek Road (also on the Cascade River Loop): Trout Creek is a wet-water crossing. Under normal circumstances, Trout Creek is a trickle. Only during snowmelt season or a big rain event is crossing an issue. If hiking the loop, hike it counter-clockwise – get to Trout Creek first, not at the end of your hike, just in case.
LOGGING (updated October 2, 2018):
- Between Duluth and Two Harbors, there have been several forest management logging operations over the last few years on county lands. Please keep in mind that the Superior Hiking Trail Association does not own this land and that every effort is made by loggers to disrupt as little of the SHT as possible.
- Lismore Road to Normanna Road: Much of this section is owned by St. Louis County which is actively logging this area. Watch carefully for blue flagging and posts marked with SHT markings to find your way.
- Rossini Road area: Logging north of Rossini Road.
- Between North Egge Campsite and South Sonju Campsite between Lake County Road 7 to Crosby-Manitou State Park, there was a logging operation adjacent to the Trail. There is a logging road crossing the SHT in this area.
- Sundling Creek spur trail: There was logging on this spur trail, but it impacted only a small portion of it. You can follow the spur trail with no navigational issues.
- Cook County Rd. 6 area: There has been an active logging operation beginning at the point where the SHT crosses County Rd. 6 heading east and continuing near the section of trail shared with the North Shore State Trail.
- There was logging south of Jackson Lake Road. Woodland Caribou Pond Campsite has been compromised in the process and is currently missing its sign. Look for a tipi constructed to mark the campsite entrance.
- North of Jackson Lake Road, logging took place this summer.
- Otter Lake Road area: There was a logging operation south of Otter Lake Road that has turned about a mile of the SHT into a logging road. Follow carsonite posts and the Trail should be easy to follow.
8th EDITION GUIDE UPDATES
Problem Report Form
Report of Trail Condition, Problem, or Maintenance Needed:
(e.g. problem with bridges, downed trees, erosion, trail markers, or campsites)