How to Hike the Superior Hiking Trail Duluth Section

How to Hike the Superior Hiking Trail Duluth Section

The Superior Hiking Trail (SHT), which is also an official part of the North Country National Scenic Trail, is a rugged footpath that traverses more than 300 miles along the North Shore. From the Minnesota/Wisconsin border in Jay Cooke State Park up to the 270-degree overlook near the Canadian border, this crown jewel of a trail winds through forests, atop ridgelines, along rivers and, of course, Lake Superior. Did you know 42 miles of the SHT (main trail and spur trails) go right through Duluth?

Want to hike or trail run the SHT in Duluth? Here’s how to experience this wonder.

In Duluth Proper

The 42 miles of SHT in Duluth proper offer an array of options. These miles are perfect for shorter, family-friendly hikes, and they’re also awesome for more hard-core adventurers. For accessibility information, check out this interactive map with details about all of Duluth’s trails. Some ideas for trekking this portion:

  • Choose a loop or section for an out-and-back hike that fits your desired distance. For inspiration, check out one of the SHT sections described here.
  • Work toward completing all these miles over the course of multiple days. Whether going all in with a weekend or week of hiking/trail running, or chipping away at a portion once a year for a few years, covering this ground is well within your reach! Don’t forget to line up a shuttle, or, if you have two vehicles available, park one on either end of your day’s route.
  • Plan a hiking or trail running marathon. For those looking for a big challenge, how about hiking or running it all in one day?! Folks who’ve done this recommend plotting out your stops for refueling and facilities before your journey to set yourself up for success, and encourage trekkers to pack plenty of snacks, water and personal care items like first aid, sunscreen, bug spray and toilet paper. Plan ahead when it comes to a shuttle or leaving a car at either end of the trail, and don’t forget to train, especially for the hilly parts!

The Full Duluth Section

SHT aficionados know the Duluth Section as the entire portion of the trail that is between the Southern terminus and Martin Road. This covers around 50 miles of main trail (plus additional miles via spur trails). Backpackers who are working to section hike the SHT will find this section surprising, offering both rugged trails and modern amenities. While there are no designated SHT camping sites in this section, there are several camping options available near the trail. There are also hotels and other lodging options readily available, should you want some creature comforts for a night off trail.

Thru-Hiking the Superior Hiking Trail

For those who are planning (or daydreaming) about a SHT thru-hike, may we just say: Please don’t skip the Duluth section! There is so much to offer on the SHT south of Martin Road, so if at all possible, plan a few extra days for your adventure and do the whole darn thing! Thru-hikers rave about how unique and wonderful these miles of trail are between Martin Road and the Southern terminus, so plan ahead and don’t miss out!

How to Hike the Superior Hiking Trail Duluth Section

Refuel, Relax and Celebrate

No matter how you choose to enjoy the Duluth miles of the SHT, remember to refuel at one of the great eateries in town. With an array of spots to enjoy some patio time or grab a celebratory pint or N/A drink to commemorate the occasion, the Duluth section is one you won’t want to miss.   

For Your Planning and Safety

  • As with any outdoor recreation, please practice Leave No Trace principles and do your part to protect the amazing resources that make Duluth and the North Shore so special!
  • Superior Hiking Trail maps (paper and on Avenza) and a guidebook are available for purchase through the Superior Hiking Trail Association.
  • Check for any closures and information about current conditions here before you hit the trail.
  • Wear proper footwear, and don’t forget to bring drinking water and snacks. Clothing layers come in handy as weather can vary along the trail, even in the same day!
  • Please also use caution around water, as rivers and creeks can be moving much more swiftly than they appear, and as water temperatures are often cold.
  • Natural surface trails in Duluth are closed when wet or muddy to protect you and the trail, so please turn around and choose another option if you are leaving noticeable footprints on a trail.
  • The SHT in the City of Duluth is closed during the spring thaw (approximately April 1 to mid-May) and the fall freeze/thaw cycle (approximately mid-October to mid-November).
Posted on July 19, 2023