Photograph by Lucas Payne, My Shot
The 277-mile (365-kilometer) Superior Hiking Trail, which hugs a ridgeline above the Lake Superior shoreline between Duluth and the Ontario border, is the best long hike in the country between the Continental Divide and the Appalachian Trail. It covers rugged terrain—bluffs, cliffs, and the spine of the ancient Sawtooth mountain range—as it traces streams and skirts wild rivers, rises to mighty bluffs overlooking the great lake, and plunges into deciduous forests of birch, aspen, and maple interspersed with redolent stands of boreal spruce and balsam. Massive beaver dams compete for the title of Minnesota’s Hoover—you cross over one on a 440-foot (134-meter) boardwalk.
The Superior serves up every sensation of a great wilderness hike, but adds in all sorts of flexibility. With 30 trailheads near roads and towns, plus 86 free backcountry campsites, the trail lets you get away for a long weekend or embark on a three-week epic with the possibility of crashing at an inn or two along the way. (Zealous thru-hikers add in extensions on the 65-mile/105-kilometer Border Route Trail and the 40-mile/64-kilometer Kekekabic in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.)
Sightings of moose, bears, beavers, wolves, coyotes, or grouse are possible. At times you’re strolling through carpets of leaves, and at others ascending a bald for yet another dramatic lake vista—from the south you can spy the Apostle Islands; from the north, Isle Royale. Fall brings out the best in the Superior Trail—lower humidity, fewer bugs, intense colors, and a migration of hawks and eagles.