310 Miles in 10 Years

Written by Emilee Mae Struss | Photographed by Sally Aadland

Hike | noun | A long walk, especially in the country or wilderness.

IT’S A THING—HIKING, and we’ve got a plethora of it here in Lake Country. Hiking can be a simple activity planned on a whim or a well-thought-out backpacking adventure.

Similar to Rome, Minnesota wasn’t built in a day or a week, not even in a billion years. Actually, 2.7-billion years ago, bubbling hot lava started to spit from the cracks in the ocean floor. Seeping through layers and layers of rock, the fiery lava carved out a new landscape.

Fast forward a few billion years, and glaciers moved into Minnesota. The last glacial period ended 10,000 years ago and left a new drainage system. Instead of drainage depositing back into the ocean, it sat instead on the surface in holes we call lakes.

Okay, so maybe that’s taking it too far back.

The point is this: The earth has put a lot of work into making Minnesota a true adventurer’s paradise. Sometimes, it’s nice to remove oneself from the busy-ness of life and spend some time admiring the landscape. While there are many hiking trails in Minnesota, there is only one crown jewel—The Superior Hiking Trail (SHT). The SHT borders the Lake Superior (a scant 30,021-square-miles).

The SHT’s 310-mile footpath offers spectacular views of Lake Superior almost the entire way. Three-hundred-and-ten miles can feel quite daunting. Thankfully, there’s more than one way to slice it, just like a pie, or a pizza, or anything else that gets sliced. Peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches (cut long-ways with the crust intact) is my favorite.

And if you do complete the entire hike in one push, called a “thru-hike,” you will want to eat all of the above-stated foods in one sitting. Here are a couple of suggestions for treks to plan for the summer/fall of 2020, which is the recommended time of year to hike the SHT.

Sally Aadland (right) and her daughter Grace Aadland have started a mother-daughter hiking tradition. As the group has grown, they now call it GOT, Girls on the Trail.

1. 310 THRU-HIKE (Takes 1–3 weeks)

TAKE YOUR TIME: Before you rule out the full 310, let me introduce you to a woman named Sally. When Sally Aadland turned forty years old, she wanted to set a goal for herself. And you guessed it, that goal was to hike the entire 310-miles of the SHT. However, she didn’t have three weeks to carve out of her life at the time to hike all 310 miles in one push. Her goal? Hike the entire SHT in ten years. She’s now happily half-way to her goal, right on schedule to complete the hike by the time she turns fifty.

ALL IN ONE SHOT: If you do have the time, take advantage of it. The Superior Hiking Trail travels through eight Minnesota State Parks, winds around lakes and rolling hills, and offers spectacular views of Lake Superior.

“Girls on the Trail” climbing log stairs along the Superior Hiking Trail section that begins near Caribou Lake and ends in Lutson.

2. WEEKEND BACKPACKING TRIP (Takes 1–3 days)

GO FOR THE GOLD: Silver Bay to Tettegouche State Park (11.1 miles, 5 campsites). This section winds around Bean and Bear Lakes into Tettegouche State Park. Following the lakes is Round Mountain, Palisade Creek, and Mount Trudee. This hike holds its reputation well as one of the most scenic and challenging hikes along the SHT. With multiple lakes and streams, it’s easy to plan for water refills (make sure you have a purifier).

GO FOR THE WILD: Caribou Lake to Cascade River State Park (11.0 miles, 3 campsites). This section is more rugged and further north. This hike hugs Lake Agnes and crosses creeks with cascading waterfalls on Cascade River. This hike also offers views of Lake Superior, the Sawtooth Range, and Lookout Mountain.

3. DAY HIKE (Takes 1–3 hours)

Kayakers enjoying the high waters of the St. Louis River at Jay Cooke State Park.

NEAR DULUTH: Gooseberry River Loop (2.0 miles, roundtrip). This hike is snuggled deep in Gooseberry Falls State Park and starts with the rushing waterfalls and ends with more waterfalls. This hike is perfect for those seeking picturesque moments.

SO-NOT-NEAR DULUTH: Devil Track Canyon and River (5.0 miles, roundtrip). Rugged and built to take you far, far away from any city. This hike follows the canyon rim displaying rich, red cliffs and calm waters.

Whether your adventure takes an hour or three weeks, it’s best to purchase maps and plan transportation ahead of time. Hikes that loop back (Gooseberry River Loop) are easy because you end where you started. However, hikes like Silver Bay to Tettegouche State Park require a bit more planning. There are many great resources for deciding which option is best for you on superiorhiking.org.

Overlooking Lake Agnes along the Superior Hiking Trail.