Superior Hiking Trail

My Superior Hiking Trail® Hike

I hiked the Superior Hiking Trail from September 15 to September 28, 2012.
I took 542,861 steps to travel about 251 miles.
Journal   Photos   Map   Gear   Food   Expenses   Supporters   Stats
My GearMy pack weighed 18 to 26 pounds, depending on how much water and food I had packed. I wore about 4 pounds of clothes and shoes.
G4 backpack16$40G4 Backpack made myself from pattern.
Comfortable, light, and plenty of room for all my gear.
shelter26$75MYOG shelter silnylon shelter I made, including stakes, lines, and groundsheet. Did not repel rain as expected, but otherwise has been great. I'll need to replace this before my next long trek.
sleeping quilt40$105sleeping quilt made myself from pattern. Really looking forward to sleeping in this again.
Exped Synmat 7 UL Pad16.2$155ExPed SynMat UL 7comfortable, warm, light mattress for restful nights.
Exped Schnozzel Pumpbag2.0$25.00exped schnozzel pumpbag Fills pad quickly with dry cold air instead of hot moist breath. Serves as inflatable pillow and storage in pack for night clothes.
Snow Peak LiteMax stove2.0$45Since this is a short trek, I'm using a canister stove instead of alcohol.
Giga Power fuel7.0$5I'll only need to take one canister and it will get lighter every day. 4oz. fuel and 3oz. canister.
cook kit5.8$25includes spoon, pot, foil lid, stand, windscreen, and lighter.
food cozy.8myog food cozy insulates food package while the hot water is heating it up. Saves fuel and works super.
food0-8lb.I'll carry 5 days of food at the most and have 2 food caches along the trail.
water filter4.2$51.70Sawyer filter. Using 1L dirty water bag since 2L bag leaks now. 2nd bag leaked too, so now I'm down to .5L bag and will need to purchase new ones.
water bottles1.2two .6L throw-out bottles - cheap, easy, light.
water bag.9$81L Platypus roll-up, just for backup.
water1-4lb.water is plentiful, so no need to carry much. 2.2lb/L
down coat21$120my only down item and I love it.
BSA wicking t-shirt11.2$20light, synthetic - 2 shirts
arm warmers3.8$9arm warmermade from kneelength socks for chilly evenings and mornings, instead of long-sleeve shirt
gaiters1.5$19Dirty Girl gaiters. Didn't need them this time, just extra weight.
BSA zip-off pants17.2light and sturdy
BSA socks5.73pr. hiking socks
shoes32.5$60New Balance 606 - heavier than my previous two pair :-( but they are comfortable so far :-)
BSA hat3.5baseball style
long underwear12.4top & bottom - did not use bottoms at all
cellphone4.3cellphone borrowed, for daily blogs and pics.
camera5.4old digital SONY. forgot battery so only had cellphone pics half of trip.
tracker5.1pings to satellite with my location.
pedometer.6$25pedometertrack my steps, just for fun
rain poncho3.4$4cheap disposable to cover me and pack from rain - taking 2. Used 3 days just fine.
maps2$2.50poor set of 5 maps for entire trail. It's well-marked and maps aren't needed.
1st aid kit2.3not used
pad repair kit.4not used
compass1.1not used
knife1.1tiny, single blade. not used
toothbrush1.3includes paste
ear plugs0not used
50ft. core1.5hanging food to protect from animals
toilet kit2.8TP, Purell - campsites have pit toilets so no trowel
trek poles19.4$30trek poles The tips are shot after AZT and SHT, but I'll get another few hundred miles from them. Use to support shelter also.
headlamp.5$11Photon microlight Awesome photon light, with spare batteries. One set of batteries lasted entire trip.
Stick Pic.4self-pictures and videos
misc.2.82 garbage bags, whistle, clippers, thermometer
4lbs worn, not in pack
14.5lb pack weight
2 to 10lb food & water
17 to 27lb - total weight
My FoodMy daily menu was:
  • Breakfast: 2 poptarts - 400 calories
  • Snacks: granola, raisins, sunflower kernels, 2 Snickers - 1000 calories
  • Dinner: Knorr noodles, salmon or tuna or chicken pouch, 1 oz. olive oil - 700 calories
  • Drink: mostly water, gatorade - 100 calories
  • Daily vitamin
That is about 2200 calories/day. I had peanut butter and honey and crackers also, but I was just not very hungry on this trip. I didn't walk many miles each day for the first week since I was with other people and then my hiking hunger didn't get a chance to kick in before I finished.
I lost about 5 pounds over the two weeks.
My ExpensesThe total trip cost. Towns are VERY expensive with hotels and restaurants so avoiding them helps keep costs down. Since this trail was so short, the travel to trail costs are high per mile of trail.
  • gas for drive to trail and back - $140
  • gear - $130 - shoes, shirt, pumpbag
  • SHTA membership and maps - $42
  • food - $80
  • state park camping - $20 (1 nite, ouch!)
  • Grand Marais hotel - $44
  • gift for Duluth house - $22
  • Duluth food - $18
  • misc - $6
  • Total - $500 - about $2/mile
    $1.50/mile without gear.
You Askedquestions you asked about my hike. Got one? - Ask It


Superior Hiking Trail Statistics

Distance310 miles - the trail is complete except for 20 miles by Duluth which is closed. There was extensive flooding in spring of 2012 so about 12 miles of trail by Duluth is closed. So, I ended my hike at the Normanna Road trailhead which completes the northern portion of the SHT at 250 miles. I plan to hike from Normanna Road to Jay Cooke State Park next October when the trail is finished and open.
Total Elevationaround 20,000feet. It's a fairly short trail with not a lot of high points, but lots of 100-500foot ups and downs.
TerminusNorth: Otter Lake Road by Canadian border
South: Jay Cooke State Park
Highest PointRosebush Ridge, 1829ft
Lowest PointLake Superior, 602ft

Click for Large Map
TerrainThere are no high elevations or long, steep climbs, but the trail follows the ins and outs and ups and downs of creeks running from the ridge into Lake Superior. This makes the trail fairly rugged and inclined much of the time.
Extensive erosion due to no use of switchbacks has made much of the trail exposed roots and rocks so it's a tough tread.
The trail is marked with blue blazes and prolific signage. It is a highly used trail with about 90 established campsites along its length. These sites must be used, but in the Superior National Forest dispersed camping is legal.
HistoryStarted in mid-1980s. Superior Hiking Trail Association started in 1986.
First thru-hiked by Paul Hlina in 1995.
Challenges Bears, wolves, moose, and other animals may be encountered.
Sudden weather changes due to proximity to Lake Superior.
Time WindowApril through October. Summer has humidity, mosquitos, and black flies. Late August through September are the best bet with October bringing cold and rain season.
Time to HikeTypically takes 2 to 4 weeks. Speed record is 4 days set by Erik Kaitala in 2005, but that was when there was only 205 miles of trail.
Permits There are no fees or permits required to hike the Superior Hiking Trail.
Thru-hiker TallyNo Idea. No records kept.


Trail Links

AgenciesSuperior Hiking Trail Association

Hike On: My Hikes

 Sep 12, 2012 - Laura Sheffield
What is the greatest pleasure of this trail?  and What would have made your trip even better?
Sep 13, 2012 - Hiking Dude
Laura - I leave tomorrow so I'll answer your questions in two weeks when I'm back home. :-)
Sep 16, 2012 - Bryan Ebert
Can't wait to meet up with you on Thursday, looking forward to hiking with you for a couple of days!
Oct 17, 2012 - Hiking Dude
Laura - I was pleasantly surprised at all the beautiful overlooks along the SHT.  Hard to pick a favorite, but the view of the Poplar River valley was great.
It would have been difficult to make this trek any better.  I carried more food than needed, shelter did not shed rain very well, and water filter had problems but all those were small and easily fixed.  The fall colors were wonderful, no bugs, no humidity, great people, and little rain so I'd certainly say September is a great time to hike this trail.
One tip would be to pay little attention to the elevation charts on the SHTA maps.  They make it seem like you need climbing gear to do this trail and are very misleading as to the ruggedness of the trail.  Most of the Ups and Downs are short and not very steep.  I think a compass and the set of 50cent maps are all you need for navigation.
Nov 03, 2012 - Papa Bear
Good website!  Congrats on finishing!
Jan 31, 2013 - Take Two
Thanks for the info, Hiking Dude.  Would you tell about resupply logistics?  Did you have to hike far from the trail to get your drops (where did you drop) or were there spots along the way to stock up?
Feb 01, 2013 - Hiking Dude
Take Two - I mention my food caches in my Journal link above on Day 6 and Day 11.
Since the trail parallels the north shore of Lake Superior, it is crossed occasionally by roads heading inland from Highway 61 that follows the shore.  My wife drove me up to Canada so we left a cache where Lax Lake Rd crosses by Silver Bay and where the Caribou Trail crosses by Lutsen.  I started with 5 days of food and each of these caches had 5 days - but it was waaaaay more than I really needed.
I put all the food in a 2.5 gallon ziploc, put that inside a green garbage bag, and hung that on a line from a tree limb.  I located the cache about 30 yards off the trail on the west side of the road crossing - so I would cross the road THEN look for the cache.  Having food waiting practically right on the trail is super easy.  For food drops, see
Feb 01, 2013 - Take Two
Oh - I see your journal - seems like you had a steady supply of trail magic to help you through also :-]  Thanks for the response and tips.
Mar 25, 2013 - Alicia
I'm looking for a weekend type trip for April. Is the SHT navigable for this time of year? I am used to longer trips in the warmer months but never something this early..
Mar 26, 2013 - Hiking Dude
Alicia - Chances are high that the SHT will be snow-covered through April, or very muddy if we get some steady warm weather.  The Arizona Trail would be a better bet for April, or southern part of Appalachian Trail.
Aug 12, 2013 - Erik Schwebach
Small world, I took a look at your photos and sure enough I remember running into you on the trail in Crosby Manitou State Park, would have been late afternoon on Sept. 23rd.  Congrats on completing the whole thing.
Mar 05, 2014 - Lowell
How did you determine your total distance? I am wondering because I have heard a rumor that in the SHT book they count all of the spur trails in their total milage... Preping to thru-hike it this fall! Thanks for your time and effort going into this web page.

Mar 24, 2014 - Hiker Huey
Hiking Dude,
Great info. I hope to hike the SHT in August.
In case you hadn't discovered it yet, Sawyer has come out with new bags that don't leak like the original ones.  Recommend tossing all of your old ones and buying the improved version.  I haven't had any problems since I did.
Can anyone tell me if it's better to go NOBO or SOBO?  Any reason to go one vs the other?
Hiker Huey
Mar 24, 2014 - Hiking Dude
@Huey - I do have the new Sawyer bags now, too.
Regarding NOBO or SOBO, it just made more sense to me to be walking back towards civilization rather than off into the wilderness.  Also, the farther south you go, the more people there are - in case you run into problems later in your hike.  Finally, not knowing exactly when you'll finish, arranging a pick-up at the northern end takes more effort, I think.
Mar 25, 2014 - Hiker Huey
Hiking Dude
Thanx for the advice on the direction to hike.  It makes good sense.

Mar 25, 2014 - gene
whats the best time in summer for the least bugs?
Mar 25, 2014 - Hiking Dude
@gene - The later, the better.  Bugs are worst after the snow melts and things warm up into May and June.  August and September are the best with many life cycles being completed and generally drier air.  September is practically bug-free.
Aug 29, 2014 - Joe
How long does it take to hike from Tettegouche (hwy1) to silver bay (Penn Blvd). Is that too short for a two day one night hike? Thinking of starting from hwy 1 in the morning and camping somewhere in the middle then hiking to Penn Blvd the next day.
Aug 29, 2014 - Hiking Dude
@Joe - Well, I hiked that section plus another 7 miles in one day on my thru-hike.  But, it's one of the nicest parts of the trail and would be a great two-day hike, taking your time and enjoying the sights.  Visiting Raven Rock and Mt. Trudee and camping at one of the Palisade Creek sites would pretty much split it in half and give you the wonderful view of Bear and Bean lakes the second morning.  You could add the 4.7 mile section to the south of that from Silver Bay to Beaver Bay, but I found that to be about the ugliest part of the trail.
On the other hand, if you added the next section north, from cty rd 6 to hwy 1, you get more beautiful trail and views.  But, it puts you camping in Tettegouche about halfway - if you want to use a free campsite, it means either a longer first or second day.
Aug 29, 2014 - Nobody
I am planning for three day hike starting from 13th September morning. Any recommendations on from where I should start and what all I should cover? I was thinking about Silver Bay. Also, would I get to see fall colours during this time?
Thanks in advance
Aug 29, 2014 - Hiking Dude
@Nobody (your real name?) - Heading north from Silver Bay would be a great hike. Fall colors typically peak around September 20th up on the ridge and a week later down by the shore.  So, you're probably early but should see some colors.
If you didn't mind going farther north, a 25-mile hike from Caribou Trail north of Lutsen, down to Temperance River state park would give you the Poplar River valley which is where I saw the best colors of my thru-hike, and that was on Sept. 20th.  You also get a great view from the top of Carlton Peak which you should not skip.
Sep 14, 2014 - brian
What size of backpack do you need for this type of pack list? Like how many liters?
Sep 14, 2014 - Hiking Dude
@brian - mine is about 3200 cubic inches plus 800 in the three outer mesh pockets.  I guess that's about 52 liters, plus 13 liters for a total of 65 liters.  That's a lot of space for something that weighs just 1 pound and I have plenty of extra space.
Dec 07, 2014 - Hanna
I've always wanted to hike the entire Superior Hiking Trail. I'm not too worried about the physical part, I'm just worried about the difficulty of terrain. The most difficult section I've hiked so far is on the Caribou trail up to Rose Lake. What was the hardest section for you?
Dec 10, 2014 - Hiking Dude
@Hanna - I didn't find any part of the SHT particularly trying.  Heading south, after the trail pulled away from the shore just north of Two Harbors it became flatter and non-scenic.  Other than that, every day had great terrain, views, water, and camping spots.  There are lots of ups and downs on the SHT, not like the many flat miles of the Ice Age Trail and others in the midwest.
Dec 15, 2014 - Keith
Is the trail complete now or is the southern portion still detached from the larger northern section?
Apr 07, 2015 - Mike S
About your not-so-waterproof shelter:  Silnylon seams will leak unless sealed with silicone, I trust you did that?  Also, all silnylon is not the same.  The silnylon in my LightHeartGear tent is waterproof to 3500mm static head, while the silnylon sold by the online DIY gear suppliers (the ones I checked, anyway) is either not specified or 1000mm.  Hope this info helps you stay dry on your next hike.

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