Superior Day Hiking on the Superior Hiking Trail, Minnesota

Sierra Club Outings Trip # 14252A, Lodge


  • Discover the premier hiking trail in the Midwest during a week of challenging day hikes
  • Capture camera-clicking views of Lake Superior, waterfalls, and pristine inland lakes
  • Relax in the comforts of a lodge


  • Lodge rooms, linens, private shower and bath
  • Nightly programs by naturalists
  • Optional nightly activities, including a ropes course with zip line, climbing wall, and more


DatesAug 10–16, 2014
StaffPhil Snyder

Trip Overview

The Trip

Backpacker magazine ranks the Superior Hiking Trail (SHT) as one of the country’s top 10 trails. The Chicago Tribune calls it the Midwest’s Appalachian Trail, although many think it’s more scenic than the AT. Discover for yourself why the SHT draws raves from hikers with this week-long, day-hiking adventure on nearly 50 of the best trail miles along the 300-mile route.

Our hikes take us to the ridgeline hundreds of feet above Lake Superior with panoramic views of the lake as well as vast inland forests and smaller lakes. The trail dips into river valleys that feature some of the Midwest’s most dramatic waterfalls, cascades, and gorges. This is the North Woods at its best, with diverse forests, flowers, and wildlife.

The SHT is designed as a hiker-only trail that follows Minnesota’s Lake Superior shore. This is a new trail that was conceived in the mid-1980s. Since then an army of volunteers has constructed a continuous, 300-mile path from Duluth to the Canadian border, including bridges over 100 water crossings. The well-maintained trail crosses the Superior National Forest and eight state parks, and is an important link in the North Country National Scenic Trail.

The trip is based at the Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center (WRELC), a 2,000-acre wooded campus near Finland, Minnesota. WRELC features comfortable bedrooms with private baths and showers, and tasty, healthy meals. The facility has a lengthy list of optional activities included in the price of the trip: nightly naturalist programming, fully tethered ropes course with a thrilling zip line, climbing wall, and canoeing. WRELC provides van transportation to and from trailheads.

This is a hiking vacation for people who like the comforts of a lodge, and who enjoy hiking -- nearly 50 miles -- on a challenging trail through some of the most impressive scenery in the Midwest.


Day 1: Registration at Wolf Ridge begins at noon. We’ll spend two hours on a short hike to Mt. Marshall on the WRELC campus to get our first Lake Superior vista, followed by an orientation, a reception, and dinner. Later, staff will instruct and guide volunteers on WRELC’s indoor climbing wall. No experience necessary.

Day 2: Our introduction to the SHT is a 6.8-mile hike that includes several open ledges with beautiful views of Lake Superior, inland lakes, mountains, and valleys. The trail has everything we’ll enjoy during the week, from easy rambling to rugged, rocky, rooty, and steep. Canoes will be available tonight for a paddle on Wolf Lake.

Day 3: Today’s eight-mile hike, with meadows, waterfalls, moose habitat, and lookout views, is highlighted by long stretches along the dramatic Cross and Temperance rivers. Tonight’s programming features raptors cared for at WRELC.

Day 4: The trail on this eight-mile hike is rugged in parts, and includes expansive views of inland ridges and lakes. We’ll follow the valley of the Manitou River, the cedar groves of the Little Manitou River, and the Caribou River gorge. Naturalists will discuss renewable energy this evening.

Day 5: A seven-mile, up-and-down hike leads to high cliffs overlooking Sawmill Creek and Baptism River valleys, and an impressive 440-foot boardwalk constructed over a beaver dam. Tonight, our group will be guided through an optional, fully tethered Adventure Ropes Course ending with an exciting zip line.

Day 6: This 11.1-mile classic hike starts with the High Falls on the Baptism River and climbs over Mt. Trudee and Round Mountain before achieving camera-clicking views high above Bear and Bean lakes. We’ll celebrate today’s challenging hike, and our week’s achievements, with dinner off-campus in Finland.

Day 7: The popular five-mile Split Rock River Loop will cap our week. The trail follows the cascading river for more than three miles, and then climbs through the forest to a ridge for our last commanding view of Lake Superior. We’ll return to our cars by early afternoon.

*Descriptions and other trail information are from Guide to the Superior Hiking Trail, Seventh Edition, a publication of the Superior Hiking Trail Association. Scheduled hikes are subject to change, primarily due to weather and trail conditions.



Getting There

The Superior Hiking Trail is located on Minnesota’s North Shore, which is the western shore of Lake Superior. Our trip begins Sunday, August 10, with registration from noon to 1:30 p.m. at Wolf Ridge Environmental Center, 6282 Cranberry Road, Finland, Minnesota. WRELC is 250 miles north of the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport and about 80 miles north of the nearest commercial airport in Duluth, Minnesota. Participants will get a roster to facilitate ride-sharing.

Accommodations and Food

Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center is a nationally recognized leader in environmental education, hosting more than 18,000 people annually. We have a floor or wing of a dorm to ourselves, featuring rooms for three or four hikers (singles and doubles are available at an extra cost -– contact the leader) with a private bath and shower in each room. The wing has a clothes washer, dryer, and refrigerator. Towels, bedding, and pillows are provided. High-speed wireless Internet service is usually available.

All meals are included, from dinner on day one to lunch on day seven. Chef-prepared meals are served in the dining room. In addition to a hot entrée, breakfast includes fresh fruit, yogurt, granola and other cereal, and a variety of baked goods. We’ll make our own lunches each morning from a wide variety of sandwich ingredients. Dinner is a featured entrée with salad, vegetables, and dessert. Coffee is available anytime. We’ll have a pizza party on our last night together at West Branch Bar and Grill in nearby Finland.

Trip Difficulty

Trip participants need to be experienced hikers in good physical condition. Although the loads are light for day hikes, the terrain varies from gently rolling to rugged, rocky, rooty, and steep. Nearly 50 miles of hiking is planned during the week, including one 11.1-mile hike. Good hikers will appreciate the challenge, but if you’re new to the SHT or Midwest hiking, don’t underestimate the effort required. We hike at a typical Sierra Club pace of about 1.5 mph, including breaks.

Equipment and Clothing

Sturdy, broken-in, lug-soled hiking boots may be the most important equipment to pack. Overall, pack weights will be light for these day hikes: rain suit, warming layer (a fleece pullover, for example), lunch, two to three quarts of water, camera, and a few other items. The leader will carry an emergency first-aid kit. Additional equipment suggestions will be distributed to hikers before the trip.

The weather in August is typical in the Upper Midwest, with high temperatures in the 70s and lows in the 40s. 


  • Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center:
  • Superior Hiking Trail Association:
  • The SHTA is the source for trail maps, current trail conditions, and other information about the trail, including the excellent Guide to the Superior Hiking Trail, which includes highlights, maps, and descriptions of all our scheduled hikes.
  • Morton, Ron and Judy Gibbs, A Walking Guide to the Superior Hiking Trail, Natural History, Scenery and Other Trail Features. Rockflower Press. Available through the SHTA.


Climate change is expected to change the places we enjoy, and the way we enjoy them. Winters are getting shorter in the Great Lakes region, air and water temperatures are rising (and lake levels decreasing), snowpack declining and, as a result, plants and animals that favor cool climates are shifting their ranges to the north. For example, sugar maple and paper birch trees are projected to lose their habitat here and shift largely to Canada. Scientists think warming temperatures already may be responsible for declining moose populations in northern Minnesota. The impact of climate change in the Upper Midwest will be one of the naturalist programs offered during our week at WRELC.

In 2014 America celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. The Sierra Club, various other organizations with a wilderness focus, and the four federal wilderness management agencies are vigorously planning this celebration. The goal of the effort is to assure that a broader public knows about the concept and benefits of wilderness. Sierra Club Outings is a vital part of the celebrations for wilderness.
While the Act was far in the future when our outings program started, we were already promoting the principle behind it: to forever set aside from human developments certain special places, by civic agreement. This is the basic principle on which the Sierra Club was founded. The wilderness anniversary gives us an opportunity to highlight our organization’s leading role—in publicizing this principle, in passing the 1964 Act, and in achieving more designated wilderness since then.



Phil Snyder is an avid hiker who has explored trails throughout country for more than 40 years. He is enthusiastic about helping others discover often-overlooked hiking opportunities, primarily in the Midwest. In addition to the Superior Hiking Trail, Phil has led trips in Michigan’s Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and Isle Royale National Park. You’ll also find him on trails in Texas, Utah and Montana. When he’s not on the trail, Phil is a community volunteer, freelance writer, and a certified instructor of motorcycle safety in Appleton, Wisconsin, where he lives with his wife, Patti, and too many pets.

Assistant Leader:

Melinda Goodwater has been leading trips for Sierra Club Outings for over 20 years and has over 100 outings under her belt. She quit her full-time job when it got in the way of her trips and has been leading adventures ever since. She leads treks from Nepal to the Rockies and Sierra to the desert southwest. Melinda is a very amateur naturalist and particularly enjoys finding unique places off the beaten track. Along with years of experience leading remote and high-elevation outings, Melinda has training in CPR and is a wilderness first responder with 80 hours of first aid training. She welcomes you to join her and share her love of the wilderness.

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