For a backpacker, the upper Midwest might not be the most obvious choice for a trip. Yet, the rugged and scenic Superior Hiking Trail (SHT), a 310-mile path starting just south of Duluth and following the North Shore of Lake Superior to Canada, offers far more challenge and variety than one might at first expect.
Even the highly respected magazine Outside calls the SHT one of the 25 best hikes in the world.
It’s a relatively new trail with construction beginning only in the mid-1980s. The plan was to connect some of the most interesting geological formations in the state. These are the steep and rocky billion-year-old volcanic ridges of the Sawtooth Mountains that offer expansive views. In between are copious ponds, lakes, streams, rivers and deep gorges where immense waterfalls race to the lake.
The trail exists in what’s known as the the transition zone of hardwood forests on the very edge of boreal, filled with birch, aspen, pine, fir, cedar and maple. Even though it’s so close to Highway 61, a walker quickly enters a natural and wild place, with the voices from an abundance of birds and other creatures a daily soundtrack.
Podcaster and long-distance hiker Alison Young had hiked every section of the trail — except for the southern-most portion south of Two Harbors. These were mostly “training” hikes for the longer and more exotic international backpacking she had planned. She was a bit shocked this spring when, she says, a little voice inside called to her walk the SHT as a thru-hike, all in one go. What happened surprised her: this trail would become one of the most soulful backpack trips of her life.
In this story, Alison shares some of the sonic discoveries she made along the way.