Is hiking the North Shore on your list for 2023?
If you love to explore and wander, you are in the right place. As someone who has spent over 20 years living in Duluth, it wasn't until just recently in the past few years that I discovered my favorite trails along the iconic shore of our midwest destination and further north.
I encourage all of you, whether you have hiked before or not, to just get out there. In any and all of our seasons. Take in the open air. The world is our greatest teacher and there is so much to learn. Adults and children can gain bravery, tenacity and self awareness with every mile we put on our hiking boots. So step outside, and friluftsliv your heart out.
Here are 6 trails to consider when you head north:
Level: Easy, Kid-friendly
Elevation gain: 209 ft
Try this roughly 1.7 mile out and back trail near Superior, WI. Just a short drive from Duluth. This is a somewhat easy route with not much elevation gain making it a great family hike. Although the trail ends at the black river, you can cross during late summer months depending on water levels, turn around and hike back. This is a popular trail for birding and I hardly ever run into a lot of people on this trail. There is a spot on Big Manitou right below the start of the trail with a great overlook. Dogs are welcome on the trail, but must be on a leash. Dogs aren’t allowed in the picnic or beach areas of the park.
Level: Easy, Kid-Friendly
Elevation gain: 423 ft
Day Hill provides excellent views of the rugged Lake Superior shoreline. It is a relatively easy 3 miles hike out and back, with access points for paddling when the weather is nice near the parking lot. The top of Day Hill is about 250 feet above Lake Superior.
The hike to the top of Day Hill and back is a 2.1 mile trek.
Be sure to stop at Rustic Inn after for an even more
impressive slice of pie.
Level: Easy, Kid-Friendly
Elevation gain: guesstimate of 190 ft
To find the trail that leads to this spur, take a right turn at 131st Ave W and follow the residential street straight to the end where the road magically turns into a gravel path trailhead. From there you'll hop onto the Superior Hiking Trail, take the first right onto the spur trail and .82 ish mile later take a right to follow the overlook trail. Enjoy the actually quite impressive view then either continue on the SHT to add distance, or turn around and head back to your original starting point for an almost 2 mile out and back hike. Dogs are welcome, but must be on a leash. The St Louis River Trail is just down the road and also a favorite of mine.
Level: Easy, Kid-Friendly
Elevation gain: 472 ft
Take in the scenic views and forest bathing on this 3.3-mile loop trail near Duluth. This is an easy route trail that intersects at times with the Duluth Traverse so be on the lookout for mountain bikers at crossings. I actually prefer this hike over the well known Ely's Peak hike in town due to it not being crowded and offering amazing views of the city. Absolutely stunning in the fall. A kid pleaser for sure.
Elevation gain: 1,082 ft
Funny story, the first time I tackled this trail was in 85 degree heat and I thought it was a good trail to run... boy was I wrong!
Tackle this technical 6.6 mile loop trail near Silver Bay, MN.
I think this is one of the most challenging routes around here and I've never hiked it in less than 3 hours. You'll likely encounter other people and thru hikers or campers while exploring due to its growing popularity. Be sure to wear shoes that will protect your feet from the rocks and boulders. Dogs are welcome, but must be on a leash. Take a dip in Bean or Bear Lake before you head back in the warmer months. Spoiler: I've run into quite a few northern water snakes swimming in this area, but they are friendly and harmless.
Easy to Moderate, Kid-Friendly
Potential Elevation gain: 590 ft
Also a great place to paddle, this trail offers a quick hike with a stunning view. Take the SHT Spur Trail from the Caribou Lake Public Access (there is a parking lot and boat launch). Hike the Caribou Trail to the spur trail which takes you along the rim and to the top of White Sky Rock. It is short and fierce as it takes you directly to the top for a great view of Caribou Lake. Dogs are welcome, but must be on a leash.
This hike also offers a 3.7 mi out and back option, half of it along the shoreline of the lovely Lake Agnes, with many spots to stop and gaze.
The trail isn't super technical but there are a few steep sections of the hike with some decent elevation gain, so it may be tougher for any hikers
with limited mobility.
I never have time to do this option because I am always rushing to paddle that beautiful lake!
As of 4/18/23 the City of Duluth closed its natural surface trails to protect them due to the spring thaw. Check their IG page or website for updates.
Remember to "Leave No Trace" when exploring outdoors and properly prepare for your adventures by researching details before you head out. When you prepare for your adventures you can safely and successfully enjoy your experience while minimizing your impact on the land. MN State Park day use or year permits can be purchased online and WI State Park passes can be purchased at the parks office.
About the writer:
Sarah is an avid paddler of the north, sunrise chaser and explorer who manages a small boutique and online shop, Free Air Life Co.
, curating eco-friendly fashion and goods that celebrate the outdoors while creating content for their social media. She lives in Duluth, MN with her husband Matt who works in clean energy, and her kids Ara and Orion. She loves traveling all over the world, especially oceans, snowboarding during our long winters and chasing aurora or milky way near her home. She shares her passion for nurturing nature, northern adventures and empowering all people to get outdoors on their Instagram @free_air_life_co and her newest project with her team bringing a hostel/wine bar inspired by travels to Lincoln Park Craft District (in their new location) this summer @zenithbasecamp. Her personal IG is @sarahgrassy.