The Superior Hiking Trail (SHT) follows the main ridgeline overlooking Lake Superior in northeastern Minnesota. It has very scenic views of the lake, and of the Sawtooth Mountains. The SHTA promotes and maintains the trail - it runs a shuttle for transportation and maintains numerous free backcountry campsites available for hikers. The overall difficulty is considered moderate. There are some challenging areas, but even when weaving through the Sawtooth Mountains, the trail is not particularly difficult. The pleasant weather, convenient campsites, and easy transportation make the logistical arrangements much easier, although resupply is more difficult to arrange on this trail.
The trail passes through a variety of terrain, including lush forests, grassy clearings, mountains, and beautiful overlooks of Lake Superior and the other lakes and rivers in the region. There aren't many long climbs, but instead many short steep climbs as the trail follows creeks up and down the hills. In the fall, the trail is alive with color from the trees in the large regions of woodlands. During the winter, the trail is great for snowshoeing, and not too difficult for shorter hikes.
While the actual distance from the trail to Lake Superior varies significantly, there are many natural water sources from streams, lakes, and rivers in the area. Even when some creeks dry up in certain years, there are plenty of other sources for drinking water. The guidebooks can provide additional information on the different water sources. As all water will need to be treated, it is recommended to take a lightweight filter for this purpose.
The trail does pass through several towns that have food and supplies, but hikers will need to walk into town or catch a ride with locals. Alternatively, there are a number of post offices along the route where hikers can mail supplies to themselves. These post offices will generally hold packages for 30 days, so be sure to plan out the timelines. More details on resupply can be found on the SHTA website.
Temperature ranges during the late spring and summer are mild, but hikers still need to be fully prepare for both cold weather, and rainstorms. As the sun goes down, the temperature will drop off very quickly, so it is best to set up camp by then. Due to the closeness of the trail to Lake Superior, the weather can change very suddenly, and local weather reports are rarely accurate. Hiker should be prepared for significant rain, and some hikers prefer to wear gaiters to protect against both rain and mud.
The entire trail is well-marked primarily with blue painted blazes on trees, but also with signs bearing the SHT logo. Similar to other trails in the United States, turns are indicated with two blazes whose alignment reflects the direction of the turn. It is still recommended to bring a guidebook for both the maps and additional logistical information that can be used to plan the hike.
During the summer, there are ticks and mosquitos out, but the severity will depend heavily on section and weather. There are some animals that live in the forests here, including black bears. Some hikers will use food canisters, but that is mostly to protect it from rodents, rather than bears. Severe weather is also a concern, but again, a relatively minor risk on the SHT. Overall, the trail is quite safe, with very few hazards present.
The trail is somewhat popular in the area, but mostly for day hikers and locals - especially from the allure of free campsites. This part of the country is not densely populated to begin with, so the overall popularity is low. The northern portion of the trail in particular is very remote, and so most hikers will start at the southern terminus in case plans go awry early on. As the trail gets closer to towns, more services will be available.
There is a convenient Superior Hiking Shuttle which stops at many trailheads along the trail. This makes an excellent method of transportation for those hikers who are not local, and cannot coordinate driving multiple cars (there are available parking areas for that purpose). The shuttle runs from May to October on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, but be sure to check the website for more up-to-date information. It is important to note that the northern terminus of the trail is very remote, and it will be harder to arrange transportation from there. Duluth International Airport is the closest airport for those hikers who need to fly in to the area.
The SHT is very well suited for thru-hiking, with 93 free backcountry campsites along the trail - each containing tenting areas, a fire ring, and a basic latrine. Additionally, the route passes through some state park campgrounds, but those will carry fees. There are also a few towns along the trail that will provide basic accommodation needs, for those hikers that prefer.