Most of the Superior Hiking Trail is suitable only for foot traffic, but it offers nearly 40 miles of fun through the Duluth area. The southwestern trail ends at Jay Cooke State Park where the Grand Portage Trail heads off Highway 210.
However, that section of road has been washed out since the 2012 flood. The path begins along the Grand Portage Trail, but quickly strikes off on its own, eventually following an old road in a maple forest. After a while, it reaches the Fond du Lac trailhead, but this region was also ravaged by the flood.
A fairly new spur has been blazed, making the Superior Hiking Trail accessible from Fond du Lac. Mission Creek eventually crosses Becks Road, joining up with the Munger Trail. After about a half-mile or so, the trail leaves Munger and ascends towards the top of Ely’s Peak outside Gary-New Duluth.
There’s a side trail leading to the peak, and it’s well worth the view from 1,219 feet. Sights visible from here are Cloquet to the west, the Mont du Lac Ski Resort to the south, Superior to the east, and many, many more trees to the north (Duluth can be viewed to the northeast).
Beyond this, the trail crosses U.S. Steel Creek and ascends towards Skyline Parkway. After crossing the Parkway, the trail goes through Bardon’s Peak and twice crosses the Magney-Snively ski trail. It crosses Skyline Parkway again, and enters the Spirit Mountain area.
The trail crosses Lenroot Street Creek as well as the north and south branches of Gogebic Street Creek. Right around here is a trail spur leading to the Spirit Mountain Campground, just in case you’re planning to hike the whole trail at once and need to make plans for lodging. Ultimately, the trail follows Knowlton Creek as well as a Spirit Mountain maintenance road before proceeding to the Knowlton Creek Bridge.
Next, the Superior Hiking Trail moves along the Kingsbury Creek Trail, following the creek downstream for about a fifth of a mile before crossing the creek and striking off on its own again, following along the back end of the Lake Superior Zoo.
After crossing Sixty-Eighth Avenue West, the trail passes over the west bend of Keene Creek, then underneath an elevated portion of Interstate 35 and crosses Cody Street to North Sixty-Sixth Avenue West for a block, then follows Westgate Boulevard for two blocks before turning into a snowmobile trail.
Moving along, you will come to Keene Creek, and follow it upstream towards Highland Street and Skyline Parkway. Beyond this is an old historic bridge over Keene Creek that passes some scenic waterfalls. (Did I mention you should bring your camera? Better go back to Jay Cooke State Park and grab it!)
After the waterfalls, you come to Brewer Park, along Brewer Ridge, and cross Merritt Creek. Cross over Haines Road and the Piedmont Ski Trails (more spectacular views, so quit dawdling and go back for that camera!), to Fire Ring Knob, Grassy Knob, and Piedmont Knob.
Here, you’ll be 602 feet above Lake Superior. Once again, you’re crossing Skyline Parkway to Aspin Knob. You’ll eventually cross North Twenty-Seventh Avenue West and go along West Tenth Street before going back into the woods, crossing Miller Creek and coming to North Twenty-Fifth Avenue West and Lincoln Park Drive.
Follow the Miller Creek Trail to North Twenty-Fourth Avenue West, and follow the sidewalk over Piedmont Avenue. Enter the woods to the mythical-sounding Forgotten Park, cross Coffee Creek and Skyline Parkway to cross Hank Jensen Drive and go to Enger Tower Road. As a bonus, you’ll pass the historic bell.
After seeing more of Skyline Parkway, look for the swimming area at Twin Ponds. You’ll eventually reach an old quarry, and get a nice view of the harbor on your way to North Fourteenth Avenue West and First Street.
Soon, you’ll cross Glen Place and Michigan Avenue and to an I-35 bypass, heading towards Railroad Street. You’ll pass the Great Lakes Aquarium on your way to South Fifth Avenue West and Harbor Drive.
Enjoy hiking right past the DECC and Vista Fleet Office, over the blue bridge at the harbor marina, through Canal Park right under the Aerial Lift Bridge and along Lake Superior, following the Lakewalk.
You’ll pass the historic Fitger’s Brewery on your way to the Rose Garden, crossing East Fourth Street to the Chester Creek Trail, breaking away to come to—you’re way ahead of me—Skyline Parkway. Follow it to West Kent Road, then North Nineteenth Avenue East/College Street/Junction Avenue. You’ll now be in the University District, coming to Niagara Court on your way through UMD. Cross East Buffalo Street on your way to the Bagley Trail. After a while, you’ll cross Tischer Creek, and the trail will eventually end at Arrowhead Road.
This is only a 39-mile portion of the trail. There are 200 more miles between Two Harbors and the Canadian border. Enjoy it while you can: Highs in early October are only in the 60s, decreasing to the 40s by Halloween.