Ready, set, hike! Sharing highlights & a pictorial of the second half of July’s Lutsen Mountains adventure. Click here to catch the first-leg details of this grand loop, which began at the Poplar River and stretched along the back side of Mystery Mountain. This excerpt shares images of lovely wildflower sightings, towering forests and curious rock formations as we scaled the summit of Moose Mountain then descended, winding our way to the lower Poplar River. It was a Superior day with ideal weather conditions, so much to explore and even more to appreciate about the beauty that surrounds us.
The Superior Hiking Trail (SHTA) is a Minnesota gem embracing a 300-mile stretch of North Shore wilderness via groomed pathways, most of which overlook Lake Superior from Duluth to the Canadian border. Eric, Evan and I hiked a small fraction of this scenic route. The footpaths are maintained by dedicated volunteers who preserve and protect this pristine space so that people like us may find our way…in more ways than one. The SHT welcomes serious backpackers and casual walkers of all ages; it offers campsites and a shuttle service; dogs are allowed on leash and trails are readily marked. In my humble opinion, I encourage fellow North Shore adventure-seekers to learn more about SHTA’s important work by visiting their office at 731 7th Avenue in Two Harbors, MN or their website.
So, some of the highs and lows along this climb were tricky. As I mentioned in the first post, make sure you pack water and a snack. And, wear shoes with sturdy grips. While the footpaths are clearly marked and easy to follow, the terrain is rugged at times and for every downward slope, there is an upward counterpart. In all, remember you’re climbing Moose until you reach the ski chalet and gondola, so be prepared to keep scaling. Up, up and away!
These massive mossy rock formations live on the northern or back side of the Lutsen Mountain range where there’s more moisture. The air was slightly damp and felt a few degrees cooler, a welcome relief in July! The towering tree mix is primarily pine, spruce and cedar. According to the Guide to the Superior Hiking Trail handbook, the ecology on the northern (inland) side of the ridgeline is quite different than the south-facing slopes:
“Experienced hikers know the old wisdom that moss grows on the north side of trees. The same holds true for the ridgelines of the North Shore. Along the ridgeline, the forest on the southern or Lake side receives significantly more sunshine than the forest on the northern, inland side. This added sunshine makes the forest warmer and drier, an environment friendly to trees of the northern hardwood type, such as birch, aspen, oak and maple. The cooler, moister north-facing slopes have, in general, a more boreal feel with spruces and fir, as well as the proverbial moss. Keep an eye out for these subtle changes.”
The SHT guide book – for about $15 – is chock full of trail tips, maps and helpful details. The authors compartmentalize the trail mile-by-mile to help navigate the experience. This book is gold! It also gratefully offers specifics on available restroom facilities at various trailheads. Again, very important specifics!
With our guy Evan leading the charge, who btw is about 6’1″ tall with extra-long legs, I had a tough time keeping up! You’ll notice that neither Evan nor Eric are in many of the photos because I was so far behind snapping pics and then running to make up the distance!
A majestic profile of this age-old stone caught my interest as I looked over my shoulder (before trying to catch Eric & Ev). I wondered how many years this great spirit has rested here, tracking the steps and souls of so many.
Approaching several clearings throughout this stretch we discovered lovely wildflowers, and amazing vistas with southern exposure. Imagine this view in September with the autumn colors at their peak. Yes.
This breathtaking striated view welcomed us to the top of Moose Mountain with strips of air, sky, clouds, water and land.
A quick shot before making our Moose Mountain decent.
Treking along Moose Mountain’s ski hill maintenance road allowed us to see some of the slopes and ski runs that are typically packed with powder during the winter months.
Finally making our way to the lower Poplar River. Still beautiful as ever.
We were one hungry crew by the time we returned to 142C. Here Evan shows off his grilled chicken burger topped with cheesy hash browns – YUM!
Whether you take a long hike or a shorter adventure along the SHT, we hope you can experience this gift that can only be found in Minnesota. Lucky us!
Thanks for reading along. xo