“This is one of my favorite sections.” Only for a old hiking couple like us could that have been words of love.
When Sally said just that to me this week as we hiked from the Caribou Trail to Lutsen on the Superior Hiking Trail, I felt as warm and gooey as if she’d reached across a fancy restaurant’s white linen to hold my hand. She likes it. She really really likes it! I’d wrapped up a virtual present for her and she was delighted with it.
We’d already enshrined this hike as one of the “50 fabulous day hikes” in our book Hiking the North Shore. But it was Sally’s first time on this particular section of the Superior Hiking Trail, and…she likes it! We’d sent our kids off to school in the morning, zipped up the shore, and now we were back in our element.
We weren’t the only couple appreciating the trail. It seemed like everyone else on the trail was a couple, mostly a man and a woman, once a woman and her dog. It was like that old tourism ad for the Commonwealth of Virginia, “Virginia is for Lovers.” New marketing slogan: “The Superior Hiking Trail is for lovers.” Who else would be out on a longer hike during the school week at the peak of fall colors?
Of course this was a work trip as well as a date, so I took careful notes of the book’s description and where we could improve it. Sally wasn’t the only girl who liked the day’s adventure; the poodle Daphne was pretty into it too. Except when the wolf scat on the trail was fresh, and then she’d tuck her tail in and carefully follow right in my footsteps.
This is a 6.4 mile one-way hike from the Caribou Trail west on the Superior Hiking Trail to Lutsen Mountain. It’s Hike 36 in our book. The best way to do this is by arranging a shuttle, so you can hike back to Lutsen for your car or your hotel room. (Or see below for reserving a spot on the Superior Shuttle.)
Finding the trailhead
From Highway 61 mile marker 92.0, take County Road 4 (the Caribou Trail) 4.1 miles to the Superior Hiking Trail parking lot just off the road on the right, at the Caribou Lake boat launch.
The hike starts with an short optional spur to White Sky Rock, a lovely overlook of Caribou Lake. From there, it’s a walk through cedar forest and rock formations to Lake Agnes, Caribou Lake’s wild and undeveloped sister.
The whole 6.4 miles is fairly level overall, with stretches on top of maple-rich ridges alternating with stretches in conifer-dense lowlands. After passing Lake Agnes, the trail reaches a series of three dramatic overlooks of the Poplar River valley, including a lovely view of curves in the river. In this week’s fall colors, the entire scene was just breathtaking.
After the three big overlooks, the trail descends to the river valley and a long stretch of thick woods. Soon enough though you’re hiking alongside the Poplar River as it turns from a sedate curvy quiet stream into a classic North Shore rushing river. Then it’s another climb to Glove Overlook, where you can look back at the land you’ve crossed, and more beautiful maple woods. Finally it’s a rocky descent back to the river and the busy world of Lutsen Mountain ski area.
As we finished that last downhill, we passed an older couple, even older than us. They asked us to take their pictures. We guessed later that they were newlyweds, exploring the North Shore and getting to know each other in a new and beautiful place. Sort of like us, I guess. Yes, the Superior Hiking Trail is for lovers.
Use the Superior Shuttle if you’re hiking solo
This hike is great for a one-way hike from east to west. You can use the Superior Shuttle service. The shuttle will pick you up at 10:54 AM by the Lutsen gondola and drive you to the Caribou Trail trailhead (weekends only). Reservations are strongly recommended in the busy fall colors season.
If you’re staying at one of the local resorts at Lutsen Mountain, check at the front desk to see if they’ll drive you and your partner (human or dog) to the Caribou Trail trailhead.
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