There has been a permanent change to 1.6 miles of the Superior Hiking Trail route from Gooseberry State Park to the Split Rock River Wayside. This change was prompted by a landowner closing a portion of the SHT that ran across his private property. Thanks to poor behavior of hikers toward the landowner, a major trail link between Gooseberry Falls State Park and Split Rock Lighthouse State Park no longer exists as a lovely trail in the woods; now, you’ll walk in the open along a bike trail to cover the distance.
Here’s a link to the MPR story on the closure and rerouting decisions.
Hikers will now see detour signs marking the trail reroutes at Gooseberry State Park, along the Gitchi Gami State Trail, and on the far end at the Split Rock Wayside. For the most part, the detour follows the Gitchi Gami State Trail—a wide, paved bicycle trail.
The Gitchi Gami trail is not so great for hiking; it’s nothing like the original, intimate and wild trail through forests and over creeks. For much of the detour route, the trail simply follows the shoulder of Highway 61 and places hikers on the Lake Superior side of the busy highway, just out of the traffic. There are no wildflower patches, no wolf tracks, no challenging and diverse terrain.
However, there are a few gems of scenic shoreline along the detour: a few steps off of the paved trail will put you at isolated Thompson Beach. A little farther down the bike trail is a turn-off to Iona’s Beach, a state Scientific and Natural Area. Both beaches would make a lovely destination for lunch.
Still, few people will go out of their way to hike this section of trail that follows the bike trail and ends by walking underneath Highway 61’s pedestrian culvert at the Split Rock Wayside parking lot.
Trail through-hikers have an option of heading inland about two-thirds of the way along the bike trail detour: cross Highway 61 and walk 1.2 miles inland up Blueberry Hill Road, an unmarked gravel logging road. The turn-off is on Highway 61 at milepost 41.6, and by the blue fire number sign 3486. (Catch Blueberry Hill Road between Thompson Beach and Iona’s Beach; taking the turn-off means missing the bigger of the two beaches.) Once you’ve walked up the road, you can continue east on the SHT to the Blueberry Hill campsite, Bread Loaf Ridge, and the Split Rock River Wayside.
The trail detour is a sad ending to story that shouldn’t have to be told. There are numerous places on the SHT where you cross private land (the trail has about 50 sections like this). These private property sections—and the landowners who generously offered them to the Superior Hiking Trail Association—should be respected by all guests who use the trail.
From the Superior Hiking Trail Association:
May 1, 2015: Major Section of Superior Hiking Trail Closed as of Friday, May 1 – Detour Around Section *** A 1.6 mile section of the Superior Hiking Trail (SHT) is closed from the northern boundary of Gooseberry Falls State Park to Blueberry Hill Road, due to a private landowner closing the trail. There is a signed detour on the paved Gitchi Gami State Trail to go around this section. *** The detour starts at the Gooseberry Falls State Park Visitor Center, crosses on the pedestrian bridge under Hwy. 61 over the Gooseberry River and travels for 2.1 miles on the Gitchi Gami State Trail to the Blueberry Hill Road intersection. This intersection is located at about Highway 61, milepost 41.6 by blue fire number #3486. *** At that point, there are two options. 1) Cross Highway 61 and walk 1.2 miles north on Blueberry Hill Road, a gravel Lake County forest road, to connect to the SHT and then continue east on the SHT to the Blueberry Hill Campsite, Bread Loaf Ridge, and the Split Rock River Wayside. Absolutely no parking on Blueberry Hill Road! OR 2) Continue another 2.4 miles on the Gitchi Gami Trail to the Split Rock River Wayside, and use the box culvert underneath the highway to reach the parking lot and the continuation of the SHT.
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