Buggy but crowd-free on Lake Superior

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of June 27-July 4, 1996
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Buggy but crowd-free on Lake Superior
Question: My wife, two teen-age kids, and I are planning a camping trip (we're tenters) on the north shore of Lake Superior in early August. What are your recommendations for great places to camp, preferably public sites, when traveling from Duluth to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario? Can I make camping reservations in Minnesota and Ontario? Also, how are the insects?

Norm Swier
Portage, MI
[email protected]

Adventure Adviser: Well, Norm, if you're willing to lose the car for a few days and strike out with your backpacks (which is quite character-building for the teen-agers), I recommend heading north out of Duluth and spending a couple of days on the Superior Hiking Trail, a 240-mile stretch of wilderness between Two Harbors and the Canadian border.

For a good taste of the trail, try the 20-mile section between Silver Bay and Little Marais with its great views of the lake from the top of the 1,500-foot Sawtooths and its old-growth cedar groves in Tettegouche State Park. Particularly exciting for acrophobes is the wobbly, stomach-turning suspension bridge over the Baptism River.

And, for your tenting convenience, there are primitive campsites near water sources every five miles or so. If this doesn't fit into the family plan, plenty of spur trails and access roads to U.S. 61 break up the through-hike into perhaps more tolerable (and teen-friendly) day hikes. For camping information (no reservations necessary), shuttle details, and maps, call the Superior Hiking Trail Association at 218-834-2700.

Consider it a warm-up to the even more remote--and I mean remote--camping opportunities on Lake Superior's rugged north shore. Destination: Pukaskwa National Park, a 765-square-mile swath of wilderness.

To get there, take U.S. 61 north to Thunder Bay, Ontario, where you'll take Highway 17 past Sleeping Giants Provincial Park (good spot to overnight; call 807-977-2526) to Nipigon. From there, follow 17 along the lakeshore, tenting at Rainbow Falls Provincial Park (807-824-2298) and Neys Provincial Park (807-229-1624) before making a right turn on toward Pukaskwa at the Hattie Cove access road. Registration at the park kiosk will run you about $4 (U.S.) a night.

If you arrive late, stay overnight at the drive-in Hattie Cove Campground ($9.50 per night), before setting out on the 36-mile Coastal Hiking Trail. The hiking along this out-and-back route gets steeper and tougher as you go, but the vertigo-inducing cliffs and sand beaches will keep your mind off your achin' dogs.

Camp at designated backcountry sites along the trail--each about five hours apart and reservable in advance (call the park at 807-229-0801). Water's available at most sites, but you'll need to boil or filter it before drinking. Keep your eyes open for resident moose, bears, wolves, and woodland caribou, especially in late August when the park has quieted down.

While June is the buggiest time up north, August isn't pest-free, by any means. Bring the bug juice and prepare to do some swatting.

For more ideas, check out "The Flatland's Private Big Blue" in the Destinations section of our September 1995 issue.

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