Monday, April 6, 2015

Hike to Shovel Point leads to fantastic vistas

View from Shovel Point.
Photo courtesy of Minnesota DNR.
Shovel Point Trail

Easy walk marks great spot
to see migrating birds

An incredible view of Lake Superior atop billion-year-old rock awaits day hikers on the Shovel Point Trail in Minnesota’s Tettegouche State Park.

The North Shore hike runs about 1.1-miles round trip. A fairly flat trail, it’s a wonderful autumn walk when the shoreline leaves turn an array of yellows.

To reach the trailhead from Silver Bay, drive north on Minn. Hwy. 61. After crossing the Baptism River, turn right/southeast into the park entrance. Go straight on the park entrance road and veer left into the northernmost lot. From the lot’s southeastern corner, pick up the interpretive trail that heads toward Lake Superior.

Shorebird mecca
The trail runs through a forested area of birch and aspen. A few pines are mixed in.

Within short order, the trail comes to the lake near a small rocky point with an overlook of the vast blue waters.

No matter what the season, you’re certain to find shorebirds flying over the lake and trail. During late May as birds migrate north, up to 150 different species can be spotted.

In summer, bald eagles, peregrine falcons, and several varieties of wood warblers call the shore home.

Throughout autumn, the migration south moves at a steady pace. It usually begins in late August with flocks of the common nighthawk filling the warm evening skies. In early September, songbirds make their way through the area, and by mid-month through early October, various raptors make their push. Late October usually sees the arrival of Arctic birds.

Dramatic Shovel Point
From there, the trail veers northeast. Upon coming to the next overlook, the trail splits into a loop. Go right/southeast onto Shovel Point.

The point is the dramatic remains of 1.1-billion-year-old lava flows that were rich in rhyolite, a light-colored volcanic rock. Extremely resistant to erosion, the rock has held out through the eons against several glaciers and the lakes they’ve left, including cold Lake Superior, which it rises about 200 feet above.

Upon reaching the next overlook, which leaves the green forest for the beige rocks, you’ve come to the trail’s farthest incursion on the point. You may spend a good amount of the hike simply standing in awe here as the vast lake and a shoreline of sea caves, a sea stack, the Baptism River’s mouth, and Palisade Head stretch before you.

Following the overlook, the trail curves around its loop through the woods back to where it split. From there, retrace your steps back to the parking lot.

If hiking with children, make sure they stay on the trail and in sight, as the cliff edges are long, straight drops.


Read more about day hiking Northeast Minnesota in my Headin’ to the Cabin: Day Hiking Trails of Northeast Minnesota guidebook.