Friday, January 15, 2016

Trail heads to fantastic Lake Superior vista

Topo map of Day Hill area at Minnesota's Split Rock Lighthouse State Park.
View from atop Day Hill, courtesy Minnesota DNR.

Routes lead to
Day Hill summit
at Split Rock park


Hikers can head to what is arguably one of the Minnesota North Shore's best vistas on the Day Hill Trail at Split Rock Lighthouse State Park.

Two routes can take you to the top of this tall chunk of volcanic rock that sits over Lake Superior. The shorter out-and-back trail runs about 1.4-miles round trip while a longer lollipop trail runs about 1.8 miles.

To reach the trailhead, from Two Harbors, drive north on Minn. Hwy. 61 for 19 miles. Use the park entrance road for the lighthouse but continue driving southwest to the parking lot at its end. The Day Hill Trail leaves from the lot's south side. Art the first trail junction, continue straight/south.

Short route
At the next junction, go right/north. The well-groomed trail heads 0.4 miles around Day Hill's north side, gradually ascending the rock.

Day Hill is a large block of anorthosite, one of three in the park, the other two being Corundum Point and Stony Point. Formed 1.1 billion years ago, anorthosite lacks iron-bearing minerals so is highly resistant to erosion.

At the next junction, turn left/east. This goes a little under 0.2 miles to Day Hill’s summit where there’s an overlook. The summit sits at 840 feet elevation, about 240 feet above the lake.

From the slab of gray stone that makes up the overlook, vast blue Lake Superior stretches before you. The peninsula sticking into the lake to the southwest is Conundrum Point; to the northeast is Ellingson Island and Little Two Harbors with the lighthouse looming above the small bay. On a clear day, Wisconsin’s Apostle Islands can be seen about 20 miles to the southeast.

You'll also see the remnants of an old stone fireplace. Its origins remain a mystery, but legend says that around 1900, Duluth businessman Frank Day began building a house atop the rock for he and the woman of his dreams, but when she did not return his love, he gave up on the project.

Long Loop
The short route is only a segment of the Day Hill Trail. If you have more energy, rather than turning to head around the hill’s north side, instead continue straight/southwest and swing around Day Hill’s lake side.

After passing a spur trail to a cart-in campground on the lake, head right/north at the next junction. You’ll then travel along the hill's southwest side below its summit.

At the next junction, which is the Gitchi-Gami Trail, head right/northeast. Then take the next right/east trail to Day Hill's summit.

Upon coming down from the summit, go right/northeast to wrap around the base of the hill's north side. At the next junction, go left/east on the stem, heading back to the parking lot.

Learn about trail guidebooks available in the Hittin’ the Trail series.