Friday, March 11, 2016

Ridge trail overlooks Lake Superior, river

Map of trail from Beaver Bay to eastern (E) and western (W) Cove Point
(solid yellow) and of Cove Point Spur Trail Loop (dotted yellow).
Map courtesy of  www.shta.org.
The second longest segment of Minnesota’s Superior Hiking Trail stretches between Split Rock Lighthouse State Park and Beaver Bay with 10.6 miles of uninterrupted trail. While that's a little long for a day hike, you can get a good taste of what awaits there via short segments from Beaver Bay to either eastern or western Cove Point.

The entire hike runs 6-miles round trip, though it can be shortened to half of that by stopping at a great vista of Lake Superior.

To reach the trailhead, from Split Rock Lighthouse State Park, travel north on Minn. Hwy. 61. Upon reaching the north side of Beaver Bay – the North Shore’s oldest Euro-American settlement – turn left/northwest onto County Road 4/Lax Lake Road. A parking is in 0.8 miles on the road's right/north side.

After parking, carefully cross the road and head straight into the woods on the narrow Superior Hiking Trail. You'll begin with a steady climb up a slab of moss-covered bedrock. When you begin to descend this hill, you're on the backside of the ancient volcanic slab. This up and down walk over a solid rock surface repeats itself four more times between Beaver Bay and Split Rock.

The trail sports a variety of trees, including balsam, birch and maple. Cedar groves dominate in lower areas.

At 1.3 miles is a spur trail to first of two vistas – eastern Cove Point. If looking for a short walk, head through the birch forest to this view of Lake Superior. It's in 0.2 miles. Turning back for the parking lot at the vista equals a 3-mile roundtrip hike.

Alternately, you can skip that spur trail and continue straight on the main trail to western Cove Point, which is 3 miles from the parking lot. The trail runs atop a cliff overlook the Beaver River to the north and offers some views of the railroad linking Iron Range taconite mines to a processing plant up the lake in Silver Bay.

The trail then turns south on the last leg to western Cove Point, running atop Fault Line Ridge. Red pines dominate the ridge and cliff overlooking the river. Turning back at western Cove Point is 6-miles round trip.

Another way to reach the points is via the Cove Point Spur Trail Loop. Start by parking at the Cove Point Lodge, cross Hwy. 61 and head uphill. You’ll head over a stream then pass a former mink farm and a communications tower. At 1.2 miles is the first junction. Going right/north leads you to a eastern Cove Point. Going left/west brings up to the main Superior Hiking Trail in 1.1 miles; go right/north on for 0.7 miles to western Cove Point. While part of the loop is wide, it’s an ascent the whole the way to the ridgelines where the two points sit.

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