Thursday, March 31, 2016

Trail runs to sparkling lakes on North Shore

Map of Superior Hiking Trail, Twin lakes segment, courtesy shta.org.

Superior Hiking Trail goes 7-miles round trip to lakes in rocky bowls


Day hikers can visit twin lakes nestled in the North Shore highlands on Minnesota’s Superior Hiking Trail.

The 7-miles round trip section of the trail passes both scenic Bean and Bear lakes, which sit northwest of Silver Bay. As the lakes are right next to one another and close in size, they often are referred to as the “Twin Lakes.”

To reach the trailhead, from Split Rock Lighthouse State Park, drive north on Minn. Hwy. 61. In Silver Bay, turn left/north onto County Road 5/Outer Drive. The road eventually becomes County Road 11/Penn Boulevard. Drive into the highlands. Turn into the parking lot on the right/north. The trailhead is in the lot’s southeast corner.

Twin Lakes Trail junction
Initially, an ATV trail and the Superior Hiking Trail share the same route. They split in a hundred yards with the SHT going left/north. The trail heads uphill, crossing another ATV trail then passing through a sumac stand along the way.

Next it crosses a gravel road; look to the northwest for the water tanks that supply Silver Bay. The trail then enters a spruce forest, reaches a ridgeline, and junctions with another ATV trail.

At one mile, a series of outcrops on the ridge give excellent views to the west and the south, the latter of which includes Lake Superior and Silver Bay. In 1.3 miles from the trailhead, another great vista of an oak-maple-birch tree ridge comes up.

The SHT junctions with the Twin Lakes Trail at 1.8 miles. The Twin Lakes Trail begins in Silver Bay at the Bay Area Historical Society’s information center, taking the Silver Bay Spur of the Superior Hiking Trail to a loop running along the shores of Bean and Bear lakes. You’re now on that loop, too. Go left/northeast and continue to the lakes.

After crossing a footbridge over Penn Creek and a spur to the Penn Creek Campsite, the trail enters pretty Superior National Forest. On the south face of the highlands, you’ll find maples. Once passing outcrops, the woods turns to oak and sumac with blueberries and juneberries in the undergrowth. There’s also a wetlands with a small pond to the left/west.

Bean and Bear lakes
Next the trail heads atop high cliffs with the twin lakes to the northwest. You’ll first pass about 200 feet above sparkling Bean Lake. Thirty-two acres in size and the larger of the twins, deep Bean Lake is a popular spot to catch rainbow trout.

At 2.6 miles is the Bean Lake overlook. In addition to the lake, look northeast for Mount Trudee, whose flat top covered in red pines will be visible.

Upon coming to Bear Lake, you can scramble down to its blue shores via a 150-yard (one-way) spur trail to the Bear Lake Campsite. This places you at 3.5 miles from the trailhead.

As ascending to the lakeshore, you’ll be able to see Bean Lake in the distance. Any of the rocky outcrops over the lakes make for a great picnic spot.

After taking in the scenery, retrace yours steps back to the Penn Boulevard parking lot.

Note: The Twin Lakes Trail starting in Silver Bay, while scenic, runs about a half-mile longer than the route described here and involves more elevation gain, as it starts at the base of the highlands.

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