|Distance||3 miles roundtrip|
- Expansive views of Lake Superior
- Hike a portion of the famous Superior Hiking Trail
- Opportunity for challenging uphill hiking in Minnesota
The hike to Carlton Peak, towering 924 feet above Lake Superior, will reward you with spectacular views of the lake and surrounding wilderness while giving you a chance to experience one small segment of the 326 mile long Superior Hiking Trail. While the hike is three miles long, most of the elevation gain occurs near the latter half of the hike -- this definitely counts as your cardio for the day. This is just one of many peaks of the Sawtooth Range that lines the North Shore and offers a great introduction to hiking in the Superior National Forest.
The trail starts at the south end of the Britton Peak Trailhead parking lot, and then crosses the road after a short walk through the forest. Follow the signs for the Superior Hiking Trail to stay on course as you meander through the forest. I particularly enjoyed the sections in the beginning of the hike where you must walk on wood planks -- the boards are narrow and makes for an interesting experience when someone is coming from the opposite direction. The beginning of the hike is mostly flat, allowing your legs to warm up after a long drive before starting the climb.
The climb itself is pretty gradual with a few switchbacks. Luckily, the trail is almost entirely shaded, which can be a relief on warm days. There is a bench after about a mile, giving you a chance to rest and drink some water. Do not feel ashamed for taking a break, especially if this is your first time climbing a mountain! Bask in the glory that is the view of Lake Superior (pictured below) once you reach the top.
According to the Superior Hiking Trail Association website, dogs on leash are allowed on the trail. This hike is definitely too hard to be family friendly, but there are plenty of alternative hiking options located along the North Shore for kids, especially in the Minnesota State Parks. Since this is along the Superior Hiking Trail, you can hike this all year, even in winter if your cold heart desires. Not many people hike this trail, even in the summer; I saw maybe 5 other people during my trip on a 4th of July weekend. Be sure to bring bug spray and extra water!
Carlton Peak is approximately 86 miles from Duluth. Going north on Highway 61, turn left on County Road 2 (Sawbill Trail) a couple miles outside of Tofte. Stay on the road for 2.5 miles, and the entrance to the Britton Peak Trailhead parking lot will be on the right.
Google Maps Directions
Parking, Fees, and Facilities
This particular route begins on Superior National Forest property, so no fee is required (note that other trails to the peak do require a fee). The gravel parking lot has vault toilets and a map kiosk.