Superior Gondola Hikes (Minnesota) 06-Jun-2017

Lake Superior North Shore Minnesota

To honor the 73rd anniversary of D-Day, we decided to squeeze two short, but different, hikes into one day: a gondola-facilitated hike around Mystery Mountain on the Superior Hiking Trail (SHT)  (Hike #35 in Andrew Slade’s Hiking the North Shore guidebook (2014 edition)) and another on the SHT to big views from the summit of Carlton Peak (Hike #32 in his guidebook).  For the first hike, I think we just wanted the novelty of a gondola ride to the top of Moose Mountain.  For the second hike, it seemed essential to soak in the views being offered to us by the run of clear, sunny, cloudless weather we were experiencing here on the North Shore (unlike the rain and snow we’d be enduring if we were back home).

Rounding Mystery Mountain

The very new looking gondola ride is part of the Lutsen Mountains ski resort,

Lake Superior North Shore Minnesota

The lower terminal of the Lutsen Mountains gondola

and one of its cars whisked us quickly over the roaring Poplar River and up some 400 feet to the northeast edge of Moose Mountain.

Lake Superior North Shore Minnesota

“Gondola hiking” up Moose Mountain

Once on top, we had a view south from the Summit Chalet out over Lake Superior,

Lake Superior North Shore Minnesota

Looking out over Lake Superior

and northwest, from the Mystery Overlook,

Lake Superior North Shore Minnesota

The Mystery Overlook on Moose Mountain

out over the green carpet of a late Spring forest toward Mystery Mountain. So green, so many trees…

Lake Superior North Shore Minnesota

The slopes of Mystery Mountain from the Mystery Overlook

After all this touristy gazing, it was time to get on with the hiking. From the gondola terminal, we followed a spur of the SHT along the northwest side of Moose Mountain, a rocky,

Lake Superior North Shore Minnesota

Along the rocky slopes of Moose Mountain

tree-root infested,

Lake Superior North Shore Minnesota

Rooting along the slopes of Moose Mountain

sometimes narrow but otherwise intriguing way to get to the main SHT. While the trail signage on the North Shore was proving to be generally better than that on most trails in Oregon, on this spur the signage got kind of sparse and we had to perform some “squirrel-crossing-a-road” decision making to figure out if we’d gone too far or not far enough. Turned out not far enough but we eventually came to the massively signed junction with the main SHT. From there we turned northeast and descended into and across the Rollins Creek drainage,

Lake Superior North Shore Minnesota

A boardwalk in the Rollins Creek drainage

then climbed up the slopes of Mystery Mountain through the greenest of green tunnels,

Lake Superior North Shore Minnesota

Up the slopes of Mystery Mountain

to a viewpoint overlooking Lake Superior,

Lake Superior North Shore Minnesota

A view of Lake Superior from Mystery Mountain

then through more greenery past the Mystery Mountain Campground,

Lake Superior North Shore Minnesota

Descending the slopes of Mystery Mountain

then over the Poplar River (fortunately there’s a stout bridge here),

Lake Superior North Shore Minnesota

Crossing the Poplar River

and back to the ski area parking lot. A short (4.4 miles; 700 feet of elevation gain) but varied and interesting hike along a delightful section of the SHT. A great way to spend the morning!

Lake Superior North Shore Minnesota

Our track around Mystery Mountain

Climbing Carlton Peak

Carlton Peak is not the tallest of the Sawtooth Mountains along Lake Superior’s North Shore, but it stands out as a lone high point, 924 feet above lake level, separate from the ridges to the north and south. This prominence has allowed it to serve as a distinctive navigation aid for commercial fishermen on the lake.  After eating lunch and collecting the LovedOne’s sister, we drove south to the Britton Peak Trailhead parking lot on the east side of County Road 2 (Sawbill Trail), two miles from Tofte, Minnesota.  The trail starts from the parking lot, goes a short ways before crossing County Road 2, then plunges into the forest, crosses some boardwalks,

Lake Superior North Shore Minnesota

Boardwalk on the SHT south of the road

transits more green tunnels, which are actually quite beautiful in the way that the sunlight plays and dances off the leaves,

Lake Superior North Shore Minnesota

A green tunnel along the SHT enroute to Carlton Peak

does a short climb, and then a longer climb up around some impressive cliffs,

Lake Superior North Shore Minnesota

The SHT just south of Carlton’s summit

and then a final short climb to the open summit, graced as it is with some remnant foundations.

Lake Superior North Shore Minnesota

The summit of Carlton Peak

From here, it being a totally clear day and all, we had expansive views in all directions, northwest over a green sea of trees,

Lake Superior North Shore Minnesota

Looking northwest from the summit of Carlton Peak

and south out over the lake, where we could see the jetty of Taconite Harbor hugging the coast. For whatever reason, the LovedOne’s sister felt she need just a little more altitude for the perfect photo.

Lake Superior North Shore Minnesota

Lake Superior and Taconite Harbor from the summit of Carlton Peak

After that, it was back the way we’d come to the parking lot. A short hike (3.4 miles roundtrip; 700 feet of elevation gain) to spectacular views.  So, a day filled with two great hikes (7.8 miles, 1,400 foot elevation gain total), all under perfect weather conditions and with no meaningful bugs!

Lake Superior North Shore Minnesota

Our short track to the summit of Carlton Peak

HOME

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s