Wow! We have just experienced some of the best hiking in the midwest, all within an hour's drive of Duluth. We experienced the Split Rock River a few days ago on a gorgeous sunny day. We drove up the Scenic Lake Superior North Shore Drive 40 miles and parked at the trailhead to the Split Rock River loop. The trail takes you right along or above the river giving spectacular views of its numerous waterfalls. With higher spring water levels this is the ideal time. We hardly saw a soul on the trail except for 2 fly fisherman casting for trout and a nice couple and their dog camped at a wonderful site along the water's edge. We plan to be back with our tent next time! Before completing the 5 mile loop we veered off towards Split Rock Lighthouse on the Superior Hiking Trail for a mile and enjoyed views of the lighthouse as we came up out of the river valley. This trail is somewhat rugged and rocky and we appreciated the hiking boots and walking poles. We've just discovered how great those poles are in taking the strain off your back and knees and also giving your arms a workout too!
Yesterday afternoon was a beautiful 65 degrees so we set out on a hike closer to the Ellery House. As there are 39 miles of the SHT in Duluth we have many great places to go nearby. This was our first time to hike in the Ely's Peak area and to experience the incredible vista from that peak. Are we in the mountains? We had both dogs (Sven and Ivy) to lead the way and unfortunately they don't read signs very well. They of course missed the trail right at the beginning and we took a steeper short cut up Ely's Peak. Our mistake led us into an abandoned railroad tunnel through the mountain which was very cool. The trail was less rugged once we descended into the forests, but views of the St. Louis River and various small lakes were abundant.
I have a crazy idea of someday hiking the whole 39 miles of the Duluth section of the SHT, staying at hotels/inns along the way and eating dinner out. A true urban wilderness experience!