Minnesota Peak Bagging: Carlton Peak

Image is of Ruth in the foreground wearing a red top and baseball cap and sunglasses. In the background, John can be seen looking off in the distance wearing a blue camouflage pullover, baseball cap and glasses.

#28 of my 2021 52 Hike Challenge

Trail/Park: Carlton Peak Trail, Superior National Forest, Tofte, MN

This hike took place on the traditional territory of the
Anishinabewaki ᐊᓂᔑᓈᐯᐗᑭ. To learn more about the tribes and these lands, please follow the links provided.

Post Hike Restaurant Recommendation: Voyageur Brewing Company, Grand Marais, MN

Trash Collected: 0.1 pounds

A slow, leisurely morning led up to what would turn out to be a beautiful mid-day hike. I’d asked John to join me on a hike to Carlton Peak in the days leading up to our annual trip to the North Shore of Minnesota. The hike to the peak is a slow, steady climb of about 400 feet over a mile and a half from the nearest road on a section of the Superior Hiking Trail (SHT). When he’d readily agreed, I seized the chance to share what I expected to be beautiful views of Lake Superior and the Superior National Forest with him.

The photo is of the rocky Superior Hiking Trail heading into the distance among pine and aspen trees. The rocks make up part of the footing for the trail, in many places acting as natural staircases.

I had brought my backpacking pack as well as my day pack on the trip. This seemed the perfect opportunity for me to get some training in with the bigger pack while John carried a few things to supplement. A backpacking meal was added into the gear for lunch along with two water bottles as I knew there wouldn’t be any places to replenish due to the dry weather and location of the trailhead on our planned route. We agreed that we’d turn back at any point either of us felt the hike was more difficult than we were comfortable taking on.

The section isn’t an easy stroll. In the short 1.5 miles to the summit we got a workout. The trail has the usual challenges one encounters on the SHT, roots, rocks, narrow parts and a rolling way of climbing, then going down, only to go up further. The whole way I kept checking to see how John was doing. We haven’t done a hike this challenging together.

The boardwalks gave me a chance to regale him again with my narrow miss of falling on a steep section of the SHT back in 2015. Muddy boots combined with the slick boardwalks can make for slippery traverses. He was surprised several times along the trail with what we encountered which was fun to be part of. As we neared the rock that makes up Carlton Peak, we hiked along a cool section which sits mostly in the shade. I knew we were getting close.

The next thing we knew we’d come on signs indicating the SHT trail direction and the spur trail to the peak. As I looked around all that seemed to be in front of us was a scramble up large rocks to what I assumed would be the summit. We debated making making the scramble. As I turned back toward the direction we’d come, only then did is see the smaller trail running nearly parallel to the main trail. Grateful we didn’t need to be mountain goats with our packs, up we went. The trail ascends further through wooded areas with peeks of the Superior National Forest (SNF). The views through the trees were of red maples turning their vibrant fall hues.

As the trail leveled off we found several paths worn to views of Lake Superior and over the SNF. I’ve learned John is always interested in a great view so he kept moving taking in the views and, ultimately finding the peak. A large open spot which once housed a fire lookout tower sits in the center of the rise with its old footings still firmly in place. And the views. Oh my the views! A sweeping expanse from the waters of Lake Superior and on into the SNF. The top has an almost amphitheater feel, with a series of sloping terrace-like areas. Many were occupied so we dropped down near the footings for a rest.

After a bit I pulled my stove, cook pot and a freeze dried meal packet from my packet and made lunch. Yet again, John was surprised with how good it was, noting he could have eaten the whole meal himself if given the opportunity. All the while I was so happy he’d been willing to join me in the adventure. At the base of the spur trail, I pulled the SHT journal from the mailbox and added my own entry before we turned for our decent.

Heading back to the car, we talked at length about the view, lunch, how the hike hadn’t been as bad as he’d imagined. We knew we’d be tired, possibly sore. Even so we were both ready for our next hiking adventure and more confident in our ability to tackle a tough trail together. A stop at Voyageur Brewing Company helped quell the hunger the trail meal didn’t quite quench as we discussed our plan for our next hike.

Next Post Preview: Sometimes a hike has a pull you can’t ignore. Come with us as John and take on the next Northern Minnesota Hiking adventure.

GEAR: Merrell Women’s Siren 3 Mid Waterproof, REI Co-op XeroDry GTX Jacket, REI Co-op 650 Down Jacket, REI Co-op Rainier Full Zip Rain Pant, Marmot Kompressor Pack, SPOT GEN3 Satellite GPS Messenger, Dueter Dirtbag, Kula Cloth, Leki Women’s Micro Vario Cor-Tec TA trekking poles. Want to know more about my gear selections? Head on over to Gear & Gadgets or check out my posts titled “Gear in Review”.


Photo of a group of hikers on a sunny day in a field heading towards a wooded area. The photographer has taken the photo from behind the group.

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2 thoughts on “Minnesota Peak Bagging: Carlton Peak

  1. So fun to see the new trail register in your photos. Scout Troop 571 replaced that this year as part of their backpacking merit badge.

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