For the inaugural Hikers’ Dozen Challenge, I chose eleven peaks of northern Minnesota to visit. They were a mixture of new and old; never visited and frequently visited. The challenge: to hit all eleven of them in one weekend.
I invited my friend Dustin, AKA Braveheart, on this journey with me. One Friday he met me in Two Harbors and we drove north to Onion River Road near Tofte.
Before the sun went down, we climbed up peak #1, Oberg Mountain — just in time! The last rays of light were leaving by the time we got back to the trailhead. We hiked into Onion River Campsite and set up quickly, then took off for a quick jaunt up to peak #2, Leveaux Mountain. By headlamp we made our way to my favorite rock of the entire Superior Hiking Trail.
In the morning we scooted up the shore to Grand Portage, where we quickly climbed peak #3, Mount Rose. Nearby, peak #4, Mount Josephine, was harder to find — the parking lot is not marked — and also it’s a much longer climb. Luckily there were thimbleberries. Lots and lots of thimbleberries. Mount Josephine may just be the coolest dayhike in Minnesota, whether or not you emerge with thimbleberry juice all over your hands and mouth.
From Grand Portage, we made our way to Mount Maude Road and scrambled up a very short but very steep trail to the firetower for peak #5, Mount Maude. It appeared that recent work had made the tower more safe but I was not brave enough to go up it. Braveheart went up a little way. Even without the additional height, it was possible to look out and see Mount Sophie.
Easy to see from Mount Maude, but very hard to find. Using a map and directions (we saw it on the internet, it had to be true!), we attempted to find the road nearest to the peak, but ended up calling it quits when we encountered a swollen beaver pond spilling over the roadway. We parked and hiked in, enthusiastic when we encountered the nearly-hidden Mount Sophie sign. Mount Sophie, peak #6, had a firetower in considerably worse shape than Mount Maude.
Because we were in the general area, it was impossible to not make the quick jaunt up to the Superior Hiking Trail northern terminus. Peak #7, 270 Degree Overlook, was a fantastic hike. I’d only been here once in my entire life, so it was fun to revisit it.
Our goal was for peak #8 to be Lima Mountain. Although we found what I thought was the trail, it looked to be completely flooded by beavers. We decided to pass on Lima Mountain. Instead we diverted over to a new peak #8, Pine Mountain. Turns out that you can drive up Pine Mountain! Who knew?! It kind of felt like cheating to “summit” Pine Mountain in Braveheart’s car, but we did get out and explore a little bit. It kind of felt like somewhere we shouldn’t be, but there were no regulatory signs.
We drove to a Superior Hiking Trail trailhead for the evening and hiked into a campsite.
In the morning, we drove to the nearby trailhead for peak #9, Eagle Mountain. This was my first time climbing to the top of Minnesota, and I was really excited. The trail did not disappoint: it was a great 3.5 miles to the top. It was a little challenging to find the plaque on top of the mountain, but we succeeded. This was the longest hike of the Hikers’ Dozen Challenge this year.
We returned to the Superior Hiking Trail for peak #10, White Sky Rock, and peak #11, Britton Peak. Both of these were spur trails I had not previously explored. They’re a lot less enticing when you’re hiking with a backpack in the rain. But on this final day of the Hikers’ Dozen Challenge, the sky was dry and blue and the views were excellent.
This year’s Hikers’ Dozen Challenge was an excuse for me to explore places that had long been on my list. Although the weekend was full, I felt I had enough time at each location to enjoy the experience. I look forward to returning to Lima Mountain someday, preferably with hip waders, to see if I can find the old trail to the top.
A main source of knowledge and inspiration came from SuperiorHiking.com’s Minnesota page.