Since most people don’t hike the entire 200+ mile trail at one time, the “Appalachian Trail of the Midwest” has many trailheads. Often the trail will come down from the inland ridgelines, follow a river valley, and then come back up. Along these rivers are usually waterfalls, and most of the bigger ones have state parks built around them. This is where many trailheads are located.

These various entry and exit points help you to get a taste for the trails meandering through rugged hills, before you go back to the lodge for the night. There are many rivers, lakes, and vantage points, from which you can see America’s largest lake.

Poplar River Trailhead

1 mile from Caribou Highlands

If you walk or drive up to the end of Ski Hill Road, the road turns to gravel and dead ends in the woods. Here in the woods there isa small parking area—the Poplar River Trailhead. From here you can hike east or west.

Whatever direction you choose, you owe it to yourself to stay a few minutes at the bridge to the left. Here you can see the water cascading down a valley between the ski hills and chalets. Then you can choose your direction.

The terrain toward the right is gentler, though still a workout. Here the trail runs parallel to the river, sometimes close and sometimes far. The trail con

tinues about 2.4 miles before it finally turns away from the river.

If you hike left instead, you will face more rugged terrain, with high points and more views of the lake. From the trailhead, you can hike 3.6 miles to Moose Mountain through a maple forest. When you reach Moose Mountain, you can always turn around ortake the easy way back to the lodge on the tram.

Oberg Mountain Loop Trailhead

10 minute drive from Caribou Highlands

From here, you can hike through maple hillsides and then go through the loop, which has at least seven amazing overlooks of Lake Superior, the Sawtooth Mountains, Teal Lake, and Leveaux Mountain.

Britton Peak Trailhead

20 minute drive from Caribou Highlands

This topography near this trailhead reminds us there is more to a mountain than just its height above sea level. The really good mountains have a quality called “freestanding.” The best mountains appear to rise straight out of surrounding flat land. Our first mountain ranks well on the freestanding scale and is right by the trailhead.

From the trailhead you basically start walking straight up. After a short but strenuous hike, you reach the top of a bulge in the landscape, a bulge with rocky outcroppings.

If you look toward the lake, the land seems to slope toward the water, except for some other bulges in the land. The biggest bulge will be toward your right—Carlton Peak. It sticks up prominently and is sort of shaped like the mesas of the southwest.

You can reach this peak by walking about 1.5 miles from the same parking lot. The trail then crisscrosses the mountain till you reach the top. From here you can look down on the town of Tofte and look back at where the rivers cut paths through narrow valleys.

 

Cascade River Highway 61 Wayside

20 minutes from Caribou Highlands

The next three trailheads are similar. They all are at sections of trail where you hike up a river from the lake and often run across waterfalls on the way. The fact that you know the way back will be all downhill may inspire you to hike further before turning around.

There is a parking lot right where the Cascade River flows into Lake Superior. Here you can hike up along the river on a spur of the Superior Hiking Trail. You will see many cascades of flowing white water, and big waterfalls.

While the most popular section is about the first mile, you can actually hike 4.3 miles along the river.

Temperance River Highway 61 Wayside

20 Minute Drive From Caribou Highlands

From here you can also walk from the mouth of the river toward the hills from whence it comes. Along here, the rocky land has quite grudgingly yielded to the water, giving it the smallest of cracks between walls of stone to flow through.

There are spectacular gorges under the Highway 61 bridge. They extend toward the water and look great from the footbridge.

Here you can hike up the river, and see the gorges where it flows through mazes of rock. Most of the best action can be seen within about the first half a mile up the river. Some spectacular views are also on the path toward the lake, including a great vantage point from a footbridge.

Judge Magney State Park Parking Lot

45 minute drive from Caribou Highlands

Starting at this trailhead feels like beginning a quest across a vast land.

When you start out, the Brule River is wide and flowing toward the lake. You can stand on a bridge and see all this flow. As you travel upstream, the river is still wide but you gradually rise high above it as it flows beneath the cliffs.

Eventually, the river becomes rougher and you reach the Upper and Lower Falls. This is where you’ll find Devil’s Kettle, a spot where a good bit of the Brule River disappears into some sort of natural drain pipe. Exactly where the water goes baffled scientists for many years. See if you can guess!

The trip to the falls is about 2.5 miles in each direction, with the return hike being much easier.