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Ready to hike to one of Minnesota’s most iconic North Shore views? This rugged section of trail boasts steep climbs, expansive views of Lake Superior’s north shore, two hidden lakes, thick forest, roaring waterfalls and plenty of rocks and roots to keep your ankles busy. Whether you are backpacking overnight, or day hiking the loop, the Bean and Bear section is a popular and challenging trail within Tettegouche State Park and the SHT with breathtaking views to be enjoyed year round.

The end of this post will highlight some reflections of my first backpacking trip, 10 years ago (!), on this very same section – Rain, Drainpipes and Bear Spray – oh my! It’s a miracle I ever went backpacking again. I’m so glad I did!

Lets go!


LENGTH 6.8 mile Bean and Bear loop with options to increase length for and end to end hike.

DIFFICULTY moderate to difficult

DATE VISITED several times, most recently June 22-23, 2023. Best time to visit is in the Fall.

MAIN FEATURES    Bean and Bear lakes are located near Silver Bay, Minnesota on the contemporary, traditional, and ancestral homelands of the  Očhéthi Šakówiŋ  and Anishinabewaki ᐊᓂᔑᓈᐯᐗᑭ people. Learn more about the rich history of Minnesota’s Native communities here.

This trail winds through Tettegouche State Park, Superior Hiking Trail and North Country Trail. Hikers can choose multiple ways to enjoy the lakes through overnight backcountry camping, State Park camping, day hiking the loop or as part of longer hike.

Tettegouche State Park is a 9,346 acre park located on Lake Superior’s North Shore, has 4 waterfalls, access to 6 inland lakes, rock climbing and beach access to Lake Superior. The park has 23 miles of hiking/snowshoeing trails, 15.5 miles of groomed classic ski trails and 12 miles of groomed snowmobile trails.

I’ve stayed in this gem of a park during all 4 seasons and it’s one of my favorites. Check out these trip reports to read more: Winter Cabin, Summer Backpacking site (Bear!) and Hiking 50 miles through a muddy Spring !

The Superior Hiking Trail is a 310 mile footpath that is part of the 4,800 mile long North Country Trail. The SHT can be hiked in it’s entirety, sections or shorter day hikes and winds through 8 Minnesota State Parks along the North Shore. If you are planning a trip, feel free to check out my extensive collection of Superior Hiking Trail trip reports, section by section videos of the entire trail an my evolving gear/packing lists.

Know Before You Go

Here are a few important tips before you hit the trail

  • Tell someone where you are going, when you’ll be back and bring the 10 essentials-this is a rugged trail and weather conditions can change rapidly near Lake Superior
  • Know your water sources, or bring plenty water, electrolytes and prepare for a hot, exposed section at the top in warmer months.
  • Inland temps are warmer in the warmer months and colder in the cooler months than what the weather apps forecast due to the lake effect. It was 18 degrees warmer than the forecasted high when we were there last week.
  • At the time of writing this, the high bridge crossing the Baptism River is out- and thru hikers or hikers wishing to cross will need to take a detour through the visitor center- approx 3 miles. This does not impact the Bean and Bear Loop trail.
  • Friendly reminder to follow Leave No Trace principles and be a good trail neighbor to preserve its pristine beauty for generations to come.
  • Misc: Cell phone service may be spotty, no bathrooms or water faucets on the trail (backcountry bathrooming tips here)

When is the Best Time to Go?

The Bean and Bear Loop is one of the most popular trails in the state to view Fall colors. The cooler temperatures and lack of bugs also make the hiking more enjoyable. Some may dislike the idea of hiking the loop when everyone else is up there, but it’s such a beautiful time of year, it’s always worth the trip! Trails are less busy in the mid week or early morning.

In the Spring, you will find mud and even a little snow in the shaded spots. The lack of bugs, heat and wide open views of the forest and valley before the leaves fill in, is a spectacular view of it’s own!

Summer brings bugs, warm rain, exposed sun and cool dips in the lake! We were backpacking through this section last week and hiked down the spur trail to Bear lake to filter more water and cool off. It is absolutely worth the side trip if you have time. Inland temperatures can vary greatly from the shoreline forecast, our most recent trip was almost 18 degrees warmer inland!

Hiking in this area in the Winter brings a quiet beauty and requires skill. I have not hiked to Bean and Bear in the Winter, but Tettegouche is a great place to snowshoe, ski and hike. Stay on the trail, tell someone where you are going, when you’ll be back and be sure to allow yourself plenty of time.

Where to Start

There are a multiple entry points to the Bean and Bear Loop, most common are these two trailheads: Penn Blvd in Silver Bay and Tettegouche State Park. Be sure to keep an eye on the map and signs to make sure you don’t miss the thru to get back to the start if you are planning a loop.

  • From Highway 61, the Penn Blvd trailhead is located 2.2 miles on Outer drive/Penn Blvd- parking lot is on the right
  • From Tettegouche, enter at the visitor center or campground trailhead and follow trail maps.

How Much Time Does It Take?

Length of time to hike this trail will vary per person and depend on trail conditions. Some hiking guides list this trail as taking 3 hours to complete – Generally, you can plan for 1.5 – 2 mph, planning time to slow down, take in all of it’s beauty and have a nice long break at the top.


There are two Superior Hiking Trail backcountry campsites along the loop and one or two a little further up trail if you want to make it an overnight adventure.

Nearby Superior Hiking Trail Backpacking sites

note: Superior Hiking Trail Campsites are non-reservable, first come first serve and are meant to be shared with other hikers on the trail. During peak times, you’ll want to get to camp between 3:30-5:00 pm to get a good spot.

Penn Creek campsite is one of the larger and more popular backpacking sites on the Superior Hiking trail and is located about 2 miles from the Penn Blvd trailhead. It is structured like 6 or 7 campsites strung together, with several fire rings, and a small creek running through it.

I’ve stayed at Penn Creek twice and, despite its popularity, it never felt crowded due to its expansive layout. It rained on both trips with the “Blister Sisters” and “Moss Boss”, in teh Fall and Spring 🌧😂 On our Fall trip, as we chasing our friends “Soka and Mudflap” on their thru hike, we were glad to have two tents and a tarp along to keep things a little dryer and allow room to spread out our wet gear.

East and West Palisade Creek

This was another large site with at least 5 or 6 good sized pads. We camped there last week with a nice group from a youth camp, and talked with them for a while around the fire ring. There was a fire ban in place at the time of our hike – but I never have a fire anyway, I’m always off to bed before campfire time after a long day of hiking.

Palisade Creek has an East and West Campsite and the Creek is forked and runs along side the camps- just a short walk away. This campsite also has plenty of good trees for hammocking.

Round Mountain

I honestly don’t remember anything remarkable about this site, except that we stayed there 10 years ago and the water source was a beaver pond. This was not very tasty, but WAS extremely helpful to filter and use when one of the adults in our group accidentally sprayed themselves with bear spray. You can read more about my first trip at the end of this post. It’s kind of a amazing that I ever went backpacking again.

State Park Camping

Tettegouche State Park has drive-in, Cart-in, electric, backpacking and cabin camping options (including showers!)  available year round.  The modern visitor center is accessible 24 hours a day and includes a small interpretive center, gas fireplace, gift shop, heated bathrooms, a vending machine and indoor seating if you want to warm up or dry off in the regions quickly changing weather conditions.

Rain, Drainpipes and Bear Spray – oh my! Reflections on My First Backpacking Trip

Last week marks the 10 year anniversary of my first backpacking trip, and without intentionally planning to do so, my friend “Rice Cake” and I repeated the same route last week! We had planned on hiking ahead one more day, but my ankle had other plans.

That first trip challenged me to step into a whole new skillset as a scout leader, preparing to lead a backcountry trek in Glacier National Park.

I got Wilderness First Aid certified, took outdoor skills classes and read books to learn as much as I could. We were Minnesotans preparing for mountains, so I asked what the toughest stretch of the Superior Hiking Trail was for our shakedown-and this was it: Penn Creek to Tettegouche!

I overcame fears, learned from mistakes and felt a huge sense of growth and empowerment. A few years later I’d return to this challenging trail and hike all 310 miles! Early on, one of my mentors, Hiking Dude told me that ‘fear is heavy and skills are light’ – I think about that all the time, especially when I’m packing for a trip.

On that 24 hour shakedown, we carried humongous packs, accidentally discharged a canister of bear spray at close range, went down “the drainpipe” in the rain (BEFORE the stairs or safety rails were adeed-IYKYK), lost shoes in the mud, got lost on a snowmobile trail and eventually made it back to Tettegouche to reunite with the rest of our troop with our heads held high.

Despite all of the things that went wrong- I knew that I wanted to do this again, and we’d be ready when we went into the backcountry at Glacier National Park. We survived with some great stories, and it seemed that all of our trials happened on our shakedown allowing the big trip to go on without a hitch.

Have you hiked Bean and Bear or are you preparing for your first backpacking trip? Or maybe you remember a trip that went sideways? It’s always a great time to be on the SHT!

Thank you Superior Hiking Trail Association and volunteers for creating and maintaining a wonderful gem of a trail for generations to experience and enjoy!

And thanks for reading!

Happy trails!

Further Reading:

How to Create Your Own One of a Kind Artpack

What’s in my Field Art Kit and how to Build Your Own

The 10 Essentials and What to Bring on Every Hike

What’s In My Pack? Lightweight Backpacking Gear List

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