Landowner Forces Superior Hiking Trail Closure

A private landowner closed a section of the Superior Hiking Trail on his property.
A private landowner closed a section of the Superior Hiking Trail on his property. 

After several unpleasant encounters with hikers using a popular section of Superior Hiking Trail located on his land, a private landowner will close the trail portion to the public.

Hikers and other recreational trail users will not be permitted to access the 1.6-mile section of the 296-mile footpath in northeastern Minnesota, which runs along the ridgeline overlooking Lake Superior for the majority of its length. Randy Lowe, the landowner, cites smoldering fires and hikers harassing him and his guests for using an ATV and hunting as the primary reasons for deciding to close the trail. This is the first time a private property owner has kicked out hikers since the trail was constructed almost 30 years ago.

"It is out of the generosity of the landowner that hikers get to enjoy trails that are located on private land, and it's rare that hikers display such disconcerting behavior, " says Peter Olsen, vice president of the American Hiking Society. "As a hiker, you should never be an unwelcome guest."

Because of the closing, which Lowe says will be permanent, the Superior Hiking Trail Association has had to construct detours around the trail and inform hikers of the changes, as well as start plans to eventually construct a new, permanent section of trail. The current detours include a 6-mile stretch along a paved road and a shorter, 2.8-mile path that takes hikers along a bike path and gravel county road. This poses multiple obstacles for hikers. "It is never ideal to put anyone off the trail and cause confusion. And it is a major concern to put people on roads, that's dangerous," says Olsen.

Unless those trail solutions are more beneficial to landowners, it's unlikely that that they will consider reopening trails after experiencing disconcerting behavior from users. However, there is state and federal legislation currently working on that. Bill H.R.781 would grant tax incentives for owners opening their land for the National Scenic Trails. While the Superior Hiking Trail is not currently marked at a National Scenic Trail, there is another bill currently in Congress that would mandate the trail as a National Scenic Trail if passed.

But tax incentives or not, Bowe seems to have made his mind up. "My family and I spent many a sleepless night trying to figure out what to try and do to try and rectify these problems," he says in a MPR News report. "Now it's gotten to the point where unfortunately it's a few people who have ruined it for everybody."