Lake Superior Trail Improvements Support Bustling Ecotourism Sector

The Takeaway: The Minnesota Coastal Zone Management Program, covering the state’s Lake Superior region, has invested more than $350,000 to enhance recreational trails, which bring millions of tourism dollars into the local economy.

The recreational trails of Minnesota’s Lake Superior region draw visitors captivated by their winding beauty and dramatic vistas of wildlife, cliffs, waterfalls, and the lake itself. A study by the Arrowhead Regional Development Commission found that 2018 summer visitor spending on and around the four most popular trails brought an estimated $18 million into the area’s economy. Minnesota’s Lake Superior Coastal Program supports trail ecotourism, having invested $356,000 since 2011 to improve visitor enjoyment and safety.

The program supported the following projects:

  • $188,000 to refurbish the Western Waterfront Trail with a new surface, add visitor amenities, and install better wayfinding signage
  • $100,000 to complete the Chambers Grove Interpretive Trail, which takes visitors on a tour of habitat restoration and cultural spots along the St. Louis River
  • $53,000 to help replace a bridge damaged by flooding on the Superior Hiking Trail
  • $15,000 for cost estimates on an additional 59 miles of the Gitchi-Gami Trail, one of the trails studied

The commission’s study (see interactive map) found that, on average, nearly 60 percent of summer trail users surveyed were visitors to the area, spending three nights and $184.86 per day per visitor. Over the season, more than 240,000 visitors used the four trails studied: The Duluth Lakewalk-Cross City Trail, Gitch-Gami State Trail, St. Louis River Trail, and Willard Munger State Trail.

The Lake Superior Coastal Program provided $11,000 in funding toward development of the study. (2019)

Partners: Arrowhead Regional Development Commission, Metropolitan Interstate Council, Minnesota’s Lake Superior Coastal Management Program, University of Minnesota Center for Urban and Regional Affairs