The Split Rock River Loop trail is in Hiking Minnesota It's in Hiking Minnesota II It's in 50 Circuit Hikes: A Stride-by-stride Guide to Northeastern Minnesota It's in Waterfalls of Minnesota's North Shore.
And, since it's part of the Superior Hiking Trail, it's in every SHT guidebook.
It is the most written-about trail on the North Shore.
Every weekend and summer day, the parking lot is full of cars.
Until yesterday, I was not going to write about the Split Rock River Loop trail.
Yesterday we hiked it. It was lovely. It's going in the book.
The red rock formations of the upper gorge are stunningly beautiful.
The views from the crest of the hill on the far side of the loop were stupendous.
Yes, it was still crowded. We saw at least eight other parties on the trail, and by the time we got back to the parking lot (five miles later), the lot was nearly full. And after many days of rain the trail was muddy and slippery. Just about everyone we saw had at least one muddy butt in their party after slipping and falling.
The trail needs work. Clay banks are creeping downhill and taking the trail with them. Boardwalks have been smoothed down by foot traffic and are hazardous when wet. Side trails are crumbing the rhyolite into shingle.
Here's what I agonized over: Would describing this trail in yet another book send even more people to an already over-used trail?
Guidebook authors struggle with this question. For example, the publishers of Hiking Montana have dropped some of the state's most popular trails from their guidebooks.
For the first-time North Shore hiker, however, this is a great challenging experience. The crowds make it more comfortable and safe. The waterfalls are just hidden and discreet enough to be especially rewarding.
Yeah, it'll be in the book. Enjoy it and take care of it.