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Bear and Bean Lake Loop: A Dog-Friendly Superior Hiking Trail Day Hike or Overnight Adventure

Looking for a nice loop trail on the dog-friendly Superior Hiking Trail? Then you need to check out the Bear and Bean Lake Loop.

This trail is one of the most popular day hikes on the Superior Hiking Trail (SHT), and can easily be incorporated into an overnight backpacking trip. This 6.8-mile loop trail is located near Tettegouche State Park, just outside of Silver Bay, MN.

Read on to find all the information you need to plan a dog-friendly hike to Bear and Bean Lake.

The classic view of Bear and Bean Lakes. Bear Lake is the nearest lake.

About the Superior Hiking Trail

The first section of the Superior Hiking Trail opened in 1987 in an effort to create a hiking trail along the ridges overlooking Lake Superior on Minnesota’s North Shore. The trail was “completed” in 2013, allowing hikers to walk over 300+ miles from Jay Cooke State Park to near the Canadian border.

The Superior Hiking Trail is dog-friendly and offers a beautiful location for backpacking with your pup. Just remember to keep your dog leashed and use good leave-no-trace principles.

Glia and I first stepped foot on the Superior Hiking Trail when we visited the North Shore for the first time following my 2nd year of veterinary school. Glia was just a little over a year old. We just day hiked the trail during that trip, but we feel in love with the trail.

We spent our first-night backpacking on the trail just last year when we hiked from Gooseberry State Park to the Castle Danger trailhead.

With over 300+ miles of trail, there are so many hiking opportunities on this trail. Below is an overview of the Bear and Bean Lake Loop, but if you want to find out more about the Superior Hiking Trail, click over to the Superior Hiking Trail website (opens in new tab).

Also, I highly recommend becoming a member and supporting this amazing trail. A new membership will include a set of pocket-sized maps, which are perfect to bring along as you navigate hikes along the SHT.

Bear and Bean Lake Loop

The Bear and Bean Lakes Loop (also called the Twin Lakes Trail) is among the most popular day hikes on the Superior Hiking Trail. The loop is 6.8 miles round trip if you start from the Penn Blvd. Trailhead parking lot.

This is a photo of the trail map from the SHT pocket map set offered with a new membership to the Superior Hiking Trail Association.

First, follow the main SHT 3.6 miles to the lakes. The trail is fairly easy to follow and is marked with blue blazes. The first mile or so is relatively unexciting, but you can catch a couple views of lake superior on the eastern side of the trail (which will be on your right if you start at the Penn Blvd. parking lot).

As you near the lakes, the trail is a mix of shaded forest and rocky overlooks. The first few overlooks to the west (left side of the trail on your way to the lakes) are mostly of hilly forests.

A little over a mile into the trail you will see the trail split. Stay to your left and you will follow the main SHT to the lakes. Head to your right and you will follow the alternate/spur trail that is part of the loop. This is well marked. Just follow the blue blazes to stay on the main SHT.

If you stay on the main trail, about a quarter-mile after you bass the spur trail option, you will approach the Penn Creek campsite. This is where we camped during our overnight on this trail. More about the campsite options below.

Shortly after you pass the Penn Creek campsite, you will start to see the lakes. There is a lovely overlook above Bean Lake. If the sun isn’t too hot, plan to stop here and enjoy the rocky overlook.

Glia at the Bean Lake overlook.

Once you get to views of Bean Lake, it isn’t too far to Bear Lake. The Bear Lake campsite is often crowded, but I highly recommend hiking down to this campsite. The camping area is right on the water and these is a lovely lake to swim in. Just use caution getting in the water – the rocks and logs in this lake can be slick!

Glia on the shoreline at the Bear Lake campsite.

Once you are past the lakes, there will be another junction with the loop trail (approximately 0.2 miles past the Bear Lake Campsite spur). Near this junction is the overlook where you can take the “classic” Bear and Bean Lake loop photo.

The loop trail will take you through the woods back to the main trail and, subsequently, the Penn Blvd. Trailhead parking lot.

There is only one additional fork in the loop trail to watch for. After you turn onto the loop trail the first divergence will give you the option to stay to the right and head back to the main SHT or head left (to the east) and hike to the Silver Bay Visitor Center. We stayed right and made our way back to the Penn Creek campsite in order to spend the night on the trail.

Just an FYI: If you start and end at the Silver Bay Visitor Center, the total loop mileage is 7.6 miles instead of 6.8 miles.

And for those who are overnighting on the trail, f you decide not to take the loop, Bear and Bean Lake are located along an 11.1 mile section of the SHT between the Penn Blvd. Trailhead and Tettegouche State Park. So there are plenty more campsites and trail miles to create a backpacking trip of nearly any desired length.

How to Find the Trailhead

Per SuperiorHiking.org, you can find the Silver Bay Penn Boulevard) Trailhead by following these directions:

At Hwy. 61 milepost 54.3, turn left at stoplight on Outer Drive and go 1.5 miles to Penn Blvd. Continue straight 0.5 miles on Penn Blvd. to parking lot on right. Overnight parking okay.

The Trail

This trail is narrow in spots, but is well-trafficked and well-maintained. This section of the SHT (from Silver Bay to Tettegouche) is described as a very challenging and scenic section of the SHT. However, difficulty will depend on the type of hiking you are used too.

There is definitely some elevation change on this trail, just take a look at the elevation chart below, but the loop only has about 350-400 feet of elevation gain from the lowest point to the highest point.

The Penn Blvd trailhead is at about 1100 ft above sea level. The highest portions of the loop are over 1400 ft above sea level. This elevation chart is from the SHT membership map set.

For me, this was a moderate difficulty trail. That being said, if you hike this loop in the heat of the summer make sure you bring plenty of water. High heat and humidity can make this trail feel strenuous indeed. And make sure you give yourself plenty of time to complete this hike. It could be much more difficult stepping over tree roots and rocks in fading light.

The Campsites

There are two campsites along the Bear and Bean Lake loop: Penn Creek and Bear Lake.

One of the great features of SHT campsites is that they all have latrines! No digging needed.

It is also important to note that the campsites on the SHT are all come, all served. Meaning that campsites are all designed to be shared and making room for all campers is important.

Penn Creek

If you start at the Penn Blvd parking lot, the Penn Creek campsite is the first one you will come across. You will cross Penn Creek and then a spur trail to the campsite will appear on your left. The spur trail heads downhill for a little way before reaching the campsite.

This camping area is large with room for multiple backpacking tents. There were at least 6 other groups of backpackers who stayed at this campsite with us during our stay. And while the area was full, it wasn’t crowded. There are multiple fire rings and good flat areas for pitching tents. There are also plenty of trees for those who sleep in hammocks.

The water was a little scarce at this campsite in June 2020, as the creek was pretty shallow and dry.

Our site at the Penn Creek campsite.

Bear Lake

The Bear Lake campsite is the premier camping area on this loop, as it sits right along the shore of Bear Lake. However, this also means it is a popular and busy camping area and it may be difficult to find a tent site. Although there is room for multiple tents, this camping area is not as large as Penn Creek.

The water source is great here as you have an entire lake to get water from. But of course, filter all lake water well. I personally use a Sawyer Mini (Amazon link) to filter water along the trail, but it doesn’t really matter what system you use. Just don’t drink straight from the lake.

Best Time of Year to Hike the Bear and Bean Lake Loop

This hike is likely best in late spring or early to mid-fall, when temperatures are mild and bugs are limited. Typically hiking in June is also ideal on the North Shore, but the weekend I visited in late June was hot and humid.

The bugs (specifically the ticks and flies) weren’t too bad, but there were definitely plenty of mosquitoes on the trail. We stayed fairly mosquito-free with bug spray on as long as we kept moving. But the mosquitoes got worse when we sat still at our campsite. Glia had the opportunity to put her new Insect Shield gear to the test as we relaxed by our tent in the evening.

Final Thoughts

We enjoyed our hike on the Bear and Bean Lake loop and will likely return to hike it again sometime. But be aware that this loop is very popular and is not a place that you can leave the crowds behind. Be prepared to share the views and be considerate on the trail.

Please leash your pups per regulations and pick up after your pup and yourself. The North Shore is seeing a lot of traffic this year. It is always busy there in the summer, but with COVID this year is extra busy. Help keep the North Shore clean and scenic by taking home everything you bring onto the trail.

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