Happy Trails: Oberg Mountain Loop Offers North Coast Scenics – Up News Info

TOFTE – Scenic viewpoints on a hike are a bit like marshmallows in a lucky bowl. They are not the main substance, but in an appropriate proportion they make the whole thing interesting.

Gary Meader/Duluth News Tribune

To extend the analogy, Oberg Mountain Loop is perfect for foodie hikers. You know who you are. You don’t need to sweat all day to catch a glimpse of Lake Superior, but neither do you want to drive up the North Shore just to get off the highway and snap a quick photo. You filled that Nalgene with water (or whatever) for a reason.

Oberg Mountain rises in the Upper National Forest just north of the town of Tofte, a few miles south of Lutsen. Write for the

Minnesota Historical Society,

Peg Meier determined that it was named “probably after a commercial fishing family living near Lutsen at the turn of the 20th century”.

Not a bad course, so to speak. The summit rises 950 feet above Lake Superior and the trail around the mountain is a popular spur of the upper hiking trail.

Oberg Mountain Loop.jpg

Gary Meader/Duluth News Tribune

The loop must have been frustrating in the days of Kodachrome, as you could easily burn a roll of film over one of the many viewpoints on the trail – only to wish you had saved a few exposures for the next viewpoint, revealing a new view of the striking topography.

Two people walk hand in hand along a dirt path through a green leafy deciduous forest.
Hikers hiked along the Oberg Mountain Loop Trail in Tofte on October 2.

Jay Gabler/Duluth News Tribune

My wife and I hiked the trail on October 2 as the North Shore approached peak fall color. This Sunday afternoon under a partly cloudy sky, the path was occupied by a diverse procession of hikers. We’ve seen young couples who made it through the hike despite wearing fashionable shoes, families with young children in baby carriers, and gray-haired trail veterans with handy poles for constant support. Also, there were a lot of dogs.

Despite heavy use, the trail and viewpoints rarely felt crowded. We found parking in the free lot at the foot of the trail; additional parking was available along the road leading to the lot. There is one bathroom, which was extraordinarily smelly. You might want to stop on the shore because given the steep drop offs, you probably don’t want to struggle up the mountain trying to find a private place to pee.

A wide expanse of fall foliage encompasses a low mountain in the background to the left.  Closer to the right foreground, two hikers appear on a rocky outcrop.
Hikers enjoy views of the jagged mountains from a lookout on the Oberg Mountain Loop.

Jay Gabler/Duluth News Tribune

Signage is only adequate, but take it from a very amateur hiker: it’s hard to go wrong here. You are just walking around the mountain and the trail is pretty well marked. Worst case scenario you start seeing views twice and backtracking for a few minutes.

A series of planks lead a path over bumpy ground in a wooded setting with green leaves fading to fall colors.
Wooden planks help support hikers on uneven areas of the Oberg Mountain Loop Trail in Tofte.

Jay Gabler/Duluth News Tribune

About these lookouts. Oberg Mountain sits in the Sawtooth Range, with a view encompassing the range’s best-known peak, Moose Mountain. The distinctive asymmetrical profile of this mountain makes it look like a giant wave coming from Lake Superior, which appears in a sweeping sweep to the southeast. (Or you could say it looks like the tooth of a saw, hence the name of the range.)

The most distinctive feature of the view from the trail is Lake Oberg. Nestled at the foot of the mountain, it captures the sky and the vivid fall colors that come through thanks to the unusually high density of maple trees and other deciduous species in the region that come out with a bang in the spooky season. It’s Northland’s answer to the glacial lakes of the Rockies.

Several people, including one holding a dog on a leash, gather against a wooden fence and enjoy a wide view of fall colors from a tall, wide rock.
Hikers enjoyed near-summit fall colors seen from Oberg Mountain in Tofte on October 2.

Jay Gabler/Duluth News Tribune

Hiking the loop is a varied and satisfying experience, with verdant glens turning into wide lookouts that offer – frame by frame, you might say – a 360-degree view of the Côte-Nord landscape. Occasional plank bridges carry hikers over rough terrain, and while there are some elevation changes, there aren’t many extended climbs or descents. A relatively narrow and reasonably rocky trail, the Oberg Mountain Loop is just for hiking, although cyclists will find other options nearby.

Wooden sign reading APPROACHING SCENIC OVERLOOK, CAUTION KEEP CLEAR OF THE EDGE
A sign highlights the dangers for the unwary at one of the many scenic lookout points on the Oberg Mountain Loop.

Jay Gabler/Duluth News Tribune

Taking the trail at a very slow pace, with plenty of stops for selfies and snacks, we took an hour and 42 minutes to complete the entire loop. Fast hikers could complete it much quicker. My activity tracker recorded a total of 2.65 miles from the parking lot to the mountain and back.

It was just long enough that I felt pretty smug and deserved to stop for a Castle Danger IPA on the way back to Duluth. Our phones were full of pretty pictures, thanks to vistas so stunning that at one point a group of women in sportswear and knit hats didn’t bother to take more than a glance. ‘eye. “Yeah,” said one of the hikers, gazing at the rolling golden landscape as the group passed. “Still pretty.”

A view of a dirt trail is framed by woods on both sides, with a mix of evergreens and deciduous trees visible.  Leaf colors range from bright green on the left to bright red above.
Fall colors were bursting on the trail from Oberg Mountain to Tofte on October 2.

Jay Gabler/Duluth News Tribune

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