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Lake Superior Circle Tour

Lake Superior Circle Tour route markerAs the first "official" routing of the Great Lake Circle Tours, the approximately 1,300-mile long Lake Superior Circle Tour can trace its history back to a loosely-organized "circle coute" around the Big Lake in the 1960s. Promoted by local tourist organizations by way of brochures, pamphlets and other promotional materials, the earlier incarnations of a loop route around the largest freshwater lake in the world were not signposted and travellers had to rely on the tourist brochures to find their way.

In 1985, Michigan First Lady Paula Blanchard, who was an advisor to the Michigan Department of Commerce at the time, pitched the idea to establish a tour route around Lake Superior at a tourism conference that fall. Soon after, the Michigan Department of Transportation drafted a design for the signs and, working with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT), Minnesota Department of Transportation (Mn/DOT) and the Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO), helped devise a route around the largest of the Great Lakes. LSCT signs were posted during the summer of 1986.

The Lake Superior Circle Tour is 1,287 miles (2,071 km) long.  Even though the direct distance between Ironwood and Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan is less than the direct distance from Sault Ste. Marie to Pigeon River, Ontario, since the LSCT travels the length of the Keweenaw Peninsula as well as looping through the Tahquamenon Falls region, there is actually more route mileage in Michigan (40%) than in Ontario (37%). Minnesota and Wisconsin each share an almost equal amount of the remainder of the route, at 12% and 11%, respectively. Unlike the other bi-national Circle Tour routes, all signage on the LSCT uses the standard white-on-green style. Unfortunately, while the LSCT is reasonably well-signed in Michigan and Wisconsin, signage is lacking on portions of the route in Minnesota and Ontario.

Lake Superior Circle Tour Route

The mainline of the LSCT generally follows the state or provincial highway running closest to Lake Superior, although in some places the nearest signed highway to the lake may be more than 25 miles away. This route listing lists the official route as well as the various locally-designated and marked "Lake Superior Circle Tour Loops and Spurs" in Michigan which are generally posted with brown signs. These loop and spur routes are detailed following the mainline route below.


The Lake Superior Circle Tour (LSCT) enters the state from Wisconsin at Ironwood, continues along the southern coast of Lake Superior with a trip up and back down the Keweenaw Peninsula, and crosses the International Bridge at Sault Ste. Marie and continuing into the province of Ontario. In Michigan, the 516-mile (830.5 km) route follows the state trunkline highway running closest to Lake Superior in nearly all instances. The officially designated route for the LSCT is as follows:


The Lake Superior Circle Tour (LSCT) enters the province from Ontario in the middle of the International Bridge spanning the St. Marys River dividing Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan and Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. The 764 km (475-mile) route then travels along the provincial highway closest to Lake Superior through (or past) communities like Wawa, Marathon and Nipigon to Thunder Bay, then continues southwesterly into Minnesota at the Pigeon River.

Note: Route signage for the Ontario segment of the Lake Superior Circle Tour is largely missing along much of the route in the province. This is due in part to the massive “downloading” of many formerly provincial highways, including a short stretch of the LSCT in Sault Ste. Marie, to local authorities in 1997–98. Additionally, the Ontario Ministry of Transportation has ceased signing most of their “Tourist Routes” with a few exceptions, including the Terry Fox Courage Highway that runs concurrently wit the LSCT near Thunder Bay.


The Lake Superior Circle Tour (LSCT) enters the state from Minnesota on the bridge spanning the Pigeon River at the U.S./Canadian International Boundary northeast of Grand Portage in Cook County. The 156-mile (248 km) route then travels the North Shore through communities such as Grand Marais, Lutsen, Silver Bay, and Two Harbors. At Duluth, the LSCT continues into Wisconsin via the Richard Ira Bong Memorial Bridge.

Note: Although the LSCT route in Minnesota only features two turns and runs along only three different highways—95% of it along SR-61 alone—both of these two route turns were unsigned at last check. While the LSCT route through Minnesota is quite easy to follow (if you know the route), it is rather sparsely signed in the state.


The Lake Superior Circle Tour (LSCT) enters the state from Minnesota in the middle of the Richard I. Bong Memorial Bridge spanning St. Louis Bay dividing Duluth, Minnesota from Superior, Wisconsin. The route then travels through the Bayfield Peninsula and through Ashland before it continues into Michigan at Hurley. In Wisconsin, the 142-mile (228.5 km) route follows the state highway running closest to Lake Superior. The designated route for the LSCT in Wisconsin is as follows:


Note: The "Circle Tour Road Route" description from the GLIN website is not only vague, but incorrect! While a good shortcut route, the LSCT does not use M-28 between Bergland and the junction of US-141 & US-41 near Covington south of L'Anse. Other errors in the routing shave hundreds of miles from the acutal, posted route of the Lake Superior Circle Tour. The route included on this website has been personally researched by the website author in the field.

Lake Superior Circle Tour Loop and Spur Routes

Lake Superior Circle Tour Loop route markerLake Superior Circle Tour - Loop Route (Little Girls Point)

When it enters Michigan, the LSCT at Ironwood is approximately 10 miles from the Big Lake, as the crow flies. To provide for a easy-to-navigate route to the Lake Superior shore at Little Girls Point as well as the westernmost point in Michigan, a locally-desinated Loop Route heads north from the mainline in the Ironwood area. Although it follows a state highway route in Wisconsin, the route on the Michigan side is county roads, which precludes it from being signed as an official portion of the LSCT. The route:

Lake Superior Circle Tour - Loop Route (Calumet)

In the Calumet/Laurium area, from the jct of US-41 & M-26, a Lake Superior Loop Route departs the mainline LSCT to run through downtown Caulmet to M-203 on the north side of the village before turning back east to US-41/M-26 northeast of town. As with all Loop and Spur Routes, this route is designated with white-on-brown circle tour signs, using the same LSCT "logo." The route:

Lake Superior Circle Tour Scenic Spur route markerLake Superior Circle Tour - Scenic Spur (Grand Marais)

Between Munising and Paradise, no state trunkline (or other major highway) runs along the Lake Superior shore, leaving the community of Grand Marais, situated right on the Big Lake, 25 miles north of the mainline LSCT. Therefore, this spur route leads away from the LSCT at Seney to provide travellers with a signed route to the Lake at this point. The route:

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