Monday, September 9, 2019

Superior Hiking Trail Ely's Peak

Earlier section the trail

This is a great little section that is in between two well-travelled sections but feels pretty much in the middle of nowhere. The signage is good and the bridges are maintained. In August, the streams can be nearly dry but water will be trickling through. Most of these are just ditches that can be stepped over but the bridges are abundant because in the spring, they can be torrential. Check the weather and be aware of the conditions of the ground. If it is saturated, flooding can pop up quickly and be very dangerous. We crossed one bridge that had the remnants of hand rails that had been torn off and
another that was twisted. 
In the town of Fond du Lac, find 131st Av W off of Highway 23. Go a few blocks to the trailhead. Follow the creek to connect to the trail. This picture is from the Duluth Outdoor Recreation Map. An awesome resource for hiking in Duluth. They should have them at the visitor's center at the top of the hill. 

If you are coming from the Grand Portage trail, just stay on it and make a left at the sign. If you are in Fond du Lac, use one of the spurs and hook up to the SHT. We went east, toward Ely’s Peak. You’ll get switchbacks, vistas, creek beds and all sorts of flora and fauna. We had a nice breeze so even the bugs weren’t bad. As you near Ely’s Peak, you start to hear some road noise, then you pop out of the woods and you’re on the very busy and high speed Beck’s Road.

You should see a sign for the Superior Hiking trailhead off of that road for people driving and looking for parking, but when hiking, just cross straight over and skirt around that lot using the paved Munger Trail part of the way. Plenty of signs here and probably plenty of people. That will get you over the train tracks then start looking for the trail again, to your left. You can’t miss Ely’s Peak from below. Once you start ascending though you lose that reference. You still have the St. Louis River and dots of civilization to the South, so pretty tough to get lost.

This is a pretty direct ascent but the rocks make good steps and it levels off once or twice. Once you get near the top, there are many spur trails to the peak, too many to try to describe. When you get to a place where there is a deep valley to your left/North and another peak, then you’ve passed Ely’s and you’re on your way to Brandon’s Peak and Spirit Mountain.

If you are looking for the other Ely’s Peak parking lot, north along Beck’s Road, that can also be a bit confusing from the trail. Google maps had trails that weren’t there and I’ve read other descriptions of this area that I have found difficult to follow. After the first steep section up from the Munger, there is a spur off to the left. This links up to the DWP trail right at the entrance to a tunnel. If you don’t see that after a few minutes, turn around and try a different spur.

On some maps, you’ll see the DWP Trail. This is a wide flat dirt trail. To the North, it goes through some businesses and all the way to the Interstate. In the other direction, it parallels the Munger Trail, but not close enough so you can see one from the other. Part of it is a tunnel, under the peak, so on a map you will see the dotted line, but you are walking above it. Google currently puts their pin for the tunnel on top of the rock, which seems kind of useless to me. Getting to the tunnel is pretty easy from the Ely’s Peak parking lot, just north of the railroad tracks that go under Beck’s Road. It has no markings, but you can’t miss it. Take the one path leading toward the peak, take a right when you hit the DWP trail and you’ll get to the tunnel. From there, take a very steep ascent trail to the peak, or a trail going down and to the right that links up to the SHT. If you are coming from the peak looking for the parking lot, do the reverse of the above find the DWP, the path to parking is good size, so just avoid the smaller options. If you get to a business, you went too far.

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