Sunday, September 6, 2020

Superior Hiking Trail into Duluth City Limits

If you are following in blog order, this section is out of order. Use the links.
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After the strenuous section from Magney-Snively to the Zoo, we decided to set our sights a little lower and do a 2.3 mile long section from the Zoo to the bottom of “the hill”. If you drive into Duluth, you will know what they are referring to as “the hill”. On the highway, you pass Spirit Mountain and get a spectacular vista of Lake Superior then descend that mountain and see the industry that built up along the port. If you keep driving into downtown, you’ll see how they put that highway underneath street level and integrated the city into the lake shore. But let’s get back to hiking.

We got off the highway at Central Ave just before that tight turn at the bottom of the hill. Find the trail-head at Greene St and N 63rd Ave W by snaking around in the residential neighborhood north of the businesses and staying close to the highway but on the Duluth city side of it. The trail goes

underneath the highway back to the Zoo, or go past the spooky looking house to go north up the hill then eventually east. Look for the cement barrier to find a section that leads back to the paved trail if you want to technically cover every inch of the SHT. Otherwise, use the paved trail to go under the highway and look for the trail veering north almost immediately. But don't back under the highway or you're just back to the trail-head again.

We drove back to the Zoo to start our day hike, see the previous section for the Waseca St trailhead. 

By starting at the Zoo, we climbed most of the altitude for this day in about 20 minutes then had a nice slope down from there to the highway. As you go, you’ll see more and more city and less and less nature. But they are still great views. The fauna is mostly aspen and mostly young growth, nothing like the well preserved section of Kingsbury creek. You are closer to population and likely to see more runners too, although on this beautiful day on a weekend, we saw no one until the very end.

Because of the bridge that is out at the north end of Kingsbury creek, be sure to stay to the east side. There are two bridges at the start of the trail. The first one, right off the trail-head, will say that the SHT is on the west side. Your choice to follow that or not. You’ll have one more that crosses back over the creek. The trail looks a bit like a forest road on the east side at times, but just use the creek to navigate and you can’t go wrong.

You will transition from the meandering St Louis River areas that have changed little in thousands of years to the busy port towns of Duluth and Superior over the course of this section.

There are very few spurs or intersecting trails here and unless you are fogged in, you’ll always know where you are even if you forgot your compass.

Last best section of Superior Hiking Trail in Duluth


SHT Last best section in Duluth

We had some friends who wanted to join us this time, so we skipped over the sections in the middle of Duluth and picked the eastern end of town for some of the best places to visit. If you’re going in order, this is a great way to finish Duluth. Also, you’ll be going up over 1,000 feet, and back down 300 feet, most of the down coming after the peak in Bagley Nature Center. You’ll get a great view of the University of MN Duluth from there. You’ll also pass near Chester Bowl ski hill (very small compared to the earlier Spirit Mt.). Also, Hartley Nature Center, so, quite the tour. We cheated and drove over to Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve to observe some birds, but you’ll hike through that if you are going to the next section.

We also cheated and started at the top, so we could go mostly downhill. Parking is ample at Hartley Nature Center. The trail goes south out of there, along the road you came in on, or go past the Nature Center building to the northwest and it will wind back to the south toward Lake Superior. This is one of the best sections on the entire SHT for Lake Superior views.

The trail is rocky and there are cliffs. At one of the lookout points we saw a memorial plaque, but I

couldn’t find any information on it. I know people have jumped into Chester creek when the water is high and that has not ended well for them.

A couple of turns to watch out for; Linking Chester Bowl and Bagley Nature Area, you’ll do some road walking along the north edge of the UMD  campus. There’s a bike trail into campus at Bagley and we just crossed the road and went into that, then realized we were wrong. From Chester Bowl going north, it’s W Kent Rd then north on N 19th Ave, but the signage got us through that just fine. There are 2 inch stickers on the backs of existing road signs.

Trails are on both sides of Chester Creek and plenty of bridges so don’t worry if you get on the side that is not officially designated as SHT. There is another road hike between the parking lot for the Rose Garden and Lower Chester Creek at E 4th St. That one is along N 14th Ave for about 7 blocks. Grab something at Burrito Union or the nearby Co-op or Chester Creek cafĂ© or many other options in the area.

The Duluth Lake Walk is designated SHT from Bayfront Festival Park to the Rose Garden and Leif Erikson Park, but this so easy to hike, I’m not going to cover it. Duluth is famous for Canal Park, the Lift Bridge, the old fashioned train stations and many other sites along this section, and I could never do them justice on this blog.