Accessible and Scenic Hikes, Part 1: Duluth
by Superior Hiking Trail Volunteer and Special Correspondent Anna Swarts
Maybe you have small children. Maybe you are into retirement and just want the pleasant things in life. Maybe you’re a weekend warrior, up from the cities with limited time. Perhaps you don’t have any excuse, but you’d rather not work very hard to see some of the best sights that we have in Minnesota. The last is where I fall, rather embarrassingly frequently. The following list are some of my favorite spots along the SHT that I’ll hit up when I either don’t have a lot of time or I’m feeling like getting the most bang for my energetic buck along the North Shore. It isn’t a comprehensive list of all of the wonderful, more easily accessible spots along the Superior Hiking Trail. Rather, it is a smattering of spots to start, whether you are new to adventuring or an old-time explorer. To keep things simple, I’ve started near Duluth (part one of this blog) and worked my way north (part two).
About a mile hike (one way) from the parking area off of Becks Road in Duluth will result in some sweet views. This spot is especially nice in the fall, when all of the leaves are turning. Follow the parking lot spur trail toward the Munger Trail. Turn to the right when you get to the paved trail. Follow this for about a half mile before heading up hill to the left for another half mile. (Note, it is UP a hill, though it is short.) As you ascend this hill, there are spots to rest on the flat slabs of rocks. Note: there are two parking areas very near to one another. The one that Google maps calls “Munger Trail Trailhead” is the one that will get you immediately on to the SHT. Photo credit goes to Jen Buseman of Duluth.
Sometimes you just want to drink some coffee while you watch the sunrise over Lake Superior from a high spot, without having to get up and hike in the dark (or hike much, at all). If so, Enger Park might be your best, most accessible spot. In the summer there is even a little coffee truck, if you forget to bring yours from home. The SHT travels right through, so you can park on top of the hill at the parking lot and pick up the trail back by the peace garden. Heading to the right when looking at the peace garden (the parking lot behind you), you’ll pop out almost immediately to nice views of Duluth. In addition, if you aren’t worried about being exactly on the SHT, a trail from the parking lot takes you to a paved pagoda lookout with some benches. Additional bonus: if you’ve been driving for hours and need a bathroom or a picnic area, the facilities here are top notch.
The Rose Garden
This is another one, in Duluth, that doesn’t involve walking far. Park at the parking lot (free parking for three hours). Walk along the level, paved sidewalk into the Rose Garden. Stop to smell the roses, and take in the sights of the bridge. I am a fan of sitting on the sun-warmed stone benches and reading a book in the evening. For the more energetic folks, the paved SHT follows the paved Lakewalk from here headed southwards, or up the hill toward Chester Park if you feel daring.
This park is in Duluth, a few blocks up the hill from the Rose Garden. Park along 4th street and hike up the creek, or drive around and park at the top of the park at a parking area and hike down. It can get a little bit treacherous in the winter, but views start immediately so you can choose your own adventure. A bridge over the creek in the park (and a road bridge) means that you can make this a short or longer loop hike, if you don’t want to hike up and back. At the base of the gorge Chester Creek tumbles over the exposed bedrock, resulting in a myriad of waterfalls. The trail travels through mixed forests of birch, pine, and cedar trees. In the fall there are lots of cool fungi!
Writing about these spots has brought up other wonderful SHT hikes in Duluth, but I’m going to stop here as these are my favorites. Check out the trail guide for more ideas. Part two of this blog, to follow, continues with some of my favorite spots up the shore. Happy hiking!