Protect the SHT during mud season

April 13, 2023

The City of Duluth closed its natural surface trails April 13th, including 42 miles of SHT, to protect the trails during the spring thaw. The closure starts at the 131st Ave. W. Trailhead and ends at Martin Road Trailhead and lasts an average of 4-5 weeks.

We’ll announce when the Duluth SHT reopens on our Trail Conditions page.

The Duluth closure signals that the spring melt has started. The SHT is most susceptible to damage during spring melt or “mud season”, even by well-intentioned hikers, backpackers and runners.

When the snowpack melts, the ground becomes saturated. Spring rainstorms add more precipitation. The Trail turns into mud on top but can still be frozen further down. When our foot strikes the tread, we can cause immediate erosive damage. Trying to go around mud also causes damage, tramples vegetation, and widens the Trail corridor.

There is still snow on the Trail further north but conditions are changing quickly. Yesterday, Duluth’s National Weather Service issued a Flood Advisory, and water levels in creeks and rivers along the SHT are rising quickly. The Superior National Forest advised some roads and trails may now be flooded.

North of Duluth, we don’t close the Trail for a variety of reasons, but once the snow melts we do ask Trail users to avoid using the SHT during this transitional time.

Through our Trail Renewal Program, we are continually working to reroute problem spots on the Trail to drier land, install boardwalks, and improve water draining off of the trail more quickly. But the SHT will always be wet and vulnerable to damage in the spring.

Mud Season Best Practices
  • Wait to use the Trail until it has a chance to thaw and dry out.
  • Relocate planned backpacking trips to trails located further south where spring melt has already occurred.
  • When day hiking or running, if you come to a really wet or muddy stretch, please turn around.
  • Plan hikes or runs on paved or gravel trails.

In Duluth, try the Campus Connector Trail between St. Scholastica and UMD along Tischer Creek, Cross-City Trail from Bayfront Park through Lincoln Park, Duluth Lakewalk, the Duluth Winnipeg and Pacific Railway (DWP) Trail and Waabizheshikana (formerly known as the Western Waterfront Trail).

Along the Northshore, try the Gitchi-Gami Trail, and state and national forest roads.

While “hike straight through the mud” is sound advice for navigating an occasional mud hole on an otherwise dry trail, the saturated conditions during melt call for staying off the Trail as much as possible to avoid damage to the tread. Our trail maintenance crews thank you for your patience!

The Duluth SHT closure can provide a great excuse to explore other trails in the city. Waabizheshikana is a gravel trail in Duluth that runs along the St. Louis River Estuary and offers beautiful views and the chance to see migrating waterfowl in the spring.

— SHTA staff