Despite all the snow still on the ground, it’s hard to believe that we’re almost a month into spring. However, looking ahead to the predicted forecast, temperatures are rising and the spring thaw is set to begin. With the arrival of warmer temperatures comes new challenges, as well as new opportunities, for trail running in the Twin Ports.
Every year during the spring and fall seasons, natural surface trails are closed during the freeze thaw cycles, in order to protect the trails from damage. As someone who enjoys running on the natural surface trails of our beautiful Duluth parks and the Superior Hiking Trail, I realize it’s time to transition to paved or gravel trails in the area in order to get my nature fix and keep training.
Luckily, there are no shortage of options for spring trail running. Here’s a list of several options to keep you running during this crazy season as warmer weather finally arrives in the Northland.
The Munger is a rail to trail system that runs 70 miles from Duluth down to Hinckley. It’s a gorgeous route that has breathtaking views of West Duluth, Ely’s Peak, and Jay Cooke State Park. I’ve spent quite a bit of time running on it preparing for past races and even did the virtual Grandma’s of 2020 running from Carlton to Duluth on the William Munger Trail. Even after falling in love with all the singletrack in Duluth, this trail holds a special place in my heart.
Parking can be found on Grand Avenue and 75th St. West behind the Munger Hotel if you’re starting in Duluth or on 210 and County Road 1 if you are planning a start from Carlton.
The Waabizheshikana (formerly the Western Waterfront Trail) is a hidden gym in Western Duluth. It’s a 3 mile, gravel trail with a gentle grade, along the St. Louis Riverand Lake Superior, featuring views of the lake, and the bonus opportunity of seeing a wide variety of birds.
Parking is located on Grand Avenue and Pulaski Street, and South 63rd Avenue West.
I think almost everyone is familiar with Duluth’s Lakewalk. This paved trail runs along the shores of Lake Superior for a few miles until it crosses under I35 and continues north, eventually passing by Lester Park and over to Brighton Beach. The in town portion is over 8 miles long, but can be increased by continuing on Northshore Drive. This iconic trail is beautiful, popular, and well maintained (it features several port-a-johns, which I sure appreciate).
Parking can be found in Canal Park, by the Holiday on London Road, near Duluth East high school, and at Lester Park.
The Osaugie Trail is Superior’s version of the famous Lakewalk. It’s a five mile paved trail along the lake featuring some diverse scenery. It runs by Barker’s Island, the S.S. Meteor Whaleback Ship Museum, the ore docks, and gorgeous natural areas. If you’re in the mood for a little longer run, you can take the Bear Creek Trail or Moccasin Mike Road up to Wisconsin Point and run all the way out to the end or along the beach.
The Osaugie is used for a snowmobile trail in the winter, so it may take a bit of patience until all the snow has melted off the path, but it’s worth the wait.
Parking can be found at the Bear Creek parking lot off of Moccasin Mike Road, at Harborview Park at East 2nd Street and 53, or at Barker’s Island.
Another popular Superior trail is the Millenium Trail. During the winter this trail is used for cross country skiing, but is a prime place to run when the snow finally recedes. It’s a flat, beautiful 2.6 mile trail through the Superior Municipal Forest and really isn’t too far from the shores of the lake. If you’re willing to take a road or two, you can run along the lake with views of Spirit Mountain across the harbor.
Parking is at the Superior Municipal Trailhead at 28th Street and Wyoming Avenue.
GITCHI GAMI TRAIL
If you are willing to make a small trek north, the Gitchi Gami trail is another incredible, scenic, and slightly hillier option for a run on a paved trail. When completed the Gitchi Gami Trail will run from Two Harbors to Grand Marais. However, as of now, it’s not finished, but there are longer sections connecting several towns on the Northshore. The closest to Duluth, is the 14 mile section joining Gooseberry and Beaver Bay, which has breathtaking views of the lake and connects with Split Rock State Park. So, if you’re in need of a place to complete a long run, try heading north a bit!
Parking can be found at Gooseberry Falls State Park, Twin Points Wayside, Split Rock Lighthouse Visitors Center, and the Beaver Bay Trailhead.
With the warmer weather everyone is itching to get outside; soak in the sunshine, hear the birds singing, and smell that sweet spring air. Scratch that itch and try a new trail. You may just find a new favorite running route.
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