Top Trail Towns: Duluth, Minnesota
Photo by Zach Pierce
Home of the iconic Grandma’s Marathon, which took place in June for the 37th annual time, Duluth is a road-running town with a trail-running problem. Or, might it be vice versa? Andy Holak thinks so. The 45-year-old St. Louis County Forest Recreation Specialist, race director and ultrarunner who has lived in Duluth for 15 years says, “I’ve got to call Duluth a trail-runner’s town. As good as the Grandma’s Marathon is, the trails are twice as good because we have the Superior Hiking Trail that runs the city’s ridge top. I can run two minutes from my door, onto the trail and all the way to Canada.”
Duluth is propped at the west edge of Lake Superior, with its downtown on the water and the rest of the city sprawling up a couple-hundred-foot-tall ridgeline. The city is northern Minnesota’s civilization enclave within the region’s boreal forest. In the wilds beyond, moose, bears and wolves inhabit the thick, conifer-dominant woods. Through those woods wind the Superior Hiking Trail and hundreds of other trail miles.
As a port town, Duluth has always been a water-focused city. “If you want to see what we’re all about, walk the Lakewalk,” recommends Holak. This 7.3-mile paved trail traces along the lake in downtown Duluth and provides easy access to most of the town’s tourist attractions, like the Great Lakes Aquarium, Canal Park and its aerial lift bridge and Fitger’s Brewery, an awesome brew pub that’s been around since the 1800s.
> GET THERE / Fly directly into the Duluth international airport, or into the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and make the two-and-a-half-hour drive north. You can also arrive on daily greyhound service. Car rental agencies are plentiful in Duluth.
> BE A TOURIST / The Fitger’s brewery, on the national register of Historic places, is a must-do for any Duluth tourist. If you visit in fall or early winter, try their seasonal blueberry porter made with local, wild blueberries. They are also famous for their burgers; their veggie patty, made from local-grown wild rice, is the best I’ve met anywhere.
> TAKE NOTE / Black flies and mosquitoes are summer nuisances in northern Minnesota. Black flies are thickest in May and June, while mosquitoes pester until fall’s frosts. Wear insect repellent, and, if you’re camping, a bug net, long sleeves and pants.
BY THE NUMBERS
1881 Year that Fitger’s opened its beer-brewing doors!
296 Number of miles on the superior Hiking Trail.
−41 In degrees Fahrenheit, the coldest-ever temperature in Duluth, recorded in January 1885.