Go outside and have some funWith Lake Superior on its doorstep and tons of trails waiting, the Twin Ports offers more ways to engage the outdoors than most other college cities.
By: Sam Cook, Duluth News Tribune
With Lake Superior on its doorstep and tons of trails waiting, the Twin Ports offers more ways to engage the outdoors than most other college cities. When you’re through hitting the books, you can rip a mountain-biking trail, ride a surfboard, paddle a sea-kayak, hike across town, slip along a cross-country ski trail or carve a downhill run.
Earlier this year, Outside magazine named Duluth the runner-up “Best Adventure Hub” in the world to Kununurra, Australia. Why fly to Australia when so much is right out your door?
The Twin Ports are rapidly becoming a major mountain-biking destination with lots of existing trails and more under construction this fall. Check out miles of trails for beginner to advanced riders at Hartley Park near UMD and St. Scholastica; at the Piedmont Trails midtown in Duluth; along Amity Creek in far eastern Duluth; and the Pokegama Trail in Superior’s 4,500-acre Superior Municipal Forest.
Mont du Lac in Superior, a ski area by winter, offers mountain biking in the non-snow season, and Spirit Mountain, Duluth’s downhill ski area, offers two “gravity” flow trails down its hillside.
Some colleges rent mountain bikes in case you didn’t bring your own.
The St. Louis River and Lake Superior offer all kinds of sea-kayaking opportunities. Poke up Pokegama Bay on the river, or, in the right conditions, venture onto Lake Superior. Some colleges offer kayaking instruction, rentals, daytrips and longer trips. Check out UMD's Recreational Sports Outdoor Program, St. Scholastica’s Outdoor Pursuit program; or the UWS Campus Recreation program.
Once ice forms on the lakes and there’s enough snow, try snow-kiting on inland lakes such as Wild Rice Reservoir north of Duluth or the St. Louis River basin in Duluth. Strap into a snowboard or skis and hitch yourself to a kite. Use the wind to carry you skimming across the snowy surface. Check with your school’s outdoor or rec program to see if it offers classes in this exhilarating sport. The UMD Recreational Sports Outdoor Program pioneered this sport in the area several years ago and offers regular outings.
Surfing and stand-up paddleboarding are growing sports on Lake Superior. Some colleges rent SUPs (stand-up paddleboards) and surfboards. Some offer classes and outings in the sports. Check out the local surfing community at the club level. Check current wave conditions and get a look at the water on Park Point, complete with its “beachcam.”
Best times for surfing on the North Shore are after a northeast wind on Lake Superior when the winds are clocking back to the northwest.
Nothing shakes off a case of dorm-room fever like a quick glide around one of the local cross-country ski trails. Duluth is a ski-crazy town once the snow falls. Check out the city trails at Lester-Amity Park, Hartley Park, Piedmont, Chester Park, Spirit Mountain and Magney-Snively (all at duluthmn.gov, search “trails”). You’ll need a Minnesota Ski Pass, except at Spirit Mountain. Or ski at UMD’s well-groomed trails at the Bagley Nature Area near campus.
Snowflake Nordic Center is a commercial cross-country ski center at 4348 Rice Lake Road with 10 kilometers of groomed trails. Boulder Lake Environmental Learning Center (ski hot line, (218) 721-4903), north of Duluth on Boulder Lake, offers excellent groomed skiing.
In Superior, the Superior Municipal Forest has many kilometers of groomed trails.
Check with your campus rec office. Some schools rent ski gear.
If you’re a downhiller, you’ll want to look into a season pass or just day-trips to Duluth’s Spirit Mountain, with 22 downhill runs and the Midwest’s largest terrain park or Superior’s Mont du Lac and its terrain park.
Some campuses offer snowshoe-making classes, and the snowshoeing is excellent in the Twin Ports backcountry. Leave the trails behind and chart your own course through city parks.
Most campuses offer indoor climbing walls that will keep you toned up for the outdoor season. Check out your school’s outdoor or rec program. Some schools also offer climbing instruction and outdoor climbing outings in fall and spring.
Vertical Endeavors, 329 Lake Ave. S., in Canal Park offers indoor climbing as well.
Hiking is exceptional in the Twin Ports. The Superior Hiking Trail snakes its way across Duluth for 39 miles. UMD’s Recreational Sports Outdoor Program offers its annual “39 in 24” hike on the trail, in which hardy hikers cover the entire 39 miles in one long day. Check the UMD RSOP events calendar.
UMD also offers good hiking at the Bagley Nature Center, and virtually every city park in Duluth (go to duluthmn.gov and search “trails”). The Superior Municipal Forest in Superior offers great hiking, too.
Some local colleges and universities offer classes where you can make snowshoes, clothing and more for your outdoor activities. Check campus rec calendars for upcoming classes.
Just north of Duluth on back roads off St. Louis County Highway 4 and up the North Shore on many back roads, you can hunt ruffed grouse on forest walking trails. Most are on county tax-forfeit land. Private lands
typically are posted as closed to hunting.
For Minnesota’s designated Hunter Walking Trails, go to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources website.
Many Twin Ports college students have spent early mornings in the spring (mid-April to mid-May) drifting yarn flies or spawn bags for migrating steelhead (rainbow trout) entering North Shore streams to spawn.
Wisconsin’s Brule River, about 30 miles east of Superior on U.S. Highway 2, is a premier steelheading stream. The Brule’s early season usually opens the last Saturday in March from U.S. Highway 2 to Lake Superior. Check state regulations at mndnr.gov or dnr.wi.gov.