How is it that I went to college in Duluth for four years and have lived in the Northland for almost eight without having hiked out to the end of Minnesota Point?

The Park Point Trail has always intrigued me. With the big lake, the fine sandy beach and the old-growth pine forest. It’s a mix of terrain unlike any I've come across in Minnesota.

First, it takes a commitment to get to, especially if you get bridged. Drive all the way to the end of Park Point, park near the Sky Harbor airport, get out of your car, walk to left side of the airport fencing to the point where you feel like you may be trespassing and you will see the entrance sign for the 4.5-mile out-and-back trail to the end of Minnesota Point.

It’s a mostly easy, flat trail through the pines but the sand dunes do weave their way in making for slow walking. On a warm Tuesday afternoon in late May, there were only a handful of dog walkers, solo hikers and a sweaty shirtless runner. Birds, mostly gulls, could be heard overhead although not seen through the towering pines.

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Through little off-shoot trails, you can decide whether you want a panoramic view of Lake Superior or sift through driftwood while you look across the harbor at Wisconsin. Although, if you wander off the main trail be aware of poison ivy.

The ruins of the Minnesota Point Lighthouse can be seen near the turnaround point on the trail. The lighthouse, also known as Zero Point Lighthouse, stood 50 feet tall when completed in 1858, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

The sun illuminates the Minnesota Point lighthouse ruins as storm clouds fill the sky on May 25, 2021. The lighthouse, completed in 1858, is near the turnaround point of Duluth's Park Point Trail. (Samantha Erkkila/serkkila@duluthnews.com)
The sun illuminates the Minnesota Point lighthouse ruins as storm clouds fill the sky on May 25, 2021. The lighthouse, completed in 1858, is near the turnaround point of Duluth's Park Point Trail. (Samantha Erkkila/serkkila@duluthnews.com)

And then at the very end of the trail is the Superior Entry with the red-roofed Superior Entry Lighthouse visible across the channel. If you're lucky maybe a ship will be coming or going.

On this particular hike there were no ships, but as I turned around I saw large thunder clouds looming over Minnesota. I watched the downpour on the Duluth hillside and just as I thought I would be spared I found myself sprinting through the sand to hide under a large pine tree as blueberry-sized hail fell from the sky.

Rain falls on the Duluth hillside as seen from the end of the Park Point Trail on May 25, 2021. (Samantha Erkkila/serkkila@duluthnews.com)
Rain falls on the Duluth hillside as seen from the end of the Park Point Trail on May 25, 2021. (Samantha Erkkila/serkkila@duluthnews.com)

The storm passed quickly, but let this be a cautionary tale on weather preparedness in Duluth, especially when hiking on the Park Point Trail. The down and back trail is unlike others in Duluth, which are fairly close to civilization and shelter. Aside from an abandoned, graffitied building near the lighthouse you are open to the elements.

On my next hike you can be sure I’ll have a raincoat in my backpack next to my sunscreen, water bottle and snack.

This story was updated with information regarding poison ivy in the area of the Park Point Trail. The final version was published at 3 p.m., June 7, 2021. The initial version was posted at 5 a.m., June 4, 2021.

After emerging from a section of trail shadowed by large pines, the Park Point Trail becomes an open patch of sand dunes before once again leading hikers into the pine forest. (Samantha Erkkila/serkkila@duluthnews.com)
After emerging from a section of trail shadowed by large pines, the Park Point Trail becomes an open patch of sand dunes before once again leading hikers into the pine forest. (Samantha Erkkila/serkkila@duluthnews.com)

A short spur of the Park Point Trail offers a panoramic view of Lake Superior on May 25, 2021. Many spurs along the trail offer views both of Lake Superior and the Duluth-Superior Harbor. (Samantha Erkkila/serkkila@duluthnews.com)
A short spur of the Park Point Trail offers a panoramic view of Lake Superior on May 25, 2021. Many spurs along the trail offer views both of Lake Superior and the Duluth-Superior Harbor. (Samantha Erkkila/serkkila@duluthnews.com)

Lake Superior as seen from the Park Point Trail on May 25, 2021. The further you get down the Park Point Trail the more quiet and secluded the beach becomes. (Samantha Erkkila/serkkila@duluthnews.com)
Lake Superior as seen from the Park Point Trail on May 25, 2021. The further you get down the Park Point Trail the more quiet and secluded the beach becomes. (Samantha Erkkila/serkkila@duluthnews.com)

Happy Trails is a regular outdoors column featuring hiking and biking trails around Duluth and the Northland.