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Happy Trails: Western Duluth's Upper Cathedral Trail may be best for bikers

The 3.8-mile multi-use trail was great for an endurance trek, but the in-trail traffic was a bit busy for this gal.

Upper Cathedral - biker 1.jpg
Noopiming Giiwedinong, or Upper Cathedral, is a 3.8-mile, point-to-point, multi-use trail for bikers, hikers and runners. And several cyclists and a trail runner trudged through on Monday.
Melinda Lavine / Duluth News Tribune
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DULUTH — I pulled into the Fond du Lac neighorhood's Nagaajiwanaang, or Chambers Grove Park, on an overcast Monday afternoon. There were pavilions, grills, bathrooms and a well-marked trail map at the start.

A large map marks the way at the start of the Upper Cathedral trail.
Access Fond du Lac's Upper Cathedral trail through the Chambers Grove Park at 13404 Minnesota Highway 23.
Melinda Lavine / Duluth News Tribune

A bit overwhelmed at the options, I asked a geared-up biker which trail was Upper Cathedral (Noopiming Giiwedinong).

He told me to follow the green, zig-zaggy trail on the map, and to steer clear of the Flyover Country trail, and he didn’t have to tell me twice.

It’s “mostly uphill from here,” he said, before pedaling away, so I filled my water bottle and set out with my dog, Lu.

A cute dog stands on a bike bridge, waiting to be led on her leash.
Leashed dogs are welcome on Fond du Lac's Upper Cathedral Trail. Bikers may zip past, so it's helpful for all to stay alert so you and your pooch can scoot to the side.
Melinda Lavine / Duluth News Tribune

We passed through the Lower Cathedral to get to the Upper, both making up the two-way, 3.8-mile, point-to-point, multi-use trail for bikers, hikers and runners.

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A winding trail is hugged by trees.
Noopiming Giiwedinong, or Fond du Lac's Upper Cathedral trail, is wide and flat for the most part, though it gets slimmer with more tree roots and rocks jutting out the farther north you venture.
Melinda Lavine / Duluth News Tribune

The trail is mostly smooth and wide enough to stagger two hikers or a snug fit side by side. Though, we encountered more tree roots and rocks farther north.

Eyes forward for the height averse, as there are steep drops moving through the winding Lower Cathedral.

The trail was busy Monday afternoon, with friendly bikers zipping through, making this a “look-alive” spot, unwise for headphone use. Each biker was friendly, shouting a greeting, well-wishes or simply to communicate another’s following close behind.

Our first biker caught up with us on his way down, shouting, “You’re doing good, girl,” as he sped along.

A helmeted biker takes a turn on the Upper Cathedral trail.
A biker pedals along Fond du Lac's Upper Cathedral Trail.
Melinda Lavine / Duluth News Tribune

Abundant greenery surrounded us along with pine, cedar and birch and spots of red fungi, acorns, moss and reluctant signs of fall shown in decaying, crumpled leaves.

There are a couple forks in the road and several maps on the ascent. There are many berms, bike bridges, some with b-lines, and spots covered in trail armor.

It’s a well-maintained spot, with several sharp, blind twists and turns — and in some spots you can watch a biker buzz back and forth ahead of you before they are lost behind the trees.

A sign marked M-6 hugs a trail surrounded by trees.
Fond du Lac's Upper Cathedral Trail is well-marked with maps along the way, making navigation an easy task.
Melinda Lavine / Duluth News Tribune

Past the halfway point north, we ran into a little rest stop with an overlook — our first comfy place to sit with a fallen log for respite and enough room for folks to park their bikes.

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Upper Cathedral - bike paths and trees.jpg
Fond du Lac's scenic Upper Cathedral Trail winds around and around, allowing visitors to view fellow bikers, hikers or runners along the way on Monday, Aug. 15, 2022.
Melinda Lavine / Duluth News Tribune

I took a long swig of water, and Lu splayed, belly down, on the ground.

Upper Cathedral Trail.jpg
Gary Meader / Duluth News Tribune

The Upper Cathedral Trail has seven markers along the way, and we made it about 20 minutes past marker M6 before Lu started lagging. We turned around, and I rotated carrying her from my right arm to my left, and back again.

Sweat rolled down my cheeks and neck, and after 45 minutes of no contact, a trail runner unintentionally startled me making a quick turn around a corner.

As we continued our descent, I was comforted to hear the return of nearby traffic along Minnesota Highway 210 — reminding me that there was an end and a water fountain ahead.

The Noopiming Giiwedinong is a lovely trail, I suspect perfect for bikers, and good for an endurance trek, but the bustling in-trail action made it a bit busy for this gal who often craves the quieter times among the trees.

Moss hugs rocks along a trail.
Moss-covered rocks, red fungi and small yellow and purple flowers adorned Fond du Lac's Upper Cathedral Trail.
Melinda Lavine / Duluth News Tribune
A biker pedals away past a bridge hugged by trees.
A female, first-time visitor to the park bikes away from the multi-use trail entrance starting at Chambers Grove Park.
Melinda Lavine / Duluth News Tribune
Small purple flowers peek through a bed of greenery.
Moss-covered rocks, red fungi and small yellow and purple flowers adorned Fond du Lac's Upper Cathedral Trai.
Melinda Lavine / Duluth News Tribune
Happy Trails logo.jpg
Gary Meader / Duluth News Tribune
MORE BY MELINDA LAVINE
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Members Only

Melinda Lavine is an award-winning, multidisciplinary journalist with 16 years professional experience. She joined the Duluth News Tribune in 2014, and today, she writes about the heartbeat of our community: the people.

Melinda grew up in central North Dakota, a first-generation American and the daughter of a military dad.

She earned bachelors degrees in English and Communications from the University of North Dakota in 2006, and started her career at the Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald that summer. She helped launch the Herald's features section, as the editor, before moving north to do the same at the DNT.

Contact her: 218-723-5346, mlavine@duluthnews.com.
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