The wind in your face, the sun on your back. The whir of wheels and clicking of gears. Bicyclists experience a freedom that few other travelers experience. The open air. The calming quiet. Whooshing past walkers, hikers, runners. Turning off the road, leaving cars behind. Here are 10 bike trails where you can live the adventure.
1. Munger Trail
The Duluth-to-Carlton-to-Hinckley trail is one of the more popular trails in the Northland. Wide, paved trails attract bikers, runners, walkers and inline skaters.
Rating: Easy to moderate. The climb out of Duluth is long but gradual. There are some rolling hills. You can ride the entire 150-mile round trip or just try a short stretch.
Highlights: The trail winds along the bed of an old railway, offering views of the Duluth-Superior Harbor, St. Louis River, bridge crossings, bluffs and forests. There’s no motor vehicle traffic.
Cautions: Because the trail is often populated with a diverse group of users, beware of the traffic, and announce yourself when you're passing.
North Shore Scenic Highway
It’s a smooth ride along Scenic Minnesota Highway 61 between Duluth and Two Harbors, directly along the shore of Lake Superior.
Rating: Easy to moderate (wind conditions can make things more difficult).
Highlights: Enjoy Lake Superior in various river crossings nearly all the way to Two Harbors. It's a long ride (21 miles one way,) but ambitious riders can do it in a day if they hustle.
Cautions: There's high traffic volume in the summer. Watch out for recreation vehicles and trailer traffic — they have less room to pass bicyclists, and sometimes think they've passed you before they actually have.
3. Duluth Lakewalk
Perhaps the area's most visible bike path, the paved portion of the Lakewalk runs about 7½ miles from Canal Park to 26th Ave. East and London Road.
Rating: Easy. There are several hills, but even more long, flat stretches.
Highlights: Because it's only feet from the shore of Lake Superior, the Lakewalk features views of the lake for virtually the entire trip. There are great views of the city and ship traffic, abundant shopping and restaurants in Canal Park. There's no motor vehicle traffic to contend with, but other users (walkers, runners, dog owners and inline skaters) are a concern.
Cautions: Congestion is the real issue. It requires bicyclists to be sensitive to others, especially young children and pets, as they're unpredictable. Take it slow.
4. Skyline Drive
As long as the city of Duluth itself, the road stretches along the hilltop from end to end. Its views of Lake Superior, as well as urban and natural parts of the city, are some of the best (and highest) around.
Rating: Easy to moderate in difficulty with average to poor pavement conditions. Again, pick your length.
Highlights: The views and low traffic volume are too big bonuses.
Cautions: Despite its lighter traffic flows, beware of any car along Skyline. There's a good chance they're looking at the view and not at you.
5. Seven Bridges Road
This somewhat challenging ride gives bicyclists a look at the most eastern part of Duluth. It feels like it's a lot farther out of the city than it really is.
Rating: Moderate to difficult. There are some pretty big hills with some bumpy pavement. It's a smoother ride on the way up, but be careful coming down — it can be bone-jarring.
Highlights: A great view of Amity Creek and a fair amount of solitude.
Cautions: Watch that descent, and stay in control
6. Minnesota Point / Park Point
Minnesota Avenue runs about four miles from the Aerial Lift Bridge to the tip of the point.
Rating: Easy. Couldn’t be any flatter. Occasional strong winds can make pedaling difficult one way and a breeze the other.
Highlights: Park Point Recreation Area is a nice place to unwind once you're there. The park has soccer fields, volleyball courts and a playground plus great access to the sandy beach along Lake Superior.
Cautions: Bicyclists share a single shoulder with skaters, joggers and walkers, so things can get a little cramped. Traffic can also be heavy at times.
7. Martin Road to Pike Lake
It's a longer ride starting from Jean Duluth Road and hits a dead end at the beach on Pike Lake.
Rating: Difficult climbing at times. It can be 10 to 15 miles one way to the beach depending on where you start.
Highlights: There's a nice shoulder to keep you out of what little traffic there might be. Plus, once you get to the beach, you can cool off with a swim or stretch out in the sand.
Cautions: This ride is generally more fun for the moderately trained rider who's not afraid to stand up in the pedals and crank on some hills.
8. Becks Road
In Gary-New Duluth there's a tough but rewarding ride. Take Grand Avenue to Becks, which runs west. That's where the hill and the challenge begin.
Rating: Moderate to difficult. Becks is a good hill climb. Follow it up to the St. Louis River Road and back for about a 14-mile trip.
Highlights: There are quiet roads and panoramic views of the most western portions of Duluth and the St. Louis River.
Cautions: Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Be ready to work a little harder on this ride.
9. Lester River Road
This is perhaps the biggest hill in the city. It's a nearly steady climb for 2 miles. Once at the top, you can hit Strand Road and then take Jean Duluth Road back into town.
Rating: Difficult up the Lester River Road but gentler near the top.
Highlights: With relatively little traffic, the Lester River Road has views of the Lester River and Lake Superior near the top.
Cautions: Mind the steep hills, and pace yourself during the climb.
10. Amity Trail near Hawk Ridge
You can catch the trail near the intersection of Skyline Parkway and Seven Bridges Road. The trail, which crosses two old bridges, runs through some of the highest terrain in Duluth.
Rating: Easy to moderate difficulty because of the rolling hills and gravel.
Highlights: It's a relatively untraveled part of the city and offers a fair amount of peace and quiet.
Cautions: It is open to people on horseback, and the etiquette if you are on a bike and horses approach is to stop and get off your bike and wait for them to pass. Horses are easily spooked by bikes.
Whether you’re taking off on a full-day bicycle trek or an afternoon jaunt, there are some things you just can’t do without:
A helmet. Expect to pay $50 to $100 for good head gear.
Lights. A flashing red tail light and a white headlight go a long way to increasing the visibility of a person on a bike to a motorist, even in the day. A basic set starts at about $30.
Tools. Spare inner tubes, tire levers to get the tire off and on and a portable tire pump. A small Allen wrench also comes in handy.
Warm clothes. A windbreaker does wonders when the weather turns chilly.
Water. Replenishing fluids is important. Don’t wait until you’re already dehydrated to take notice.
Sunscreen. The back of your neck will thank you.
Food. Any candy bar will do for a quick snack. But don’t hesitate to pack a lunch.
Money. Whether it’s for some cool drinks, film or dinner, money comes in handy even when you’re trying to get away from it all.