How an ATV weekend in Duluth and Cuyuna changed my summer


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The initial drive would be an uphill climb to Enger Park, rolling over rocks and between trees to soak up the panoramic views of Lake Superior and Duluth Harbor.

Although I’ve been on the trails before, this very first mountain bike tour offered a new and very different way to enjoy the outdoors.

The trail to Duluth Observation Hill offers a climb and views for miles. Photo by Steve Wagner / Forum News Service

However, as a novice rider with limited skills, the setting was perfect for an introduction to trail riding.

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As a seasoned trail runner, several trips each year take me into the backcountry to see hidden gems and incredible views, many of which are far from the roads and the city.

Minnesota, however, offers some great trails barely removed from the steel and concrete of the modern city – close enough for easy access and your own natural wonders.


An excursion along the Duluth <a class=trail system offers panoramic views of Lake Superior. Photo by Steve Wagner / Forum News Service” width=”1140″ height=””/>

An excursion along the Duluth trail system offers panoramic views of Lake Superior. Photo by Steve Wagner / Forum News Service

And cycling – especially on a mountain bike – allows a person of any ability to quickly access woods, meadows, or cliff tops that help us reconnect with that overriding urge to connect with the outside world.

Although the Duluth Traverse Trail stretches 43 miles and connects dozens of trails, we loaded the bikes up after our first five mile ride and headed a short distance north to the Hartley Nature Center.


A trail near the Hartley Nature Center in Duluth dissects the wooded landscape.  Photo by Steve Wagner / Forum News Service

A trail near the Hartley Nature Center in Duluth dissects the wooded landscape. Photo by Steve Wagner / Forum News Service

Explore the green

Visiting a trail for the first time can bring a wave of excitement and anticipation.

Willow and pine stands towered above as our wheels rolled over the crushed gravel. A few minutes later, we were deep in the woods on wide, gently rolling multi-use trails. As a beginner in mountain biking and in the park, sticking to the trails marked with green and blue signs seemed the wise decision. Each intersection brought new options and more time spent surrounded by the pristine web of nature.


A mountain biker navigates the Hartley Park <a class=trail system in Duluth, Minn. Photo by Steve Wagner / Forum News Service” width=”1140″ height=””/>

A mountain biker navigates the Hartley Park trail system in Duluth, Minn. Photo by Steve Wagner / Forum News Service

A boardwalk on the Root Canal trail winds through the wetlands to provide a glimpse of the ecosystem’s diversity. After more than three miles of driving, the drive through the park seemed too short.

An afternoon break, with meeting at Bent Paddle Brewery and OMC Steakhouse, provided enough refreshments for our last ride of the day. Starting at the Chester Bowl Rim, we hopped onto the hilly trail for two-thirds of a mile before a neighborhood connection to the UMD Duluth Traverse segment. The trail took us to Root Canal, where we turned around to retrace our pedal strokes and call it a day.


The extensive trail system in Duluth, Minnesota offers a plethora of opportunities to experience the outdoors.  Photo submitted by Jenn Faul

The extensive trail system in Duluth, Minnesota offers a plethora of opportunities to experience the outdoors. Photo submitted by Jenn Faul

The tour continues

After three separate hikes in one day, our eyes turned the next day to the trails of Mission Creek, where an exceptional view over the valley of the St. Louis River punctuated our departure from the trailhead of the highway 210.


A view of the St. Louis River Valley from the Loki Trailhead near Jay Cooke State Park.  Photo by Steve Wagner / Forum News Service

A view of the St. Louis River Valley from the Loki Trailhead near Jay Cooke State Park. Photo by Steve Wagner / Forum News Service

The lush air of the forested hills, just above the country’s largest freshwater estuary, filled our lungs as a green canopy shadowed our journey along the flowing landscape. Many wooden bridges on the Loki Trail can be intimidating for an inexperienced cyclist, but the right balance and patience made these passages fun and safe.


The Loki Trail in Mission Creek Trails south of Duluth, Minnesota has many wide walks for navigating the hilly terrain.  Photo submitted by Jenn Faul.

The Loki Trail in Mission Creek Trails south of Duluth, Minnesota has many wide walks for navigating the hilly terrain. Photo submitted by Jenn Faul.

A short connection to the Upper Cathedral Trail would complete our six mile loop to the parked vehicle, although we did stop a few times for views and photos to document the trip. Like running, the first time on a new trail can be slower, although there is a lot of satisfaction in taking the time to enjoy all of those trails.


Miles of single-track trails through the Mission Creek trail system run through the surrounding forest.  Photo by Steve Wagner / Forum News Service

Miles of single-track trails through the Mission Creek trail system run through the surrounding forest. Photo by Steve Wagner / Forum News Service

The adventure continued with a drive to the Cuyuna State Recreation Area near Crosby, Minnesota, hoping to find enough time to ride before the rain showers. planned.

We arrived at the Yawkey unit in a beautiful blue sky, unloaded the bikes and found our bearings. A smooth ride on the Haul Road one way trail brought us to the main destination – the bobsleigh loop near Yawkey Mine Lake.


Avid <a class=mountain bikers visit the Cuyuna State Recreation Area for world-class trails. Photo submitted by Jenn Faul.” width=”1140″ height=””/>

Avid mountain bikers visit the Cuyuna State Recreation Area for world-class trails. Photo submitted by Jenn Faul.

A quick stop before the ascent allowed a few mountain bikers to rush through. Climbing turned out to be fun and after a few minutes of navigating rocky sections I started to realize that an action camera mounted on the bike was worth it.


The red earth of the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area is a unique feature of the area, especially on the bobsleigh track near Crosby, Minn.  Photo by Steve Wagner / Forum News Service

The red earth of the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area is a unique feature of the area, especially on the bobsleigh track near Crosby, Minn. Photo by Steve Wagner / Forum News Service

Although the arrival of the Bobsled Loop has been diverted, the descent still offers the sharp berms that make adults smile.

On our return to Haul Road, we opted to hike an extra mile of trail accessing Manuel Drive which offers some of its own climbing before leading the mountain bikers over thrilling red dirt rollers.


The world-class trails offered in the Cuyuna State Recreation Area attract <a class=mountain bikers and other outdoor enthusiasts year-round. Photo by Steve Wagner / Forum News Service” width=”1140″ height=””/>

The world-class trails offered in the Cuyuna State Recreation Area attract mountain bikers and other outdoor enthusiasts year-round. Photo by Steve Wagner / Forum News Service

Hours later, a drink and a meal at a local restaurant capped a day of new experiences and memories, and the long-awaited torrential downpour quickly unfolded.

A different point of view

It was hard to imagine how the third day of our ATV road trip could compete with what we had seen. But a stop for coffee at Red Raven and a short drive to the parking lot at Cuyuna kept us going with a ride on the Switchback, Drag Line and Galloping Goose trails for a rather smooth circumnavigation of the Portsmouth Mine Pit lakes. , Pennington Mine and Huntington Mine.


Part of the Galloping Goose Trail divides a pine stand in the Cuyuna State Recreation Area near Ironton, Minnesota.  Photo by Steve Wagner / Forum News Service

Part of the Galloping Goose Trail divides a pine stand in the Cuyuna State Recreation Area near Ironton, Minnesota. Photo by Steve Wagner / Forum News Service

For someone used to running on trails, the sights and sounds were all very familiar. But the ethereal experience of nature from the saddle of a mountain bike has opened up a new way to access the outdoors.


<a class=Mountain biking trails in the Cuyuna State Recreation Area offer cyclists a mix of options depending on skill level, including several easy kilometers for novice cyclists. Photo by Steve Wagner / Forum News Service” width=”1140″ height=””/>

Mountain biking trails in the Cuyuna State Recreation Area offer cyclists a mix of options depending on skill level, including several easy kilometers for novice cyclists. Photo by Steve Wagner / Forum News Service

It felt like an almost too perfect trip – world class trails in multiple locations, balmy summer temperatures, no bugs, and a fun companion. With seven different hikes, the adventure offered a diverse mix of easy to moderate trails to develop your bike skills and see the world from a different perspective.

Although cycle paths require more equipment than running, the experience has opened up another world of possibilities.

Now I just have to look at the calendar to see when I can go back – and find my way to other great Minnesota cycling destinations like Bemidji, Rochester, Detroit Lakes and Iron Range and the Maah Daah Hey Trail. of North Dakota.


A bicycle cleaning station in the Cuyuna State Recreation Area gives mountain bikers access to dirt.  Photo by Steve Wagner / Forum News Service

A bicycle cleaning station in the Cuyuna State Recreation Area gives mountain bikers access to dirt. Photo by Steve Wagner / Forum News Service

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