This month we visit the westernmost point of Lake Superior and the City of Duluth, Minnesota. In the past few years Duluth has started popping up on many mountain bikers radar screens and for good reason. The city and especially the local trail association, Cyclists of Gitchee Gumee Shore (COGGS) have invested a substantial amount of time and money into trail development. In the last five years alone the area has seen more than 35 miles of newly developed trail, including the Duluth Traverse trail system. An easy rated multi-use trail that, when complete, will connect users to five different trail networks resulting in over 100 miles of fully connected trail, all within easy access of the city.
It's so hard to focus on a single trail when talking about a destination like Duluth. The area offers mountain bikers so many different riding experiences within a very short distance of each other. If flow trails are your thing, be sure to check out Mission Creek, the newest professionally built trail system in Duluth. The system was designed and constructed by professional trail builders, Progressive Trail Design of Fayetteville, Arkansas, and Rock Solid Trails, the masters behind the epic Copper Harbor trail system in Michigan. If you're more into technical riding and want to experience old school rocky, raw trails then Piedmont has you covered. Gravity riding your thing? Duluth happens to be home to Spirit Mountain, the only lift-assisted mountain bike park in Minnesota.
We reached out to a couple of local Duluth riders and asked them, "What would you consider to be one of the must-ride trails in the area, and why?"
COGGS is laying down so much new trail each year that it's hard to solidify a favorite. However, when Home Brew was completed in 2014 it made a big impression on me and quickly became my favorite. Home Brew is a real 'playground' of a loop. It has more b-lines incorporating natural rock features than I can keep track of, making it a very cerebral ride. You can hit this trail 50 times and have a different ride each time. Yet, despite all of the trail's 'texture', it still flows to some degree. I tend to wear a fair bit of tight petroleum-based clothing, but for those baggy-shorted folks with a bit more bike under them, The Kissing Booth is quick 'n gnarly descent off of Home Brew with a trail back up, so you can get back onto Home Brew right where you left it. About half of the Home Brew loop edges along the top of a ridge line overlooking the City of Duluth, the expansive St. Louis River, Lake Superior, and beyond them, Wisconsin.....if you have a chance to glance up from the trail.- Matt Goodman
Oh man... You could probably ask this question to every rider in town and receive a slightly different answer from each one. We've got everything from miles of buttery flow trail to playgrounds of raw exposed bedrock. With the idea of variety in mind, I'd have to say my top ride in town would be Brewer Park - which is a dream scenario of both flow and technical features co-existing in one trail. Head down 'Home Brew' for a fast playful ride, then check out 'The Kissing Booth' for some old-school ruggedness. If I was to break it down a bit more. Choices for flow trail: Mission Creek Trails and Lester Park Trails, both offer machine-built goodness high on the banks of some of our more scenic river valleys. Choices for Technical Riding: The Piedmont Trails are perched high on the Duluth hillside on a giant slab of bedrock. Gravity: Spirit Mountain - The Midwest's first and largest lift-assisted bike park. Trails range from beginner level flow to aggressive DH riding.- Waylon Munch (COGGS - Chairperson)
Duluth hasn't forgotten about you riders that just can't get enough and what to ride year round. The area has fast become the number one destination for winter fat biking in Minnesota. Thanks to the volunteers at COGGS you'll find over 25 miles of machined groomed trails. This doesn't include the non-groomed trails that are packed down and rideable thanks to the amount of snowshoe traffic seen in the area. If all this is not enough for you, Spirit Mountain is one of only a few ski resorts in North America offering lift-assisted winter downhill fat biking. Aside from the actual ski runs themselves, riders can get their winter downhill fix on lower Happy Camper, Candyland and Calculated Risk which are fully groomed by COGGS volunteers.
The Cyclists of Gitchee Gumee Shore along with The City of Duluth have put countless hours of hard work and resources into their long-term recreational trail plan. Right from the start, their goal was to be "a premier trail city in North America". What started out as just a vision has grown into a destination truly worth checking out. So much so, that last year IMBA honored Duluth with the distinction of Gold Level Ride Center. Be it summer or winter, if you're looking for a mountain bike destination that can offer all levels of riders the opportunity to experience a diverse selection of trails, Duluth should be on the top of your list.
If you like what's going on in Duluth, Minnesota. Then consider donating to our friends at the Cyclists of Gitchee Gumee Shore, and help them achieve their goal of 100+ miles of fully connected trail for all to enjoy.