An early Christmas present came to mountain bikers in the Duluth, Minn., area last month when in mid December the state of Minnesota awarded a $250,000 grant toward the creation of a trail system that will cover more than 100 continuous miles when complete. Called the Duluth Traverse, the trail network will skirt the Duluth city skyline as it meanders through hardwood forests, open meadows, river valleys, and high ridgelines — all within spitting distance of city neighborhoods and streets.
Duluth mayor Don Ness has ambitions to make Duluth “the premier trail city in North America.â€ť The Duluth Traverse, which is being touted as the longest urban singletrack trail system in the nation, is a key part in the vision alongside new paths and trails for hiking and XC skiing.
So far, about 30 miles of mountain biking trails exist in the city. The Duluth Traverse has a goal to add 70 new miles and connect the current systems for a city-spanning route. Timeline is five years at minimum, according to Cyclists of Gitchee Gumee Shores, a local organization, if the funding and volunteer objectives align.
Though an urban trail, don’t expect views to be all skyscrapers and graffiti. Duluth is a medium-size city set against thick woodland with rocky topography and towering 500-foot hills. Lake Superior spills away to the horizon from the harbor below. Said Adam Sundberg with Cyclists of Gitchee Gumee, “Duluth is 20 miles long, but only about 3 miles wide.” This skinny footprint will allow the trail to run primarily through wilderness above town, with spurs heading into neighborhoods, trailhead parking lots, and even to downtown.
Groundbreaking of the first new section of the Duluth Traverse route will begin this spring. Trail hubs throughout the city will allow bikers to run technical loops with steep trails, rocky drops, bridges and obstacles. When complete, distance bikers will tackle the 100+ mile journey in an epic long day, the city skyline and Lake Superior dancing below the whole way.
See a full-screen map of the proposed “Duluth Traverse” trail here.
—Pam Wright is a contributing writer for GearJunkie and an editor at UpNorthica, a publication on canoe camping and the North Woods.