With innovative and challenging trails that flow through the entire lakefront city, Duluth is easily one of the top mountain bike destinations in the Midwest. From downhill to cross-country, you'll find every style of riding in Duluth.
Over the past few decades, the port city of Duluth has reinvented itself as one of the Midwest's premier hubs for outdoor adventures, including mountain biking. Minnesota's "City on a Hill" boasts lift-served downhill trails, flowy cross-country and more berms than you can count—and connecting all of the city's various trails together is the ambitious, one-of-a-kind Duluth Traverse.
The Duluth Traverse: Crown Jewel of the North
As interest in mountain biking began to catch on in the city, local cycling advocacy group Cyclists of Gitchee Gumee Shores (COGGS) joined forces with the City of Duluth to lay the groundwork for an ingenious and ambitious plan to connect all of their major mountain bike trails into one massive, interconnected trail network: The Duluth Traverse, or, more affectionately, "the DT."
The main artery of the DT is its 40-mile network of beginner-friendly singletrack, doubletrack and gravel roads that runs between all of the larger trail centers in town. Combined with the existing trails it links together, it allows riders to shred over 85 miles of mountain bike trails without ever leaving the system (or the city). This artery is already 90% complete, and is projected to be finished by the end of 2020.
Below are a few of the trails you can shred along the Duluth Traverse.
The Traverse begins at Mission Creek and leads riders through roughly 23 undulating miles of beginner and intermediate trails. If you like shockingly green backdrops of trees and fern-filled summer rides, this quick and flowy park is for you. Practice swooping along smoothly packed berms and gain confidence as your tires hum and glide over countless wooden bridges.
Take in the sights at adjacent Jay Cooke State Park for a lunch break or take a mid-ride reprieve to hike over to the edge of the rocky outcrop of the gorge with sights of the St. Louis River Valley below.
For those looking to get really rad, don’t skip a visit to Spirit Mountain, Duluth’s downhill mountain bike park. If you’re looking to dip a toe into gravity, Spirit’s rolling, entry-level trails let riders ease into skills and offer more technical and difficult b-lines to keep it fresh and engaging while riders progress and gain confidence.
Thrill-seekers looking to take their wheels off the ground can find steep rock faces and snug tree clearances to test their handling, as well as 6- to 8-foot jump gaps on some courses. Full-face helmets and body armor are highly recommended as you rip through this woodsy park, where the scenic lift-ride to the top between runs alone is worth a trip!
Piedmont and Brewer
Continuing east along the DT, after a few calf-busting climbs, riders will encounter the Piedmont and Brewer trails. Managing to pack a whopping 13 sections into nine miles, these loose, rocky routes beckon you to drop your tire pressure for a bigger bite of traction from your tires before hitting the trails. As a more intermediate-to-advanced trail system, Piedmont and Brewer have everything from winding flow sections to fast and technical descents.
For the thrill-seekers who skipped out on Spirit Mountain, there are still some double black diamond sections for getting your wheels off the ground and almost three-foot drops for some epic bike-hucking action.
Finally, at the tail end of the DT, is Lester Park. This gorgeous and inviting park situated between Amity Creek and the Lester River, offers views of both from the trails with scenic overlooks to catch your breath between laps. A great place to start for beginning riders, Lester has smooth-rolling singletrack with enough berms to keep it exciting for experienced riders who want to up the speed for a thrill. It’s easy to increase the pace on this sinuous machine-built trail, but be on the lookout for other riders. Like most trails in Duluth, it runs two ways.
On hot summer afternoons, be sure to pack your swimsuit for this one. Nothing feels better than a refreshing dip in the swimming hole on the Lester River after kicking up some dust on the trails.
Natalia Mendez is a former Wisconsinite who never lost her love for cheese, big lakes and going "Up North." She now lives in Minneapolis near lots of smaller lakes, and spends time in Minnesota's north woods as much as possible. When not dreaming of her next two-wheeled adventure, she can be found cooking and eating elaborate meals or petting her cats, Cosmo and Carl.
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