Happy Trails: Hawk Ridge Trail is a challenging ride with rewarding views
Incorporate it into this loop and get a little bit of type of trail.
DULUTH — When several mountain bike trails I wanted to feature in this column were closed last weekend due to either storm damage or wet conditions, I opted to ride a go-to loop of mine in Duluth.
While the views along the Hawk Ridge Trail portion are the highlight, the different trails that make up this loop have a little bit of everything — flowing trails, challenging chunky sections and easy gravel.
The loop ends up being just shy of seven miles. I chose to bike this, but these are multi-use trails so it’s hikable and runnable too. And parking is possible at nearly every road, with the most established trailheads along Vermilion Road and Skyline Parkway.
I usually begin along Vermilion Road in Duluth. If driving north on the road, pass the cemeteries on either side of Vermilion and park at the beaver pond. From there, you can hop on the Morningside trail, which will be on your right immediately after the pond.
This section stretches to Jean Duluth Road and is relatively smooth and easy with some berms and rollers to keep things interesting.
After crossing Jean Duluth, it’s a straight shot along Amity Street to the corner where the three-mile-long Hawk Ridge Trail begins.
Rated a blue intermediate, the trail features steeper, rockier climbs.
But the real challenge doesn’t begin until Hawk Ridge Trail crosses Skyline Parkway — more rocks, more steep climbs and some slightly off-camber rocks on the downhills.
There’s no shame in walking portions of the trail, and if you’re not feeling up to Hawk Ridge Trail, you can stay on Skyline, which runs parallel to the trail.
If you’re hiking or running, you’ll want to pay more attention to footing, but it’s quite a bit easier on two feet than two wheels.
I usually ride Hawk Ridge in this direction — from west to east — because the elevation is generally going down, even though there are some climbs throughout.
But despite the challenging terrain, the views along this section make it worth it. The trail is cut into the side of the ridge and you’re rewarded with views of Lake Superior over the Lakeside neighborhood.
When you finish the Hawk Ridge section, the trail will spit you out at the parking lot along Skyline at the top of Seven Bridges Road and the Lester Park trail system.
I usually take the Snively Trail back to Morningside. Doing so avoids climbing back up Hawk Ridge and gives my hands, throbbing from gripping my handlebars through the rocky trail, a break.
The trail, often used for horseback riding, is a wide, gravel surface that runs alongside Amity Creek and passes over several stone-arch bridges. It’s a gradual climb up 150 feet of elevation over the course of two miles and brings you back to Amity Street, where you can then reach Jean Duluth Road and take Morningside back to your car parked at the beaver pond.
As an intermediate rider riding at a casual pace, the loop takes me about an hour. It’s long been a go-to for me, in part because the trails are some of the first to dry out and reopen after a rain.
And, if you can ride through Hawk Ridge, just about every other blue intermediate trail in Duluth will be a breeze.