Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Easy hike rambles alongside Mission Creek

Mission Creek Trail.
Photo courtesy City of Duluth.

Route in wooded Fond du Lac Park
links to famed Superior Hiking Trail

A pleasant walk alongside a Northwoods stream awaits day hikers on a segment of the Mission Creek Trail in Duluth, Minn.

The route, measuring in at a little under 1.2-miles round trip, is a spur for the Superior Hiking Trail. Floods during the early 2010s ravaged parts of the trail that cut roughly north-south across Fond du Lac Park and that sometimes is referred to on maps as Mission Creek Parkway.

Mission Creek
The best time to hike the trail is late spring through early June. That’s when Mission Creek’s water levels will be at their highest and when you have the best chance of enjoying wildflower blooms. Parts of the trail can be muddy during that time of the year, though.

To reach the trail, from Interstate 35, take County Road 3/Becks Road south/east at Exit 245. Turn right/south onto Minn. Hwy. 23/Commonwealth Avenue. Hwy. 23 curves west and becomes West Third Street as paralleling the St. Louis River. Turn right/north onto 131st Avenue West and head through the Fond du Lac neighborhood. After crossing West Ninth Street, you’ll see a dirt turnaround on the left; park on the grass off the dirt road.

The trail heads northwest near a field’s edge. In about 0.08 miles, it arrives at Mission Creek. A shallow stream full of boulders, Mission Creek gently slopes down the valley before flowing into the St. Louis River.

The trail continues upstream, heading north alongside the water. In about 0.17 miles, the path rejoins the jeep trail that 131st Avenue West de-evolved into; continue northwest along this route, which is a spur to the Superior Hiking Trail.

Trillium in late May
Watch the forest floor and brushy areas for white and showy large-flowered trillium, which blooms across the park in late May and early June. The flower can grow up to a foot-and-a-half high and features three white petals.

In about 0.06 miles, the route comes to an overlook of the creek. From there, the trail veers away from Mission Creek and heads up a steep hillside that quickly gains about 80 feet elevation.

At the hilltop, the trail junctions with the Superior Hiking Trail, offering a nice view of Mission Creek between the tree breaks. At this point, the trail has gone about 0.57 miles, marking a good spot to turn around.

If you wish to extend your hike, going right takes you to County Road 3 while heading left takes you deeper into the park, connecting with the original Mission Creek Trail.

Find out about trail guidebooks available in the Hittin’ the Trail series.