Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Willard Munger accessible in several cities

Willard Munger State Trail passes a rock cut between
Duluth and Carlton, Minn. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.
The Willard Munger State Trail ranks as among Northeast Minnesota’s premier recreational routes.

The paved bike path stretches across three counties, running 63 miles from Duluth south to Hinckley. It’s the fifth longest paved trail in the United States. Day hikers are welcome on the trail.

The Willard Munger can be accessed in a number of other communities. Among them are:
g Barnum – A parking lot is on the south side of County Road 6/Main Street west of downtown. Going north, the trail crosses the Moose Horn River.
g Carlton – A large parking lot with picnic shelter is along County Road 1 (Third Street) between North and South avenues. This route heads east/north toward Duluth with a connecting trail to Jay Cooke State Park.
g Duluth – The northern tip of the trail can be accessed at a number of spots. Among the most popular with parking lots are (from south to north): off 123rd Avenue West via the Superior Hiking Trail; off Riverside Drive at Grand Avenue (Minn. Hwy. 23); and marking the trail’s northern terminus, off Pulaski Street east of Grand Avenue (Minn. Hwy. 23).
g Finlayson – Park on Finland Avenue (County Road 60) immediately west of Front Street. Going south on the trail heads past green farmland in summer.
g Hinckley – The southern terminus of the trail begins at a gravel parking lot along 2nd Street NW (County Road 18) between Old Hwy. 61 N and Root Avenue N. The trail passes the Grindstone Reservoir and dam with a bridge over the Grindstone River.
g Mahtowa – Though there’s no designated parking lot, a number of access paths run from parallel streets, most notably Minn. Hwy. 61 and County Road 141. The trail heading north of town is more wooded that the southern route.
g Moose Lake – Park along Industrial Road between Third and Hickory avenues. Going south on the trail takes hikers across and then along the Moose Horn River.
g Rutledge – Park at the City Hall and Community Center off Minn. Hwy. 23 N., taking a stem trail behind (north of) city hall to the Willard Munger. Heading north brings hikers over and along the Kettle River.
g Sandstone – West of town, park in a dirt pull-off along County Road 27 at the County Road 61 intersection. Either direction takes you through wooded areas and past bucolic farm fields.
g Sturgeon Lake – A dirt parking area sits off of County Road 61 north of 2nd Street. Going south takes hikers into General C.C. Andrews State Forest.
g Thomson – Parking is available off the west side of County Road 210 south of Dalles Avenue and north of the trail. Heading west on the trial brings you past some rock formations and to a bridge over the rapids-laden St. Louis River.
g Willow River – A parking lot is located at the end of Church Street, west of County Road 61. The north-bound trail heads into the General C.C. Andrews State Forest.

A branch of the Willard Munger, known as the Alex Laveau Memorial Trail Segment, runs from Carlton through Wrenshall east to Minn. Hwy. 23. Major access points for this segment include:
g Carlton – Use the lot along County Road 1 (Third Street) between North and South avenues; walk south along the side of County Road 1, accessing the trail after crossing Otter Creek. Head southeast through wooded areas and rock outcroppings.
g Wrenshall – On non-school days, park in the Wrenshall Elementary lot northeast of the building; walk southeast on Pioneer Drive for an access road to the trail. The southeastern route runs through a nice mix of forest and farmland.

Learn more about nearby day hiking trails in my Day Hiking Trails of Northeast Minnesota guidebook.