Friday, May 16, 2014

Enjoy scenic and historical urban hike along the Duluth Lakewalk

Duluth Lakewalk

Trail hugs Lake Superior shoreline for several miles

Fantastic views of Lake Superior, a historic lift bridge, and a walk on a pier await day hikers of the Duluth Lakewalk.

An urban trail, the Lakewalk runs along the Lake Superior shoreline for several miles in Duluth, Minn. The route described here, about 3-miles round trip, takes walkers past several of the paved trail’s major highlights.

June through August mark the best time to visit Duluth, when lakeshore temperatures provide welcome relief from inland heat waves. Sometimes remnants of piled snow remain in Duluth parking lots past Memorial Day. Still, depending on the year, late May and early September can be pleasant during the day albeit chilly at night.

To hike the Lakewalk, park at the Fitger’s Inn ramp off East Superior Street. Through the building’s backside, head to a platform for a vista of shimmering Lake Superior then take the staircase down to the Lakewalk, which serves as the urban segment of the Superior Hiking Trail. Turn right/southwest.

The first stop is a side trail that passes the Duluth Veterans Memorial. The half-dome pays homage to veterans from the city who gave their life during wars of the past century.

Beyond the memorial, the Lakewalk parallels Interstate 35 and railroad tracks and so can be a bit noisy. Lake Superior’s blue waters and its light lap of the shores as gulls glide overhead will be enough to distract you, though.

Parks, Piers and Lift Bridge
At Corner-of-the-Lake Park, the Lakewalk veers away from the freeway and railroad, heading south along a beach. In the distance is the Aerial Lift Bridge with the Wisconsin shoreline beyond.

At 1.5 miles into the hike, you’ll reach Canal Park and the lift bridge. Before walking over to the bridge, turn left/northeast onto North Pier for the Duluth Harbor North Breakwater Lighthouse (The South Breakwater Outer Lighthouse is on the pier on the other side of the Duluth Entry waterway.). After the sojourn on the pier, head back to the bridge.

A Duluth landmark, the 390-foot-long Aerial Lift Bridge was constructed in 1929. In addition to age, its vertical lift bridge design is rare. It still operates today, rising up to 30 times daily during the shipping season.

Turning back the way you came, head over to the Lake Superior Maritime Center. The center offers displays about commercial shipping and often hosts special events from spring through autumn. Boat and walking tours also are available.

If hungry or should your dawgs need a rest, consider stopping at one of the many restaurants northwest of the maritime center. Then return the way you came to Fitger’s.

The Lakewalk is a dog-friendly trail with bags for cleaning up after Fido or Queenie located at most trail entrances. Benches also can be found overlooking several peaceful vistas of the lake.

Hiking the Lakewalk north
If you want to avoid Canal Park’s crowds, at Fitger’s instead turn left/northeast for a 2-mile round trip hike.

The trail is squished between I-35 and railroad tracks on one side and the lake on the other, so it can be bit noisy until reaching Leif Erikson Park. The park boasts a full-scale wooden replica of a Viking ship used hundreds of years ago (Note: In 2013, the ship was moved until a new shelter could be built for it.).

Near the park’s north side, take the walkway over the railroad tracks north to the Rose Garden (I-35 runs in a tunnel beneath the garden), which will delight your senses. More than 3,000 rose bushes, as well as several other flowers and herbs, grow here.

After enjoying the Rose Garden, return to the main trail via the walkway and head on back to Fitger’s.

Read more about day hiking Northeast Minnesota in my Headin’ to the Cabin: Day Hiking Trails of Northeast Minnesota guidebook.