Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Plenty of child-friendly day hikes await in Duluth-Superior region

Swinging bridge at Jay Cooke State Park. Photo courtesy of Minn. DNR.
Waterfalls, a historic lighthouse, a swinging bridge and more sit along child-friendly day hiking trails in the Duluth-Superior region.

The largest metro area in the northern sections of both Minnesota and Wisconsin offers a plethora of day hiking opportunities that families will love. Among the highlights:

The highest waterfall in Wisconsin and the fourth highest east of the Mississippi River, Big Manitou Falls drops 165 feet at Pattison State Park south of Superior. The Big Manitou Falls Overlooks Trail runs 1-mile round trip to the lip and then the base of the grand falls.

Some 500 million years ago, a fault line stretched from what is now Ashland to near Minneapolis-St. Paul, leaving rocks at 50-60 degree angles. Today, four waterfalls – Snake Pit Falls, Lower Amnicon Falls, Upper Amnicon Falls, and Now and Then Falls – sit on the fault line, all accessible via a pair of unnamed but well-groomed trails (combined 1.5-miles round trip) that includes a covered bridge across the Amnicon River at Amnicon Falls State Park east of Superior.

Historic lighthouse
Day hikers can explore one of the nation’s most famous lighthouses and enjoy impressive cliff top views of Lake Superior on Minnesota’s Split Rock Light Station Trail. The 0.8-mile trail is a collection of walking paths around the historic Split Rock lighthouse. Perched atop a 130-foot high solid rock cliff overlooking Lake Superior, Split Rock is among the most photographed lighthouses in the country. The Minnesota Historical Society operates the 25-acre site in Split Rock Lighthouse State Park north of Two Harbors.

Swinging bridge
Day hikers can cross a swinging bridge above a raging river running over nearly 2 billion-year old rock on the East Ridge Trail at Minnesota’s Jay Cooke State Park. The 1.5-mile round trip trail is one of about 50 miles of hiking paths through the park just southeast of Cloquet.

Bird show
Fantastic views of Lake Superior and raptors migrating along the shoreline await day hikers of the Ridge Loop Trail in Duluth. The 0.7-mile trail reaches the highest elevations in Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory, a 315-acre nature reserve on Duluth’s north side. Established during the early 1970s, Hawk Ridge is now an internationally-renowned site for watching raptors with visitors from more than 40 countries.

Scenic woods
In the middle of northern Minnesota’s largest metropolitan area sits a pleasant woodland with a pond and vista point perfect for day hiking. Several unnamed trails run through the Bagley Nature Area, which sits on the northwest corner of the University of Minnesota Duluth campus. The 0.95-mile round trip Rock Pond and Hill Hiking Trail takes you past each of the nature area’s major features: Rock Pond, Rock Hill, woodlands, and Tischer Creek.

Related articles:
g List of Duluth day hiking trails
g List of Superior day hiking trails

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