Saturday, June 13, 2015

Trail runs along creek overlooks Great Lake

Map of Peace Ridge Trail

Short segment
often named
among best
of Superior
Hiking Trail

Day hikers can traipse along a rugged Northwoods creek then head out of the gorge to a fantastic view of the city of Duluth and Lake Superior on Minnesota’s Peace Ridge Trail.

The 3.4-mile round trip segment of the Superior Hiking Trail opened in 2005. Located in the city of Duluth, it’s easy to reach.

From Interstate 35 in Duluth, exit onto Central Avenue (Exit 252). Go north. Turn left on Highland Avenue. In one mile, the trail street reaches a five-way intersection with a parking lot on the right. Leave your vehicle at the lot.

The trail heads east from the lot. In 0.3 miles, it crosses Skyline Drive, and in another 200 feet, you’ll spot the Superior Hiking Trail marker.

Historic bridge
From there, the route descends into a rugged gorge where rustling Keene Creek flows off the bluff. Such streams are common in Duluth with most having formed at the end of the last ice age about 10,000 years ago.

The trail crosses the creek via a historic bridge. Motor vehicles once used the bridge when this route was Skyline Drive connecting Duluth and Proctor; it was built in 1914.

Next the trail veers northwest, paralleling the creek for the next 300 yards through Oneota Park. This is a rugged portion of the trail, built atop steep clay cliffs. The trail passes a few old structures along the way as well.

After the route then crosses Skyline Drive a second time, and the pathway turns to boardwalk crossing a lowland.

In quick order, the trail climbs out of the gorge through a rapidly changing mixed Northern hardwood forest. Aspen grows at the bottom with sugar maple and ironwood as nearing the top. Keep an eye out for wildlife in the area; whitetail deer and coyotes have been spotted here.

Peace Ridge
After passing a boulder split in two, the trail enters a forest of maples and red oak trees with Pennsylvania sedge as ground cover. This section includes crossing of a second, smaller creek.

At 1.3 miles from the parking lot, the trail at last reaches Peace Ridge in Brewer Park. The open side overlooks western Duluth from Minnesota Point to the St. Louis River mouth on Lake Superior. Among the many visible landmarks are the Enger Tower, Spirit Mountain, and the Aerial Lift Bridge.

The ridge gained its name because of major world events that occurred during scouting hikes for it. The first hike for the trail occurred on Sept. 11, 2001, and the second on Oct. 7, 2001, the day allied forces began bombing the Taliban in Afghanistan in response to the 9/11 attacks. A member of the scouting party suggested the trail be christened “Peace Ridge,” and the name aptly stuck.

The trail briefly re-enters the woods then at 1.7 miles comes to another overlook. This marks a good spot for a picnic or snack. After taking in the views, retrace your steps back to the trailhead.

Learn about trail guidebooks available in the Hittin’ the Trail series.