Saturday, July 1, 2017

The Duluth Traverse Mountain Biking Trail: A guide based on REI's MTB Project and COGGS commentary

In July of 2017 I took my family to the Duluth Traverse. We’re a diverse group, so this took some planning.

I studied the superb work done by the Cyclists of Gitchee Gumee Shores (COGGS) and REI’s MTB Project (Duluth) [1]. And by study I mean a LOT of study. I had a hard time wrapping my head around the relationships of road, trails, interesting sites, places to eat, emergency exit options and the like. So I assembled two booklets about the Duluth Traverse.

By assembled I mean I didn’t write these booklets. I compiled screenshots and text from the MTB Project and Google Maps into booklet form. One covers the enter trail, the other the portion I tackled with my wife and children:

Click the link to download the Word doc. I could distribute as PDF or HTML, but in 2017 every platform seems to be able to render a Word document. And this way you can go the MTB Project site and update it as you wish. The trails are under constant development so you will want to do an updated version.
I expect someone is going to write a real book about this amazing trail system, so do take a look around if you come across this page.
How did the trail go? Well, I didn’t do any harm to my reputation for excess. Maybe if I hadn’t made a wrong turn on the 7 bridges part of Skyline road between Lester Park and Snively we might have done the whole thing, but instead we cut off about 1/4 of our plan and road downhill to the Portland Malt Shoppe. The next day we drove along the route — even the reduced bit we did was an impressive bit of work for a flatlander family. (My wife was heroic.)
I loved Lester Park and I’m hoping I get to do more of the trail system. The Duluth Traverse is a spectacular project. I do have one caveat though. If you are a flatlander you need to make some trail rating adjustments. Basically “dirt road” means “novice”, “novice” means “intermediate”, “intermediate” means “expert” and “expert” means … I don’t know. I wouldn’t go there. 

- fn-

[1] If you try this you will discover Duluth’s weather is as severe as its landscape. It was sunny when my weather app said it was raining, and raining when it was supposed to be dry. You need to review the Coggs trail updates to know what’s rideable. They do allow some trails to be used when they aren’t completely dry.

Update 7/18/2019

This sage advice was posted on a Facebook MN Mountain Biking group by Tara R-A:

If you are the XC type Mission Creek is your best bet or the Duluth Traverse.

If you prefer a climb followed by descending, then start at the base of Lester, climb up Lester River Trail, continue up Hawk Ridge to Morningside, turn around and descend Morningside and Hawk Ridge and continue down on Amity East or West.

If you like more of a technical challenge with lots of rocks, Brewer is a great loop. Park off Haines Road, go through the tunnel under Haines Rd to Lollygagger, do the Homebrew loop and then either go farther on Lollygagger or return to car. Across the street is Piedmont, Upper and Lower Stovetop have lots of B-line option. 

If you like tech, steeps, jumps and drops then any of the black and double black descents off Piedmont, DM, BOB, Kissing Booth would be good choices. Having said that the double blacks are legit double blacks and most have no B-lines. 

I would also say the blacks in Duluth are harder than any in the metro.