Duluth is a seaport city alongside the sparkling waters of Lake Superior, which provides many beautiful waterfront views. The third largest Minnesota city has a great deal of protected green space, which is appealing to many outdoor enthusiasts. If you’re looking for an opportunity to exercise your hiking legs, Duluth has great options for trail recreation.
It may be surprising to some that many hiking trails in Duluth have waterfalls, which provide a soothing natural ambiance. If you can handle some elevation gain then you’ll be rewarded with stunning panoramic views of Superior, as well as a solid workout.
Whether you’re new to Duluth or you’ve been living there for years, the trails below will keep you occupied this hiking season. Hidden gems are waiting to be discovered, so lace up your boots and start tackling some Minnesota terrain!
1. Hartley Nature Center Loop
This nature loop takes hikers an average time of 2 hours to complete. The Hartley Center is open year-round and is beautiful throughout all four seasons.
Dogs are more than welcome to come along. There are even some off-leash areas for them to run around freely. You’ll want to watch for mountain bikers, as they can come around the corners fast.
If the trail seems crowded at the beginning, it will clear out the further you continue on the route. Once you reach Rock Nob, you’ll be greeted with a stunning view of the surrounding area.
There is a moderate amount of incline on this trail, with a wide diversity of terrain. Several offshoot trails allow you to add to your overall mileage.
Distance: 5.3 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 429 Feet
2. Chester Park Loop
This loop trail is located inside Chester Park and due to its length, it only takes around an hour to complete. This makes it a great option for a weekday evening hike.
There are some steeper segments on the front half of this trail, at which point the path begins to even out. Even though you’re hiking in the middle of the city of Duluth, you feel like you’re secluded out in nature.
After heavy rainfall, hikers will see multiple cascading waterfalls. The path can get a bit muddy and slippery, so wearing proper footwear is highly encouraged.
Distance: 2.4 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 400 Feet
3. Elys Peak Trail
Elys Peak Trail takes around an hour to complete, less if you’re an experienced hiker. The best time to visit is anywhere from March to October, as the weather will be lovely.
There is some mild elevation gain and some reviews recommend bringing proper hiking shoes and possibly a set of trekking poles. There are some stunning lookout points on your way to the peak, culminating in a panoramic view from the top.
Though this is a shorter trail, there are some challenging segments that keep the hike interesting. The first section of the trail is paved and then it becomes a dirt path with some rocky scrambles.
Distance: 1.7 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 396 Feet
4. Congdon Park
This out-and-back trail takes under an hour to complete, making it a popular option for a quick morning hike. Due to its location in the middle of Duluth, it’s a convenient option for many residents to get out and exercise outdoors.
The best months to visit are from April to November but the park is open year-round. This trail is a forested variety and it follows alongside a small creek. There are several enjoyable waterfalls that cascade down into the creek.
There is an adjacent path for bikes, so hikers don’t have to worry about moving out of their way. Dogs can join in on the fun but take note that they should remain leashed. There are no off-leash areas for them.
Distance: 1.2 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 226 Feet
5. Lester River Trail and Amity East
This moderate loop trail is a great opportunity for hikers to try out their birding skills, as many native species can be spotted here. It’s also a popular route for mountain bikers, so keep this in mind if your dog gets spooked by bicyclists.
If you’re planning a visit around April, keep in mind that the snowmelt can make the path muddy. However, the melting snow can also cause waterfalls — which are an added bonus to the hike.
Even in the winter months, the path is kept well groomed and easy to navigate. You’ll find breathtaking views of Lake Superior, as well as tons of Aspen trees that keep the sun off you.
There are several opportunities to either shorten or add additional length to your hike, by taking one of the intersecting trails. Grab a map before you head out to ensure you know where you’re going.
Distance: 5.1 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 410 Feet
6. Willard Munger State Trail: Duluth to Carlton
This path has easy terrain, as it’s completely paved. The moderate rating comes into play due to the significant length of this segment of the Willard Munger State Trail.
Unsurprisingly, this route is popular with road bikers. Hikers should be prepared to share the path with them and practice trail etiquette when needed.
You’ll see many people out with their dogs, though they should be kept leashed at all times. It’s best to hit the trail earlier in the morning, so you can beat the crowds and the sun. It’s not too crowded on weekdays.
Wheelchair users and families with strollers enjoy using this path to get out and explore. The path is wide enough for everybody to share the trail.
Distance: 14.5 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 698 Feet
7. Waabizheshikana Trail
This out-and-back trail, formerly known as the Western Waterfront Trail, is popular amongst hikers and birders, as well as fishermen looking for a secluded spot. Dogs are welcome on a leash, so long as they don’t disturb those around them.
Sections of this trail are wheelchair friendly, though all-terrain tires or motorized equipment are suggested. The surface of the path is mainly gravel and is around 5 feet wide.
The route follows Kingsbury Creek and has stunning water views. During the springtime, there are many areas of blooming wildflowers to enjoy and take photos of.
Distance: 3.0 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 55 Feet
8. Superior Hiking Trail Loop
This loop trail is located in Brewer Park, a hidden gem within Duluth. The path is well-maintained and has some stunning overlooks that greet hikers with photo-worthy Instagram shots.
There is a cool lake breeze to cool pedestrians off during the warmer months. During the fall, the colors of the leaves begin to change and hikers have the chance to soak in the natural phenomena with panoramic views.
There are overlooks of both the harbor and the city. There are also several different intersecting paths that you can hop onto to extend your hiking mileage.
Dogs are welcome to take part in the trail. Packing extra water (for both you and your pup!) is recommended as there aren’t any refill stations along the route.
Distance: 3.3 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 472 Feet
9. Knife River Trail
This trail is best visited between May and September and you’ll often find that you’re one of a few people there. If you’re looking for a peaceful nature hike, this is a solid option that has some great views along the way.
The pathway is well-marked, though it gets less groomed the further you travel on it. It turns into a backwoods hike. Hikers are rewarded with access to a waterfall and swimming hole to cool off after a nearly 6-mile hike.
The trail has some areas of exposed tree roots, so tread carefully to ensure you don’t trip. Most of the route is fairly flat, though some segments have a moderate elevation increase.
Distance: 5.7 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 357 Feet
10. Park Point
This trail located in Park Point Recreational Area is open all year round and should take around 1-1.5 hours to complete. Due to the water access, this is a popular location for paddle sports as well.
Unfortunately, no dogs are allowed on the trail so your pup will have to stay at home. Reviews mention possible poison ivy on the edges of the trail, so it’s best to steer clear and stay down the middle of the path.
There is a secluded beach area that hikers can gain access to, as well as various pieces of driftwood that make for a unique view. If you want to bring a lunch with you, there are picnic tables available.
Distance: 4.5 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 32 Feet
11. Superior Hiking Trail and Deerslayer Trail Loop
This loop trail is another great option in Brewer Park. Hikers can expect to dedicate an average of 2 hours to complete the route, which is also popular among mountain bikers and trail runners.
The pathway has lots of clear signage, so there’s very little opportunity to get lost. If you arrive earlier, there are often wildlife sightings to be had.
This is a great route for when you’re wanting to explore a forested area that is relatively quiet. The trail surface does have some sections of rock and roots, so keep your eyes on the path to avoid tripping.
There are several intersecting paths, so be mindful of other visitors crossing over onto the main trail. You can opt to shorten the hike as well if you feel that it’s too long and you’d like to head back early.
Distance: 3.8 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 643 Feet
12. Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory Loop
Unsurprisingly, this is a popular route for birders to spot the various native species that live in these parts. Hikers can enjoy the path too, with the stunning views and overlook vantage points along the way.
Expect this hike to take between 1.5-2 hours, making it a good weekend option. Some segments of the trail are more moderate than easy but they’re completely doable if you take your time and bring extra water.
Though dogs are supposed to remain on a leash, some visitors ignore this and you’ll often see dogs running around freely. Keep this in mind if your dog is reactive to this and plan accordingly.
There are some great views of Duluth and Lake Superior, which is a draw for many people that come to this loop trail. If you come between September and early October, prepare to see a lot of hawks!
Distance: 4.6 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 331 Feet
13. Superior Hiking Trail to Spirit Mountain
This out-and-back trail begins at the zoo and finished at Spirit Mountain, hence the name. It’s not uncommon for the trail to be relatively empty of people, so you may be the only one on the hike.
There are beautiful views to be had at the top of the ski hill. You’ll want to keep an eye out for mountain bikers, as hikers occasionally have to step off the path for them to pass by.
During the muggy months, you’ll want to pack bug spray so you can keep the mosquitos and other insects at bay. It’s also recommended that hikers be wary of slippery rocks, as there are several small waterfalls.
Distance: 4.6 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 754 Feet
14. Magney Snively Loop
This loop trail is located in Magney Snively Natural Area and should take around 3-3.5 hours to complete. In the winter, it’s a popular route with cross-country skiers.
It can get a bit busy during the warmer months, especially on the weekends. If you’re looking to find a more peaceful hike, reviews recommend that you get an early start.
This trail is mainly forested, which means there are plenty of signs of wildlife in the area. You may get lucky enough to spot some animals if you arrive during the off hours. You’ll also find fields of blooming wildflowers during the springtime, as well as panoramic views of the water.
Distance: 8.0 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 790 Feet
15. Lincoln Park Trail
This out-and-back trail takes under an hour to complete, making it perfect for a quick evening hike after work. It’s popular mainly with pedestrians such as hikers and walkers, so there’s no need to worry about dodging mountain bikers.
During the winter months, there is beautiful snow cover on the ground. There is a bridge that may get icy during the cold weather. Proceeding with caution is encouraged for safety reasons.
There are waterfalls, which provide the sound of running water. This can make for a peaceful hike that allows you to get lost in the natural ambiance of your natural surroundings.
Distance: 1.2 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 255 Feet
16. Bagley Nature Center Trail
This loop trail is located near the UMD campus and takes most hikers under an hour to complete. Though it’s relatively short, you can get a solid workout in on the steeper sections.
It’s mostly quiet on the weekday mornings but you’ll notice an uptick in visitors on the weekends, especially when the weather is nice. The trail is kid-friendly, so feel free to bring the whole family out.
The Bagley Nature Center Trail links up with the Superior Hiking Trail, so you can easily tack on more mileage if you’re looking for a lengthier hike. Pack plenty of snacks and water if you plan to extend your hike.
Distance: 1.8 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 190 Feet
17. Superior Hiking Trail Section from Haines Road
The Superior Hiking Trail is over 250 miles point-to-point and it offers Duluth residents quite the adventure, even if they choose to hike it segment by segment instead of all the way through.
Head on over to Brewer Park to get on the trail and you can hike for hours if you desire. This particular segment takes between 1.5-2 hours and is popular with trail runners as well.
Dogs are welcome but must remain on a leash. There are ticks in the area, so be aware and take the proper precautions to avoid bringing them home.
The path has some decent areas of elevation gain, which provides a challenging workout for hikers. It also includes boardwalks, wooden steps, and rocky sections that may take a bit of patience to maneuver.
Distance: 3.6 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 498 Feet
18. Big Sucker Creek
This out-and-back trail follows Big Sucker Creek, which provides a soothing running water ambiance to your hike. Though the trail isn’t always well-marked, you can simply stick by the creek and you won’t get lost.
There are several private residences in the vicinity, so ensure that you’re staying off their property. It’s unlikely that you’ll see too many other people on this path as it’s somewhat of a hidden gem in the Duluth area.
If you’re lucky, you’ll find some wild strawberries during the peak season. The wildflowers that blossom in June are gorgeous to see and you may find yourself stopping for a few photos.
Distance: 2.3 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 154 Feet