Monday, May 14, 2012

Munger Trail: Caution, trail work ahead!

If you're looking for a great bike trail in the Duluth area, the Munger Trail is generally the place to go. This spring and summer, however, you might just make some back-up plans

Off in the western stretches of Duluth is the northern terminus of the Willard Munger State Trail. The Munger Trail runs 63 paved miles from Hinckley to Duluth. The last ten miles of the trail must be the most scenic of the whole stretch, as the trail crosses the roaring St. Louis River by Jay Cooke State Park and then descends past canals and through dramatic rock cuts, with sweeping views of the St. Louis River estuary. 

We rode this last stretch of the trail this weekend. Or at least we tried to. We drove to the traditional starting trailhead off Grand Avenue and 75th Avenue west, unloaded the bikes, and headed up the trail toward Jay Cooke. Only to meet a "Trail Closed" sign about one mile in. We returned to the parking lot only to find a small sign on a barrel about the closure. The barrel had been turned 90 degrees away and none of us saw the sign.

This trail closure will be in effect until June 1.

If you want to ride a long way on the Munger Trail now, you have to drive to the 123rd Ave. West trailhead off Becks Road. 

View Larger Map

From there we had a great ride, about ten miles, up to the St. Louis River railroad bridge. The woods were full of blooming large-flowered trillium, and there were violets and bellwort alongside the trail. But as nice as the weather and the flowers were, the trail is definitely in rough condition. As great of a resource as it has been for Duluthians, it's showing its age. White spray paint marks the worst of the bumps.

After the trail is reopened around Riverside June 1, major trail work on the Munger will begin along the trail between Becks Road and Jay Cooke. Right now, much of that stretch is loose gravel. Here's the official word from the Minnesota DNR: 

There will be some delays this summer due to construction on the Willard Munger State Trail between Carlton and West Duluth. The bridge over the St. Louis River in Carlton will be re-decked and approximately one mile of trail will be paved between the Buffalo House and Beck's Road. Currently this section of trail is gravel, so please plan your route in advance. The project will hopefully be completed by late summer.

It's been 25 years of great riding on the Munger Trail...with this summer's repair complete, it will be another 25 years!