Duluth: Adventure Capital of the Midwest
Mountain Biking, Paddling, and More!
By Kris McNeal Adventure Tour Guide
In 2014, The City of Duluth was voted as the Outside Magazine’s Best Outdoor Town in America. Only a year prior, Duluth was designated as Outside Magazine’s runner-up for the Best Outdoor Adventure Hub… in the world!
It appears as though the “cat is out of the bag”. Duluth is an amazing city for adventurous souls and the world is taking notice.
Duluth has more green space than most other cities: 6,834 acres of city parks, 178 miles of wooded trails, 16 designated trout streams, and (of course) Lake Superior – the world’s largest freshwater lake. And Duluth’s best kept secret? The St. Louis River Estuary… the world’s largest freshwater estuary and a great spot for fishing, paddling, and exploring.
The city boasts more continuous miles of purpose-built single-track mountain bike trails than any other city in the nation, and the Superior Hiking Trail winds it’s way across and through Duluth’s many parks as it makes its way up the North Shore. Great climbing opportunities in Duluth and along the North Shore have created a vibrant climbing community. Combine the multitude of dry-land adventures with the amazing paddling opportunities on Lake Superior, St. Louis River, and whitewater opportunities on nearby rivers… it’s no doubt that Duluth is the Adventure Capital of the Midwest.
The real question is… how did Duluth fly under the radar for so long?!
Mountain Biking at Epic Proportions
The international mountain biking community is certainly taking notice – especially now that Duluth has been designated by the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) as a Gold Level Ride Center. This designation is one of only six shared with other adventure cities such as Park City, UT, Boise-Eagle, ID, Oakridge, OR, and Nelson and Rotorua, New Zealand. This honor further solidifies our city’s place in the adventure world and will likely result in increased efforts to develop world-class mountain bike opportunities – both locally here in Duluth and regionally.
Duluth has seemingly endless single-track opportunities and will soon boast the longest urban trail on the planet – The Duluth Traverse. What really seals the deal, however, is Spirit Mountain. Long known for its inter-city downhill skiing and terrain park, Spirit Mountain recently expanded into the mountain biking scene with their Mountain Bike Park. The park offers some of the gnarliest trails in the country, while overlooking Lake Superior and the largest freshwater estuary in the world on the St. Louis River. The park also offers the only lift access mountain biking in Minnesota and let’s face it, there’s nothing better than ripping down trails and then hopping on the lift to do it again and again.
Guiding Companies Make Duluth Adventure Accessible
With Duluth being America’s Premier Adventure City you can imagine that there are some great guiding companies in town with guides who love Duluth and who are eager to share the multitude of adventures with Duluth’s growing population of adventure seekers. These companies help make Duluth’s adventures accessible and convenient and offer all kinds of options to suit just about anyone.
Our own company, The Duluth Experience – has been guiding Kayak Tours, Mountain Bike Adventures, and Scenic Road Bike Trips for a couple of years now. As our Trip Advisor reviews attest, we are the go to team for great service and lots of fun.
But there are other great companies in Duluth – many of whom we love to work with – who are helping to create an amazing adventure scene in this great city.
Our friends at Minnesota Whitewater and Swiftwater Adventures, for example, offer whitewater rafting trips, whitewater kayak lessons and trips, whitewater and wilderness canoe trips, snowshoe and cross-country ski trips, and adventure trips focused on environmental and adventure education.
We also love working with the crew at Vertical Endeavors. They’ve collaborated with us to create an all-inclusive North Shore Rock Climbing Adventure designed to teach rock climbing skills, boost our guests’ self-confidence, and strengthen the personal experience between adventure seekers and Lake Superior’s North Shore.
The folks at Day Tripper of Duluth facilitate adventure opportunities on the water and on the trail. With a philosophy founded on having fun and learning, their team focuses on getting folks out to enjoy the natural wonders that abound on the North Shore of Lakes Superior.
Our partners at Continental Ski & Bike offer a great variety of equipment rental opportunities – from mountain bikes for ripping Spirit Mountain downhill to cruisers for a ride along the North Shore. This local shop has everything you’ll need for a great experience in Duluth. In fact, the crew at Continental is our go-to team for the bikes we use in our own Mountain Bike and Road Bike adventures.
Mountain Bike Tourism is Growing in Duluth
Mountain bike tourism is a relatively new concept in Minnesota and it substantially adds to the incredible adventure opportunities that can be experienced in Duluth. When asked about mountain biking in Duluth and bike tourism, Dave Grandmaison, Co-Founder and CEO of The Duluth Experience explained, “There are endless opportunities for mountain biking in Duluth and new trails are being built everyday. More and more people are coming to Duluth specifically to ride the trails and it’s something that everyone should try when they visit Duluth.”
It’s Time to Visit Duluth
With hundreds of miles of epic single track, amazing city trails, award winning advanced trails and bike lifts at Spirit Mountain, and all this set with the backdrop of breathtaking views of Lake Superior and huge tracts of green-space… Duluth truly is the Adventure Capital of the Midwest.