Duluth’s All Weather Trail for Mountain Biking

A Place to Ride in All Weather Conditions

By Dave Grandmaison

Most of us know that when Duluth’s mountain bike trails are wet… they’re closed. During certain times of the year – particularly the spring when we’re the most anxious to hit the trails – snow melt and/or rain can soak the trails and we have to wait. “Riding wet” can cause a lot of damage and, in some cases, ruin the trails for the season if the damage is serious enough. This is bad… real bad. When the trails are wet, responsible mountain bikers looks for alternatives to our favorite Duluth Traverse sections. Some pedal the pavement – in the early spring this is a great option for getting a jump start on your summer riding – others attend spin classes to tide them over until the trails dry out. It’s a tough waiting game but absolutely necessary for good trail stewardship.

Well, one local Duluth trail could solve this problem and eliminate some of the wait… it’s a vision for Duluth’s first All Weather Trail.

Related: A Resource for Duluth Trail Conditions

What is an All Weather Trail?

Simply put, all weather trails are biking trails that can be used in a variety of weather conditions. All weather trails have been improved with any of a variety of techniques that help to prevent prevent damage in wet conditions without negatively affecting trails when they are dry. Essentially, the trails are hardened and constructed in such a way to support high-volume trail usage in wet trail conditions. The International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) has some information on the various “hardening” techniques, some of which include: topographic modification to maximize drainage and drying, foundation modifications usually achieved by excavating soil and adding stone, or surface modification that add gravel-like substrates to harden the surface, or (like in the photo below) elevated wooden structures.

elevated wooden mountain bike trail in Duluth

Duluth’s Effort to Build an All Weather Trail

According to a RFP submitted by Duluth Parks & Recreation in October 2016 (and listed on The Professional Trail Builders Association), The City of Duluth and Spirit Mountain Recreation Area are seeking an experienced and qualified trail designer to provide design and layout for roughly 5 miles of all weather mountain bike trail at Spirit Mountain. This trail will be hardened and constructed to support high-volume trail usage during wet trail conditions.

A promotional piece distributed by Spirit Mountain for the upcoming Frosted Fatty weekend – with proceeds going towards funding the All Weather Trail – states that “…we [Spirit Mountain] are in a position to be the first area east of the Mississippi to construct and maintain an All Weather Trail. This trail will allow for all weather riding – the missing component for making Duluth a true mountain biking mecca.

Frosted Fatty

All Weather Trail Stats

  • 4.6-5.0 miles of purpose-built mountain bike trail with cross country uphill return
  • Course hardened to support high-volume trail usage in all weather conditions
  • Downhill section that serves as a beginner-level trail
  • Neighborhood trail center for Norton Park
  • Race venue for regional- and national-level events
  • Estimated project cost: $310,000
  • City of Duluth contribution: $150,000
  • Spirit Mountain to fund the remaining $160,000

About the Frosted Fatty Bike Festival

The 2017 Frosted Fatty Bike Festival is scheduled for March 4th & 5th and will feather cross country, down hill and dual slalom races with over 300 expected participants. The goal of the event is to raise money for the All Weather Trail. We hope to see you there!

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If you’re interested in learning more about our guided mountain bike trips, please visit The Duluth Traverse Mountain Bike Adventure Page and consider booking your next adventure with The Duluth Experience!

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