The Mission Creek Riverside Mountain Bike Trail
By Dave Grandmaison
The Riverside Trail is one of Duluth’s newest mountain biking routes and is located at the southwestern-most extent of the city – approximately 7 minutes from Gary (exit I-35 on Grand Avenue and keep on driving). The trailhead for this 2.1-mile route is located on Highway 210 (a.k.a. Oldenberg Parkway) which branches off of Highway 23 between Fond du lac and the St. Louis River. Look for a pullout on the left approximately 1/4 mile up Highway 210. The floods of June 2012 washed out a section of Highway 210 so if you hit the turn-off for the Thompson Dam Hydropower Facility and the road barriers just beyond, turn around. You’ve gone too far.
The trail was built by Aaron Rodgers and his team at Rock Solid Trails through a grant awarded to the City of Duluth and the Cyclists of Gitchee Gumee Shores (COGGS). Kudos to Rodgers & Crew for designing such a great flow trail on the banks of the beautiful St. Louis River. The Riverside Trail is part of the Mission Creek Mountain Bike Trail Center’s Phase 1 construction. The remaining Phase 1 build-out will be completed in the next few weeks and will add approximately 10 miles of scenic, flow-trail fun to the expanding Duluth Traverse Mountain Bike Trail.
I got the chance to get out and sample the trail this morning and I found it to be well placed, expertly constructed, and super, duper fun to ride. It’s a short segment but I rode it a few times both up and down so don’t feel like you’re wasting your time by taking a drive out to go for a ride. It’s totally worth the trip – and c’mon, it’s only about 15 minutes out from I-35 and Grand Avenue. During the ride, I only ran into 1 rider – Justin from COGGS. We were both smiling from ear to ear!
From the pullout you drop into the trail and begin a twisting and turning, yet gradual climb along the ridge-line above the St. Louis River. The surrounding forest is comprised of basswood, maple, birch, pines and spruce with a nice lush ground cover of ferns – but it doesn’t have that cluttered, dense feeling. Instead the forest is somewhat open; allowing for great rider visibility as well as serendipitous wildlife watching. I saw three deer including two fawns nibbling on plants along the trail. (Let me know if you see any porcupine out there… I love those rascals.)
The trail winds its way up the ridge-line crossing small ravines with the help of a bunch of really nice boardwalks. The trail is smooth – not rocky and technical like parts of the Piedmont trails or overly rooted like some portions of the Hartley and Lester trails. This route is designed – it would seem – for some fast downhill riding with the flow-like feeling of more aggressive downhill trails at Spirit Mountain. So… when I got to the top of the trail (it spits you back out on Oldenberg Parkway), I turned around and rode back down the trail. Epic. Then I repeated the journey two more times!
All in all, I was very impressed with the quality of the route, the trail design and the scenic vistas of the St. Louis River. I think the Riverside Trail is a great trail for riders of all skill levels and makes for a comfortable ride on a hardtail. When you get on a trail like Riverside – or any of the great mountain bike trail systems in Duluth – you really feel a sense of pride and excitement for the kind of town Duluth has become. With the efforts of the countless volunteers, the good folks at COGGS, and the City of Duluth’s Parks & Recreation Commission (to name just a few), our city has truly earned its place as the #1 Best Outdoor Town in America. Stay tuned for even more trails, more adventure, and more fun. After all… this is Duluth!