“Biking: Silver Creek Cliff” Northern Wilds, Fall 2007.


Sam said, “I want to ride the Animator!” That’s his bike’s name, red and covered with flames. Grace piggybacked and said, “I want to go, too!” When they want to play outside, the Rules of Brainwashing Your Kids dictate parental compliance. But, this was after a full day already. I knew loading up three bikes and a bike trailer would take longer than the ride itself. Then again, I was curious about a paved trail near our house. And the sun’s up late. Oh, what the heck. When the planets align (a clear weather day, a willing family, and a chance to be a mini-explorer) you just smile and start packing up the gear.

When you barrel up the pavement along the North Shore of Lake Superior, you pass through two tunnels just east of Two Harbors. The first tunnel punches through a wall of rock called Silver Creek Cliff. This tunnel was completed in 1994 and speeds you on your way to Gooseberry Falls, Split Rock Lighthouse and the other mandatory scenery. When the road used to wind around the cliff, the route itself was part of the adventure. What used to be the highway is now a one-mile segment of the Gitchi-Gami State Trail. The long term goal is to connect a paved trail system from Two Harbors to Grand Marais. There are currently only a few segments finished and this is the one closest to Duluth.

We found the parking lot on the right side immediately after exiting the tunnel eastbound. The “Danger: Falling Rock” sign made my son smile as he pedaled uphill. You first cross a dramatic bridge-like structure on the way west up the old roadway. You quickly reach the high point of the trail where there are plaques and signs that show what the road used to be like. We left the roar of the highway behind and were staring off the precipitous ledges at the big blue lake. Sheltered from the west wind and the road noise, it was eerily silent as we looked all the way across Lake Superior to Wisconsin.

There was no time to loiter as my wife and son were enjoying the long downhill run to the west end of the trail. My boy kept going down the road past the west terminus and I had to holler him back. “But I wanted to keep riding until I got tired,” he said. I reminded him that he had to go back up where he just coasted down. We admired the bright blue lupine on the side of the trail. Then we stopped at a dramatic arch over the path that replicates a gateway that was here when the original shore road was new.

We paused for some pictures when we returned to the high point. My wife played goalie to keep the kids from chasing each other off the edge of our perch. Lickety-split we were back at the truck. No screaming to stay or screaming to leave. Victory. On the way back to Duluth, the irresistible magnet of Betty’s Pies pulled the truck to a stop. The Rules of Brainwashing Your Kids also state that a nice snack will make them love an outdoor trip even more. If you’re looking for a quick adventure, try the Silver Creek Cliff section of the Gitchi-Gami State Trail. It isn’t Everest, but you’ve got to take your kid-friendly expeditions when and where you can. Plus, I like pie.

Web Resources

Gitchi-Gami State Trail: http://www.ggta.org/

Betty’s Pies: http://www.bettyspies.com/


About Eric Chandler

Husband. Father. Pilot. Cross Country Skier. Writer. Author of Outside Duluth and Down In It.
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