In a world of video games, when my eight year-old boy says he wants to go mountain biking, I drop everything and go. The great thing about the Piedmont Trail system in Duluth is that you get a full-blown adventure and it’s in the middle of the city.
My son, Sam, and I hit these trails last September to see what we could see. We drove up to the trailhead off Hutchinson Road. He saddled up on a bike with front-suspension. I climbed on the old hard-tail Bridgestone MB-1 from the early 90’s. My bones are brittle. I should be the one with the suspension.
We had a gentle introduction to the trails as we climbed mildly away from the lot. Then we got to have some fun. Some exposed ledge rock and single-track were our games as we worked our way through the poplars. I’d stop periodically and let Sam catch up. While I caught my breath, I was amazed (as I always am in Duluth parks) how you can feel lost right in the center of a big town.
We swigged some water at the low point of our loop and started back uphill. Pretty challenging terrain for a kid…and for his dad. We broke out into a nice open meadow with an awesome view of Enger Tower in the distance. We ended the day with a nice downhill run through a green tunnel of trees back to the truck. A nice day.
I recently asked Adam Sundberg, chairperson of Cyclists of Gitchee Gumee Shores (COGGS), what the best trails for beginners and kids would be at the Piedmont system. COGGS was primarily responsible for the development of these new mountain bike trails. He said that Piedmont is generally a “hard trail” for beginners. He did highlight the easiest trails there, and luckily, those were the ones we tried. Our small sample of this ten mile system started at the Hutchinson Road access and took the Scarface, Scarface Bypass, Stovetop (Upper Burner), and Deerslayer trails. Adam also recommended the whole Stovetop Loop, including Lower Burner, as being among the easiest at Piedmont.
Adam pointed to Lester Park trails as the best place in Duluth for beginners. He said, “We have projects lined up for trail expansion in Brewer Park, Mission Creek and Spirit Mountain. All of them will be aimed at creating something more doable for a newer rider, including kids.”
COGGS built the bulk of the Piedmont Trails in 2008. Adam commented that they’re “98% done” after they added one of the last sections of boardwalk to the Piedmont system in April of this year. These trails are a huge addition to the choices for mountain bikers at the head of Lake Superior. Even though it’s challenging, one newbie still had a blast at Piedmont. I asked Sam what he remembered of our ride last fall. He said, “I got covered with mud and scrapes, but I was still having fun!”
Cyclists of Gitchee Gumee Shores: http://www.coggs.com/
Duluth Area Cycling Guide: http://www.bikeduluth.com/