Warning: Undefined variable $is_cron in /home/customer/www/mntrails.com/public_html/wp-content/plugins/resmushit-image-optimizer/classes/Controller/ProcessController.php on line 42
Cycling Duluth’s Skyline Parkway - Minnesota Trails

Cycling the Skyline

Oct 15, 2021Biking, Scenic Byways

Visit our trail-friendly sponsor!
Recharge your spirit as you explore hundreds of acres of tranquil parkland and miles of peaceful trails in Janesville, WI

By Molly Hoeg

This is home territory.  In fact, Skyline Parkway crosses the foot of my driveway.  I grew up going on family drives along Skyline, a Scenic Byway that runs the length of Duluth at the crest of the hill.  More recently, I’ve made it an annual cycling ritual to traverse its length, but this was the first time I’d truly done it end to end. Skyline Parkway was built in stages, primarily between the 1880s and 1940s.  It grew from the center, reaching outward to the city’s east and west limits.  As a result, there is great diversity in its environs.  I was about to experience one of its extremes.

A woman rides a bicycle on the Skyline Parkway Scenic Byway in Duluth on a sunny day

Traveling from west to east, I started at Beck’s Road.  This piece was new to me, but I already knew what lay ahead.  As soon as I entered the Snively-Magney Natural Area the parkway became a rough gravel road with plenty of hills.  But I was rewarded for the extra effort and bumpy ride with intense quiet, a patchwork of greenery shading the road, and wilderness seclusion. 

A woman rides a bicycle on the Skyline Parkway Scenic Byway in Duluth on a sunny day

The view from Bardon’s Peak Overlook clinched it, commanding well over 180-degrees of scenery.  Down below the St. Louis River snaked through the landscape, presenting a real-life map of its journey into the harbor.  On that rare calm day, glossy smooth water mirrored its surroundings.  The awe carried me up and down the hills through the Spirit Mountain recreation area and back onto blessed pavement.

A woman rides a bicycle on the Skyline Parkway Scenic Byway in Duluth on a sunny day

I tend to think of Skyline Parkway in sections, perhaps representing segments of construction and the loose connections that link them together.  Once past the Thompson Hill Information Center, I entered another woodsy stretch.  But this was different.  It was an urban wilderness.  The road snaked atop the hill, teasing me with brief views of the river and harbor through the leaves or occasional gaps in the trees.  Dipping inland a hairpin curve took me along Keene Creek, accompanied by the music of splashing water tripping over rocks in the woodland stream.

A woman rides a bicycle on the Skyline Parkway Scenic Byway in Duluth on a sunny day

For the longest time Enger Tower perched on the hilltop, a miniature turret in the distance.  Yet suddenly I was there.  A short hill took me to the base of the tower and the center of a lush Japanese garden.  Visitors wandered the sculptured grounds and climbed the tower while I savored a break from cycling.  Resting atop a giant boulder seemed appropriate.  The same monolithic rocks are a signature characteristic of Skyline, lining the parkway as a protective barrier.

A woman rides a bicycle on the Skyline Parkway Scenic Byway in Duluth on a sunny day

Beyond Enger lay a transition portion, passing the center of town and the Park Point strip of land stretching out in the distance to enclose the Duluth harbor.  This was neighborhood cycling, ranging from opulent houses perched on the edge of the hill with spectacular views to crowded narrow homes built upwards to grab glimpses of the lake.  A dive back into the woods took me over Chester Creek and more waterfall sounds before suddenly landing at the University of Minnesota, Duluth.  Appropriately named “the gap,” this section pragmatically travels the perimeter of campus and makes its way over to the next scenic segment, Hawk Ridge. 

A woman rides a bicycle on the Skyline Parkway Scenic Byway in Duluth on a sunny day

Once again on the wooded lip of the hill the surface transitioned to a firm dirt road, reminding me that I was passing through a Nature Reserve.  With two large overlooks, I had plenty of opportunity to ogle the sweeping panorama.  The main viewing spot is also home to the Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory, which is a major attraction for avid birders and sightseers when tens of thousands of migrating hawks and other raptors pass overhead daily in the fall.  Hiking and mountain biking are also popular on the abundant trails that traverse the area.  But nobody can resist the view.  This time verdant neighborhoods lay below cloaked in a canopy of leafy trees, and beyond was an endless expanse of blue.  Lake Superior glistened in the sunshine and massive shipping vessels shrank to toy size in its vast waters.

A woman rides a bicycle on the Skyline Parkway Scenic Byway in Duluth on a sunny day

It was time to come down off the hill, and Seven Bridges Road provided a secluded conduit for coasting down to lake level.  Criss-crossing Amity Creek, the smooth twisty, windy road actually passed over eight stone arch bridges.  The stately structures were originally built in 1912, faced with stone from the creek bed or quarried nearby and topped with pink granite from St. Cloud.  All have been recently restored or rebuilt.   Trees met overhead and trails led enticingly into the woods on each side.

A woman rides a bicycle on the Skyline Parkway Scenic Byway in Duluth on a sunny day

My final destination awaited.  Brighton Beach seemed an appropriate finale, its topography ranging from tabletop boulders to malleable rock beaches and Lake Superior lapping at its shore.  In twenty-five memorable miles a whole city had passed under my bicycle tires while I perused the sights below.  I can’t wait to do it again.

This story first appeared in the 2018 fall edition of Minnesota Trails Magazine

Molly Hoeg

Molly Hoeg

Molly Hoeg is a freelance writer and outdoor fitness enthusiast from Duluth Minnesota. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her outdoors, running, cycling and cross-country skiing, or pampering her five grandchildren. Since retiring, Molly and her husband, Rich, have taken up bicycle touring, spending about a month each year traveling on their own by bicycle and have pedaled over 11,000 miles together. Molly blogs about their trips at SuperiorFootprints.org and is writing a book about the ups and downs of constant togetherness at 12 miles an hour.

Visit our trail-friendly sponsor!
Ski, Snowboard, Fat Bike with a lift assist at Detroit Mountain!
Love the Life in Luverne, Minnesota and take a spin on the Loop Trail around town and into Blue Mounds State Park
Brainerd is in the heart of Minnesota's Lake Country
The Scenic Shore 150 Bike Tour is a two-day, 150-mile, fully supported cycling event that is open to riders of all ages and abilities.
The Mesabi Trail connects Minnesota's Iron Range with the Boundary Waters

Keep up with the latest MN Trails news and events in our newsletter

About me

I’m Jan, the publisher of Minnesota Trails Magazine. I’m looking for that one trail, the next ride, a new discovery and other reasons never to sit still in Minnesota.

Save

Visit our trail-friendly sponsor!
Explore Minnesota State Parks this summer and find what's out there!

More stories:

Must-Do Bike Rides in 2024

Road, trail, gravel, you name it. Take a look at our list of 2024 bike rides and mark your calendars!

Adventure Report: Kensington Rune Stone Park

Recently, the Trails team gathered its own band of explorers in search of the truth, but only found a great day outside on well-groomed trails-without bloodshed.

New Mountain Bike Trails at Cuyuna

Advanced and expert mountain bike riders now have 10 miles of new trails to ride at the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area

Trail Pairings: Bank Brewing in Hendricks, MN

This is the first entry in my new series called Trail Pairings, where I visit a place, explore their roads and trails and visit the local taproom so I can recommend a beer to go with it. Someone’s gotta do it.

All You Have to Do is Walk

A multi-day trip on the Superior Hiking Trail brings things into focus for a Texas couple.

February Events at Itasca State Park

Family-friendly events at Minnesota’s iconic state park celebrate exploring the outdoors in the winter.

Pipestone’s Bike Trails Are Worth a Spin

Combining an out and back on the Casey Jones State Trail and a spin on the Indian Lake Trail, we were able to get in a thirty-mile ride.

Lake Bronson Adventure Race

This orienteering-style race is held annually at Lake Bronson State Park. Grab a GPS and a friend and head to northwestern Minnesota.

Trail Pairings: A Trip to Hastings, MN

In our first outing of the year we explore the trails of the river city at the confluence of the St.Croix and Mississippi.

Trail Pairings: Drastic Measures Brewing

A visit to Wadena’s Black’s Grove Park pairs well with an après pint at Drastic Measures Brewing.

Make Your Escape: A Cuyuna Christmas

Writer Tonja Sahaydak spent Christmas with the family in a Cuyuna yurt and went dashing through the snow.

Visit our trail-friendly sponsor!
Cook County, MN is home to the largest cross country ski trail network in North America, totaling over 400 km.

Please join our newsletter mailing list!

It’s your source for sneak previews of the next print issue, new trails to explore, upcoming events and the latest blog posts. We promise to keep it brief, entertaining and relevant and you can unsubscribe anytime. We will not share your info with anyone.

* indicates required