There have been mountain bike trails in Lester, it seems, since the dawn of time. But they used to be a secret. Only found once you’ve pushed through twenty feet of brush to find the trails of Narnia waiting.
My, how times have changed. The City of Duluth has officially recognized the system and with that comes upgrading of the tread, expanding of the boardwalks and bridges, along with the best thing – MORE TRAIL!!
The summer of 2014 officially marked the opening of the first Duluth Traverse section in Lester Park. This beginner-level designated trail marks the eastern most section of the DT. But don’t let “beginner level” lull you into a false sense of security. The new section runs 3 miles from the top of the ridge overlooking Lake Superior down nearly to the big lake’s shore – dropping 400′ in the process! It’s a heckuva ride! Amazingly – the ride up is also a hoot! The layout allows for fast, easy climbing – and even a few descents on the climb! Combine this new section with the pre-existing 6 mile loop of berms and fast-flowing Lester single track – and you’re in for a great ride! When your done – jump in the Lester River or go big and take an ultra-refreshing dip in Lake Superior – you’ll never forget it!
Parking is not limited to the lot off of Lester River Road at the bottom of the system. There are several small lots along the length of Seven Bridges Road (East Skyline Parkway) and a good sized gravel lot at the top. This top lot now has a direct connector to the DT section running the length of Hawk Ridge – the views are spectacular!
“Lester [which is how most Duluth riders refer to the ski trails] feels like North-Shore stream country,” says John Morrison.
Which makes sense, because it is.
Like many other riders, Ryan Marshik, Dan Glisczinski, Morrison, and Mike Reuter have great affection for a two-hour-plus (depending on route, speed, and rest particulars) ride that starts in Hartley Park, takes a connector from Owatonna Avenue in the Woodland part of town to Jean Duluth Road, jogs over to Amity Road, and catches a horse trail that leads to the parking lot at the junction of Hawk Ridge Road and the top of Occidental Boulevard.
“Doing Hartley and Lester together is a great ride,” (Hire a guide!) Morrison says. “You can spend 90 minutes in Hartley, if you ride it really well, then take 30 minutes to get to Lester, then Lester can easily be another 90 minutes, depending on what you ride and how fast you ride it.”
Marshik says, “The horse trail flattens out enough that it’s a bit slow on a single speed. It becomes a social ride. After that brief section where Hawk Ridge Road meets Seven Bridges Road [Occidental] you can dip into the Amity single track [which is how the, uh, unofficial Amity single track is referred to], and that first 200 yards of trail is as scary and dangerous as any section of trail I’ve ever ridden. For me it’s a benchmark. If I ride that clean, it’s going to be a good ride.”
“I always ride through that section with the expectation that it’s going to cost me a hundred bucks in parts,” Glisczinski says. “All points of contact are basalt, not wood. It’ll cost at least three chain ring teeth.”
Marshik continues: “So once you get through that, it’s 20 yards on Seven Bridges, then a right turn into the hill that starts the single track–right across from the second bridge down.”
From that point on it’s flat-out flying!