||5 miles roundtrip
- Views of Lake Superior and Duluth
- Sandy beaches
- Ruins to explore
Park Point, also known as Minnesota Point, is a long sand spit stretching 7 miles across Lake Superior. This trail is in the flattest part of nortoriously hilly Duluth (aka the San Francisco of the Midwest), but this straight trail doesn't need hills to keep you entertained. Not only will you be able to observe the process of ecological succession, a theory about how bare sand transitions to lush forest developed in the Midwest at Indiana Dunes just outside of Chicago, you will also see ruined buildings, massive industrial equipment in the harbor, a lighthouse, and tremendous views of Duluth from afar. The best part is that after your sweaty adventure, you can enjoy some of the best sandy beaches Duluth has to offer and a refreshing dip in Lake Superior.
From the parking area, look for the gap in the chainlink fence near the airport building -- there should be a wooden kiosk next to it. Don't take the wooden boardwalk on the left side of the road as you face the airport; this leads to the beach and there are no connections to the Park Point Trail that don't involve damaging fragile dune grasses. The first portion of the trail is essentially a gravel service road that runs along the airport's fence. The trail veers from this road at about the midpoint of the runway, becoming the sandy path pictured below.
The beginning of the sandy trail
Hopefully your legs are ready for a workout! If you've ever walked on a sandy beach, then you know what to expect. Luckily, only portions of the trail are soft sand. The trail will cut through a bit of forest before entering a clearing with a building. Keep going straight to follow the trail back into the forest. Now you are entering the Minnesota Point State Natural Area, as evidenced by the sign you'll pass pictured below.
The sign marking entrance into the Minnesota Point State Natural Area
You'll notice that this forest is much lusher and older than the previous stretch, with towering white and red pines not different from what you might see at Itasca State Park
or the Lost Forty
. Partway through the Minnesota Point State Natural Area, there will be a side trail on the right leading to a secluded spot overlooking the harbor. Feel free to take a break while sitting by the water there.
After resuming the hike, the trail will eventually emerge from the forest and it will look like the trail splits. Go right to stay on the correct route -- the other way is a use trail leading to the beach. From here on, the rest of the hike will mostly be in open grassland with a smattering of trees. Ahead you will see grassy dunes like pictured below (they almost remind me of Kohler Dunes
Grassy dunes and pines form the unique landscape on Park Point
Past the dunes, you'll pass the remains of a lighthouse on the right, pictured below. The scenery here is my favorite part of the whole hike; when I first hiked past this tower, wind blew cottonwood seeds looking like flurries of snow. Sadly I couldn't grab my camera and take a video before the wind blew the white puffs away.
A ruined tower hidden within the sandy grassland
The trail continues into a short stretch of forest, and there will be another side trail on the right that leads to a beach and some ruins. If you're not creeped out by the graffiti covered buildings pictured below, have some fun and explore for a bit.
This ruined building is an interesting attraction for urban explorers or graffiti aficionados
Another ruined shack covered in graffiti
Across the harbor from the ruins, you will have nice views of industrial shipping equipment (first picture below) and grain elevators (second picture below). The juxtaposition of the pristine nature and dirty industry make the scenery on this hike particularly interesting. During this hike, you can see and hear all forms of transportation: the giant ships blasting their foghorns, long freight trains honking, the roar of the freeway and the harbor bridge, and the ever present aircraft at the adjacent airport.
The hulking industrial complex across the bay
Grain elevators in the distance
Once through this last stretch of forest, you'll be able to see the long concrete jetty at the end of the point marking the end of your hike. If desired, you can walk to the end of the jetty to an elevated platform (be careful here, some of the steps are crumbly) for a closer view of the lighthouse pictured below and of Duluth in the distance. Although you just hiked a distance to arrive here, you'll be able to see people milling about on Wisconsin Point across the channel, a drive-able destination.
The lighthouse at the end of Park Point
After enjoying your accomplishment of reaching the end of Park Point, return by simply following the trail back the way you came. Pay close attention to any parts you may have missed -- I captured the picture below of Duluth's hills from across Lake Superior after missing it on the way there.
The view of Duluth across Lake Superior from Park Point
In conclusion, Park Point is a fun urban hike in a unique part of Duluth featuring both natural and man-made scenery. I hope you enjoy this hike! Let me know what you think in the comments section below, and be sure to use #nocoastbestcoast on Twitter and Instagram after your trip!
Dogs are allowed on leash. This hike is too long for most children to endure, but they would definitely enjoy the nearby beaches and developed park as an alternative. You can hike here all year, and I would expect significantly fewer people when it's too cold for the beach. On a summer Thursday, the beaches were alive with people but there were only a handful of others on the trail (mostly high school/college students home for the summer).
From Interstate 35 in Duluth, take the exit for Lake Avenue and head southeast towards Canal Park. Turn right on Railroad Street, then turn left soon after to continue on Lake Avenue. Continue straight on Lake Avenue, and it will change names to Minnesota Avenue. Park where the road dead ends by the airport.
Google Maps Directions
Parking, Fees, and Facilities
Parking is free! There are no facilities at the parking area by the airport, but there are restrooms and concessions in the nearby Park Point Beach House at the park you passed on your way here.