Rocky cliff on the Superior Hiking Trail

Twin Ponds to Canal Park

I took a couple days off last week with the intention of going camping but our plans fell through. The weather forecast called for thunderstorms and 90°F temperatures. Since this was supposed to be our puppy’s first camping trip, we decided that thunder and heat stroke would probably not be the best way to introduce him to it. As it turned out, the thunderstorms never came and by Friday the temperature was back down to a reasonable 70ºF. It was too late to get a campsite so we had to stay home anyway, but I was determined not to waste my two vacation days. I took the puppy on another hike. This one was a bit longer than the first and a bit more intense.

Superior Hiking Trail in Duluth, MN
Plenty of trees along this section of the SHT, but still a lot of sunlight

The section we did starts where we left off last time, at Twin Ponds, and works its way down the hill, over the Interstate, back under the Interstate, past Bayfront Festival Park and hooks up with the Lakewalk behind the DECC (Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center). The first section of trail was shady nearly the whole time, but this section of the SHT was quite sunny, even though half of it is wooded. Even at only 70ºF the direct sun of mid-day was almost too much to bear for the little guy. He was walking a bit slow when we started on our way back, and so was I since the way back is straight up hill.

This leg of the Superior Hiking trail is very rocky
Half of this segment of the trail is quite rocky and steep. This is a terrible picture of my puppy, but you can see the dish towel I soaked in water and tied around his neck to help keep him cool. It really helped

The start of the section is wooded, quite rocky, and zags downhill through Cascade Park and Point of Rocks Park. Both “parks” are undeveloped and, as far as I can tell, only accessible via the SHT. There are many rock outcroppings throughout the parks where it would be excellent to pause for a picnic, or to take in the sunrise over Lake Superior and the Aerial Lift Bridge in Canal Park. The views are stunning. Since I chose the wrong time of day to hike (noon), we didn’t stop at these areas for very long; the rock was too hot for puppy paws.

Rocky cliff on the Superior Hiking Trail
The trail runs across the top of this cliff, then winds down and loops back under it. There are many places like this to stop for a picnic or take in the views

Once through the woods, the trail crosses Michigan Avenue, then I-35 by way of a foot bridge. On the other side of the highway it turns to go down a ramp, then curves back under the Interstate, following beneath it for a while. This was very lucky because there wasn’t much but hot concrete for the puppy to walk on, all in direct sunlight with no shade at all, and the I-35 bridges overhead made for some much appreciated shade. We stayed there for a bit and then continued on.

Under I-35 in Duluth MN
The trail follows along under some of the I-35 bridges, which provide some nice shade on hot days

When the trail finally emerges from under the Interstate it lands you in front of Bayfront Festival Park, takes you in front of the park for a distance, then turns to go to the Great Lakes Aquarium. It connects there to the Lakewalk, which runs along the bay behind the DECC. At this point it’s supposed to follow a foot bridge across a canal, then turn right to follow the Lakewalk along the bay, then curves left under the Aerial Lift Bridge, and left again to loop back and follow along the shore of Lake Superior for several miles. That day, however, the foot bridge was out. So I had to turn left and walk around the William H. Irvin barge/museum. I could have easily connected back to the Lakewalk/SHT by going all the way around, but since I have walked that many times, and my puppy and I were running out of water, I simply cut across from the bow of the Irvin, through some business parking lots, and straight through Canal Park to the pebble beach (which the Lakewalk/SHT borders).

The Aerial Lift Bridge in Canal Park, Duluth MN
The trail follows the edge of the bay behind the convention center before turning to go under the Aerial Lift Bridge, pictured in the distance, then wrapping around to the left and following the shoreline of Lake Superior for several miles.

Rye and I stood in the cold, refreshing water for as long as we could stand and relaxed for 15-20 minutes until we started back. I had brought a dish towel with me, just in case, and before we left the lake I dunked the towel in the water, rung it out a bit and tied it around Rye’s neck to help keep him cool on the hike back. There has been a lot of new construction in the Canal Park area and one addition near the public restrooms and tourist info building is a water fountain that includes a dish at the bottom for pets! This, if not anything else, should prove how dog-friendly Duluth is. I should mention the dish has small holes in the bottom so the water eventually drains out, meaning there is never standing water boiling in the hot sun. After I re-filled the four water bottles we hiked back under the Interstate, over the Interstate, and up the hill through the woods.

The Superior Hiking Trail crosses over I-35
I-35 and exits, as seen from the footbridge that takes the trail over the highway. The trail then turns down a ramp and goes under the bridges that are seen in the distance here (follow the railroad tracks)

This was a difficult hike for the puppy because of the heat, and the rocky trail up the hill made it difficult for me—well that and my less-than-in-shape lung capacity. I forgot to check the time when we left but we went a total of about 5 miles (half over rugged, wooded terrain and half over concrete paths). Due to the heat we had to stop to let the puppy rest several times for a total of at least 30 to 40 minutes, so I think in total we were gone 3 hours or so, but probably only were moving 2.5 of those hours.

And as always, people, please leave your dog on-leash. Dear Fluffy does not need freedom from a leash as much as he/she needs you to watch his/her back. Whenever a dog does something regrettable, the owner is always heard to say, “I just don’t understand. Fluffy NEVER does that.”

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