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Top 3 Places to Rollerski in the Duluth Area

When I first moved to Duluth a few years ago, I had no idea where to rollerski. My first experience was less than ideal. I hopped on the Condon Park paved trail just east of the UMD campus and took off. Unfortunately for me, There is about 400 feet of steep descent on this trail with multiple road crossings before you hit the bottom. I had to bail into the ditch multiple times on my short adventure. In the hopes that you don’t make the same mistake I did, I made a list of the top three places to rollerski in the Duluth area. As a disclaimer, there are many, many more areas to ski. These, in my opinion, are the best. Feel free to share your favorite places to rollerski in Duluth by emailing me at jordan@northshoreinline.com.

#3 Lester River Road

Description: This is a marvelous stretch of roughly 3.5 miles of freshly paved road. If you start at the Lester Playground, this winding, beautiful road brings you up 460 feet. While this may seem like a lot, it does not feel this way. There are enough rolling hills to make the ski more enjoyable. If you continue up Lester River Road past Strand Road, the road becomes rougher with more cracks. It is still skiable, however. If you go all the way to the top of the hill (Roberg Road), you will have climbed a whopping 644 feet! If you’re feeling ambitious, you can also head southwest on a paved path that leads you to the famous Duluth Lakewalk. If you take this path for roughly 6 miles, you will find yourself in Canal Park. This stretch of trail has a net downhill of roughly 80 feet, so this could be a good recovery segment. There are some amazing views from every part of this route. From the top of Lester River Road, to the Lakewalk, you won’t be disappointed. 

Pros:

  1. The 3.5 mile stretch of paved road on the Lester River Road is incredibly smooth
  2. There is lots of elevation gain, so this is a good hill workout
  3. Traffic is fairly light on the road, and you don’t have to worry about cars on the Lakewalk

Cons:

  1. The stretch after you hit Strand Road going north is all uphill and bumpy
  2. It is a fairly technical route, with lots of hills and turns, so I would consider this to be an “advanced” rollerski segment
  3. There isn’t a solid loop, it is more of an out-and-back type route which can be a bit boring

Distance: 6.3 miles from Lester playground to Roberg Road. Click here for the Strava route.

5.9 miles from Lester playground to Canal Park. Click here for the Strava route.

Road Quality: Overall 6.3/10

View Quality: 7.1/10

 

#2 Scenic Highway

DescriptionThis is the famous stretch of road on which Grandma’s Marathon and the NorthShore Rollerski Race take place. Skiers from all over the country come to ski on THIS section of road! There are many, many places to park along Highway 61. When I’ve gone, I park in the small dirt lot closest to where the scenic highway meets up with the interstate near Brighton Beach. Click here for the address. If you start there and head northeast, you will experience about 5 miles of fresh asphalt with a wide shoulder. After this, the shoulder narrows a bit and the road becomes bumpier, but it is still enjoyable nonetheless. This road will take you all the way to Two Harbors, which is roughly 20 miles away. If you need to get in a long, easy ski, this is the place to do it. The views of the lake are gorgeous, with tons of opportunities to pull over and take some pictures.

Pros:

  1. Stunning views for the entire road
  2. It is very smooth for 5 miles or so
  3. It is incredibly flat, you don’t see this much in the Duluth area

Cons:

  1. There is a considerable amount of traffic
  2. The road narrows a bit after 5 miles
  3. The weather can be very unpredictable at the lake level

Distance: 19.4 miles from Brighton Beach to Two Harbors. Click here for the Strava link.

Road Quality: 8.4/10

View Quality: 9.3/10

#1 Munger Trail

Description: You really cannot go wrong with the Munger Trail. This beautiful stretch of paved trail starts in Duluth and will take you all the way to Hinckley, Minnesota if you desire. The trailhead is in West Duluth, right next to the Lake Superior Zoo and the Willard Munger Inn. The address can be found right here. The trail was recently re-paved, so the first 7 miles or so is very smooth. There is a rough patch from mile 7 to mile 8 before it becomes smooth again heading into Carlton, MN. With stunning cliffs and wonderful overlooks, this is, in my opinion, the absolute best place to rollerski in the Duluth area. There is about 500 feet of elevation gain in the first 10 miles; it is basically a gradual incline for that distance. It is a bit grueling, but definitely doable for any level of rollerskier, beginner to advanced. There are no hills (up or down) that I would consider “scary,” but you can still get a good workout in. It is completely blocked off to traffic too, so you don’t have to worry about getting hit by a car.

Pros:

  1. Blocked off to traffic
  2. Smooth as heck
  3. It goes for a long distance

Cons:

  1. It is basically straight up and straight down without many rolling hills
  2. There isn’t a solid loop, it is only an out-and-back
  3. There is a stretch of trail that is pretty bumpy (mile 7)

Distance: You can go for 70 miles to Hinckley if you desire. However, there is a nice out-and-back that would be a total of 30 miles. You can find that link here.

Road Quality: 8.1/10

View Quality: 7.8/10

Again, I will reiterate that there are a plethora of places to rollerski in the Duluth area. These are just my personal favorites. I hope this article helps out some people who are unsure of where to get their rollerski action in. Feel free to send me your favorite places to rollerski in Duluth! I’d love to check them out. Stay safe out there!