Happy Trails: Park Point Trail straddles the harbor and the big lake

The Park Point Trail has always intrigued me. With the large lake, the fine sandy beach and the old pine forest. It’s a mix of terrains unlike any I’ve encountered in Minnesota.

First, it takes a commitment to make it happen, especially if you’re bridged. Drive to the end of Park Point, park near Sky Harbor Airport, get out of your car, walk to the left side of the airport fence to the point where you feel be entering and you will see the entrance sign for the 4.5 mile out and back trail to the end of Minnesota Point.

It’s a mostly easy flat trail through the pine trees, but the sand dunes make their way for a slow walk. On a hot Tuesday afternoon in late May, there were only a handful of dog walkers, solo hikers, and a sweaty shirtless runner. Birds, mostly gulls, could be heard above but not seen through the towering pines.

Through small side trails, you can decide if you want panoramic views of Lake Superior or sift through some driftwood as you gaze across the Wisconsin harbor.

The ruins of the Minnesota Point Lighthouse can be seen near the turning point of the trail. The lighthouse, also known as the Zero Point Lighthouse, was 50 feet high when it was completed in 1858, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

The sun shines on the ruins of the Minnesota Point Lighthouse as storm clouds fill the sky on May 25, 2021. The lighthouse, completed in 1858, sits near the turning point of Duluth's Park Point Trail.  (Samantha Erkkila/serkkila@duluthnews.com)

The sun shines on the ruins of the Minnesota Point Lighthouse as storm clouds fill the sky on May 25, 2021. The lighthouse, completed in 1858, sits near the turning point of Duluth’s Park Point Trail. (Samantha Erkkila/[email protected])

And then at the very end of the trail is the upper entrance with the red roof top entrance lighthouse visible across the canal. If you’re lucky, maybe a ship will come or go.

On this particular hike there were no ships, but as I turned around I saw large storm clouds looming over Minnesota. I watched the downpour on Duluth Hill and just when I thought I would be spared I found myself running through the sand to hide under a tall pine tree as a hail the size of a cornflower was falling from the sky.

Rain is falling on Duluth Hill as seen from the end of the Park Point trailhead on May 25, 2021. (Samantha Erkkila/serkkila@duluthnews.com)

Rain is falling on Duluth Hill as seen from the end of the Park Point trailhead on May 25, 2021. (Samantha Erkkila/[email protected])

The storm passed quickly, but let it be a warning about being prepared for weather conditions in Duluth, especially while hiking the Park Point Trail. The descent and return trail is different from the others in Duluth which are quite close to civilization and shelters. Aside from an abandoned, graffitied building near the lighthouse, you’re open to the elements.

On my next hike, you can be sure I’ll have a raincoat in my backpack next to my sunscreen, a bottle of water, and a snack.

After emerging from a section of trail shaded by tall pine trees, the Park Point Trail becomes an open area of ​​sand dunes before leading hikers back into the pine forest.  (Samantha Erkkila/serkkila@duluthnews.com)

After emerging from a section of trail shaded by tall pine trees, the Park Point Trail becomes an open area of ​​sand dunes before leading hikers back into the pine forest. (Samantha Erkkila/[email protected])

A small spur of the Park Point Trail offers a scenic view of Lake Superior on May 25, 2021. Many spurs along the trail provide views of both Lake Superior and Duluth-Superior Harbor.  (Samantha Erkkila/serkkila@duluthnews.com)

A small spur of the Park Point Trail offers a scenic view of Lake Superior on May 25, 2021. Many spurs along the trail provide views of both Lake Superior and Duluth-Superior Harbor. (Samantha Erkkila/[email protected])

Lake Superior as seen from Park Point Trail on May 25, 2021. The further you descend the Park Point Trail, the quieter and more secluded the beach becomes.  (Samantha Erkkila/serkkila@duluthnews.com)

Lake Superior as seen from Park Point Trail on May 25, 2021. The further you descend the Park Point Trail, the quieter and more secluded the beach becomes. (Samantha Erkkila/[email protected])

Happy Trails is a regular outdoor column featuring hiking and biking trails around Duluth and Northland.

About Ethel Partin

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