Now is the perfect time to hike the trails at Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve. According to the Minnesota State Parks and Trails update for October 12th, the Duluth area is currently at 75-100% leaf color change. Most of the trees survived the extreme winds of last weekend with little leaf loss, but it may not be long before lake winds bring them all down. The Reserve covers more than 36o acres of land with many different landscape types from oak and maple groves, to mossy spruce and fir covered ledges, to aspen lined streams. Not only does Hawk Ridge boast some of the best hawk watching sites in North America but it also has some pretty spectacular views!
Following are some details about some of the specific trails at Hawk Ridge and some notes about what you might find there. Each year the trails detailed on our map are remarked with colored paint spots and directional arrows to help keep you on your desired trail. There are many animal paths and improvised trails in this area so be sure to take a map with you when you go. Maps can be printed from our website at hawkridge.org or obtained at the Main Overlook while Naturalists are on duty between 9am and 4pm daily throughout September and October. Some of these trails are rocky and steep as well as a little complicated to navigate so please ask a Naturalist if you have any concerns about trail difficulty level.
|View of Sunrise from Summit Ledges|
Middle and Ole’s Trail (Red)
|Recently uncovered stairs at Ole’s Knob|
Ole’s trail heads away from the Main Overlook and up past the count platform through low brush such as Highbush Cranberry and Serviceberry. It is a beautiful hike over the top of the ridge that leads to a steep smooth rock that has made this area slightly challenging to hike… until now. We recently had a group of students from the College of St. Scholastica help remove invasive Buckthorn and Honeysuckle from this area and they also helped us clear brush from a set of rocky steps that make this area much easier to navigate. The newly uncovered stairs are each marked with a red spot to help visitors become familiar with this path.
|Intersection of Middle (Red) and Amity (Blue) Trails|
This same trail becomes the Middle Trail at
the intersection with the Amity Trail (Blue) and is known as the best way to reach one of our most popular hawk watching sites on the Ridge Loop (Yellow) called Summit Ledges. This trail continues along the top of the ridge over an area called Middle Knob. This high point is a nice place to stop and take in a great panoramic view of Lake Superior. Be sure to look for the red arrows at this point since there are many offshoots from this path that have developed over the years and it is easy to lose your way if you aren’t careful.
Powerline Trail (Purple)
|Pearly Everlasting along Powerline Trail|
The Powerline Trail, as you might expect, follows a set of power lines straight through the park and is a nice direct route if you are trying to reach the high points of the ridge from the Snively Trail. Be sure to pay attention the colored spots on this trail if you are planning to connect to another trail. There are some areas that can seem quite tangled here but the markings will help you sort out your desired trail effectively.
Ridge Loop Trail (Yellow)
|North view from Summit Ledges|
On the Ridge Loop Trail you will find the best place to view migrating hawks in a North Wind, Summit Ledges. This area is situated at the northeast tip of the ridge and allows you to observe many of the birds that wouldn’t be seen from the Main Overlook since they are passing along the opposite side of the ridge. Panoramic views from this loop are the best I’ve seen in Duluth so even if you aren’t looking for hawks here be sure to take in this view! We also offered free guided hawk watching tours to Summit Ledges every Wednesday. Please ask a Naturalist at the Main Overlook for more information.
Spruce Trail (Orange)
The northeast portion of the Spruce Trail offers some great north views and would also be good for watching hawks if the wind is from this direction. White and Black Spruce and Balsam Fir mix with the dampness of the shady north slope filling the air with the mind clearing scent of terpenes. These aromatic compounds that occur naturally in conifer species may have beneficial effects on physical and psychological health and have led to the development of an area of research called Forest Medicine, http://hikingresearch.wordpress.com/tag/forest-bathing/. So if you are feeling out of sorts try hiking this trail for a change of perspective.
|Stairs down to Talus Trail from Spruce Trail|
Talus Trail (Red)
Talus is defined as the sloped portion of a fortified wall and is an appropriate name for this trail. As this trail branches away from the Spruce trail it follows a very steep and rocky descent. Luckily there is a beautiful set of rocky steps built into the hillside that make the descent much easier. They at first appear to be an area of unorganized rubble but are actually very stable and add to the rugged beauty of this area. Beautiful mosses, ferns, lichens, and fungi can also be found in this area. Common Polypody, my favorite native fern species, is a leathery leafed evergreen fern that is abundant among these damp shady rock outcroppings.
Maple Woods Trail (Yellow)
The Maple Woods Trail is the only trail situated below Skyline Parkway at Hawk Ridge. If you love maple trees in the fall then this path is for you. Gorgeous red, yellow, and orange leaves can be found here on the trees and carpeting the forest floor. This trail can be accessed by continuing east on Skyline Parkway and just as you pass the far side of the Main Overlook watch for the post that marks this trail.
There is wonderful overlook on this trail called Old Baldy that can easily be accessed from the road. Continue on Skyline and you will find the east end of the Maple Woods trail a short distance after you pass the school bus turn around area. This turnaround is not marked so just watch for an extra wide area in the road and the trail will just ahead be on your left.
|East view from Old Baldy|
|Well marked tree on a red trail|
These descriptions cover just a few of the many trails that can be found throughout the reserve. There are many other great hikes along those trails I haven’t mentioned. Our Naturalists can give you advice on which trail would be right for you so feel free to ask and be sure to pick up a copy of our trail map from the Main Overlook. If you have a favorite place to hike here, please share that information in the comments section so that others can discover these beautiful places at Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve.
Hawk Ridge Operations Director