Visitor’s Guide

Click HERE for visiting Spring Count (March-May) on West Skyline Parkway

Fall Bird Migration (September-October) Information

We love our visitors, but as everyone is aware, these are exceptional times for the safety of everyone with COVID-19. We encourage visitors at Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve (on road and trails) to stay safe and keep others safe by following physical and social distancing guidelines outdoors. The National Recreation and Park Association put together a statement HERE for safe use of parks and open spaces following guidelines set by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
As we look ahead to the fall migration season at Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve, there is still much uncertainty due to COVID-19 with our funding sources, staffing, programs and events. The good news is that birds will continue to migrate, even though the experience may be different for us. The health and safety of staff, volunteers, members, and visitors will remain our top priority.  With Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve being an outdoor space, we plan for it to continue to be open this fall to view and learn about the migration. We are currently working with the City of Duluth on these details and will keep you informed of what you’ll need to know about visiting via our e-news and website. We appreciate your understanding and look forward to connecting with you again soon!

When is the Best Time to Visit?

Hawks begin migrating past Hawk Ridge in mid-August and continue through November. The “Big Days”, when we can get tens of thousands of Broad-winged Hawks flying over, generally occur from September 10-25.

October is great for viewing the migration, too, as we get good numbers of the “big” birds…Bald and Golden Eagles, Rough-legged Hawks, Red-tailed Hawks and Northern Goshawks. Naturalists are on site from September 1 through the end of October. Click here to see the raptor count numbers.

Hawkwatching, unlike most other wildlife activities, is best during the middle of the day. Generally, the raptors don’t start flying until 8am, and they taper off after 4pm. So plan your trip during the middle of the day: between 10am and 2pm is best.

Weather plays a huge factor in the quality of the flight–in fact, it’s MORE important than the date. Winds from the west or northwest are best for bringing us big numbers of birds. If you come up on a day with south or east winds, expect the flight to be slower.

NOTE:  Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve is open for public use year-round; however, the majority of East Skyline Parkway is closed/not maintained from December 1 – May 1. Hawk Ridge staff are only present at Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve during the fall migration.

What Activities are Available?

Naturalist staff & volunteers are on site daily from 9am-4pm, September 1 – October 31.

The overlook staff is also on site to help with raptor identification, answer questions, and sell Hawk Ridge merchandise. Regularly scheduled public programs are also available throughout the season. If you are bringing a group, consider scheduling a group program.

Hiking Trails – CLICK HERE for map (please note road is closed December 1 – April 30)

Raptor Resources?

We have a number of resources to help you better identify raptors in flight and learn about their natural history. Just print them off and bring them with you!

Regular bird guides are not much use in identifying raptors in flight, so here are some other resources WE USE & RECOMMEND:

  • Sutton, Dunne & Sibley’s HAWKS IN FLIGHT: this contains a lot of text about identifying raptors in flight based mainly upon silhouettes and behavior. The really bad photos in the back are perfect for testing your skills–after all, do we get GREAT looks at all the birds moving through?
  • Wheeler & Clark’s A PHOTOGRAPHIC GUIDE TO NORTH AMERICAN RAPTORS: filled with excellent photography of raptors, not only in flight, but also perched. Includes information on identifying raptors not only to species, but also to age, morph, subspecies, race and sex.
  • Liguori’s HAWKS FROM EVERY ANGLE: again, a lot of great photographs and text. This is a halfway point between the previous two books, focusing on flight, behavior & silhouettes through text and photographs.

What do we Need to Bring?

Binoculars are a must! At times the hawks are so far away, or are soaring so high that they are impossible to see with the naked eye. The overlook staff has binoculars to loan.

Dress for the weather! Weather is always more extreme at the Main Overlook on Hawk Ridge. Make sure to bring warm, windproof clothing. Of course, it does get sunny & hot on the Ridge, too, so bring some sunscreen & a hat with a brim in case of balmy weather (but don’t worry about this in late October!). Don’t forget a snack and beverage.

Bring a chair! We do not provide seating, although there are large rocks available on a first-come, first-served basis.

If you plan to do any hiking on the Hawk Ridge trails, hiking boots are a good choice; at the very least, tennis shoes must be worn. The trails are very rugged.


The land at Hawk Ridge belongs to the City of Duluth and there is a leash law within the city limits. Although we love dogs, we do not encourage people to bring their dog to Hawk Ridge, especially on busy weekends.

If you need to bring your dog along, we ask that you keep your dog on a short leash (4′ maximum). Dogs that bark or are not friendly toward adults, kids or other dogs MUST NOT be brought to Hawk Ridge. Calm, friendly, quiet, well-behaved dogs are welcome.

Hawk Ridge provides plenty of opportunity for dogs to get into trouble–there are a lot of children, food, expensive scopes on tripods and birds in the hand. Please be vigilant. Also, come prepared to pick up after your dog.

Bringing a Group?

In order for your participants to get the most out of their visit, consider scheduling a group program. Our general program, the Hawk Ridge Primer, gives an overview of the history of Hawk Ridge, the migration, the research programs, how to identify raptors, our purpose–and possibly (hopefully) includes a bird in the hand!

If you choose not to schedule a group program, we recommend bringing along a knowledgeable guide to inform your group about Hawk Ridge, the migration and the birds. There may also be demonstrations with live, banded birds taking place during your visit.

Note that staff/volunteers are not available to speak to your group on spur of the moment, nor can they do such talks/programs for free. Hawk Ridge is self-supported. Help support Hawk Ridge AND get the most out of your visit by scheduling a group program!

Cost and Parking?

There is no charge to visit the Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve. If you enjoy your experience, we encourage you to become a member or contribute a donation to help support our organization. Hawk Ridge is a non-profit organization that is supported through memberships, donations, adoptions and merchandise sales.

The main overlook is located along Skyline Parkway, a city roadway in Duluth. Access is by car and parking is available along the roadway near the main overlook. Handicapped parking is available at the main overlook. Busses and other large vehicles can drive through the main overlook and turn around at a large parking area a little over a mile past the overlook. Complete directions can be found here.

What Amenities are Available?

There is no building at Hawk Ridge; everything is outdoors, and the main overlook is located on Skyline Parkway. Skyline Parkway is open from late spring through late fall, although the nature reserve is never closed and can be reached by hiking when the road is closed.

A portable toilet is also available during the fall season.

Image Credits: Debbie Waters