Hartley has long been the epicenter of the Duluth mountain biking scene. But gone are the days of erosion-ridden, super rocky and rooty trails. The system now features full-on flow style riding not short on challenge. For those looking for a glimpse into the “old school” style of trails – give the Inner or “Blue Pot” trail a go. Due to it’s central location and proximity to both UMD and St. Scholastica- Hartley is VERY well-used. Expect to encounter runners, hikers, dog-walkers and all sorts of other trail users. Employ the help of a local guide to find the “secret” route connecting to the Lester/Amity trails. Connecting these two systems makes for a long and very satisfying day in the saddle. As of fall 2016 most of the route connecting Hartley to Lester has been “improved” and is almost all official trail. The “secret route” does still exist – but is no longer the only way to connect these two systems.
Main parking can be found at the Hartley Nature Center just off of Woodland Avenue.gg
Especially for folks who live in the east or central parts of Duluth, Hartley is a common ride when there’s only an hour (or maybe less) to spare. It gets a lot of traffic.
“I can get a really good Hartley ride in and be home by 8 a.m. if I need to be done early,” says Dan Glisczinski.
“You can just get on your bike and go,” says frequent rider Sherie Nelson, who lives close to Hartley with her husband, Ryan.
“Everyone who rides in Duluth has their spot for their little daily affirmation,” said Ryan. “Hartley is that for us. We don’t want to drive. And I don’t mind riding a lot of laps in the same place.”
“Usually, with mountain bikers who are new to town, I point them toward Hartley,” says Ski Hut and Duluth-trails guru Mick Dodds,” Because it’s centrally located.”
Hartley’s terrain is popular and limited by borders, but don’t be fooled into thinking it’s just a mundane neighborhood default for folks who want a close ride. It’s richly packed with tricky, diverse, satisfying riding, and familiarity only enhances its depth of possibilities. As you improve as a rider, some parts will become easier and other challenges will emerge; its trails are different in the morning than in the afternoon, different in fall than in summer, different when you’re fit and skilled than when you’re fighting your bike and struggling to move forward.
In the last several years, COGGS volunteers have re-routed eroding trails and installed boardwalk in chronically swampy and fragile sections of trail. They have plans for more work.
One of Duluth’s many mountain-biking blessings is the opportunity to link off-road trails, often with very little pavement riding.
That Hartley-to-Lester connector is one version of multiple routes, all of which can be tricky to describe and follow unless you’re riding with someone who knows them well, for riding from one park to the other. The ride is, according to many local cyclists, the best leave-from-your-house mountain-bike route in Duluth.