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City of Duluth page, including ski trail map

When local mountain-bikers talk about "Lester" or "Amity," they usually mean The City of Duluth's Lester-Amity cross-country ski trail, which includes maps at many junctions, or a series of fast, flowing trails along Amity Creek originally created by a couple of serious riders who saw an unused resource, had the knowledge and skills to do something about it, and took the initiative.

Now that the trails have been officially recognized by the city as multi-use (for bikes, birders, runners, hikers etc...) they are being much more wisely and soundly built—mindful of sustaining the land's natural features, and able to withstand the unique version of stress mountain-biking puts on such terrain. They're often difficult to navigate till you've ridden them with someone who knows all their loops, branches, and possibilities. They also get less walking traffic than do less-challenging trails.

It is a significant problem on Lester's ski trails. Many people run or walk the trails, often with dogs (who are often off-leash), in the spring, summer, and fall, and multiple bad things can happen when mountain-bikers, dogs, and human beings unexpectedly encounter each other while moving at various rates of speed.


Duluth XC Ski Club President Patti Harveaux says that while the club "does not have an official position toward MTB use on ski trails, it would be safe to say most skiers don't mind it as long as it doesn't damage the existing ski trails."

We'd be self-righteous if we said to stay off the Lester ski trails, because we've ridden them, but we're saying it anyway. While it's frustrating not to ride all the tasty terrain possible, it's also true that there's enough approved trail to keep you occupied. If you're one of the handful of people who can ride all of Duluth's approved trails in one outing, and complete them cleanly enough that you become bored, put some of your energy into working with COGGS to create more opportunities.

 Whatever you do, please be very careful, and remember that sharing the trail doesn't mean expecting the right-of-way. You're representing all other mountain bikers, and in some circles our image isn't 100 percent positive.

Directions to singletrack parking

Take Superior Street east to Occidental Boulevard (Seven Bridges Road). Turn left (up) Occidental. Follow it to a small parking area just below the sixth bridge (the second one down, if you're starting from the big parking area a few hundred yards up the road. Many other access points and parking possibilities exist. Ask around.

Miles of trail

Anyone's guess. Six or seven? Less? More?

Terrain range and difficulty

Intermediate to expert (soon to be beginner to expert). Descents toward creeks and bridges, especially, are most-wisely walked by all but the most-skilled riders.

Rider insight

"Lester [which is how most Duluth riders refer to the ski trails] feels like North-Shore stream country," says John Morrison.

Which makes sense, because it is.

Like many other riders, Marshik, Glisczinski, Morrison, and Mike Reuter have great affection for a two-hour-plus (depending on route, speed, and rest particulars) ride that starts in Hartley Park, takes a connecter from Owatonna Avenue in the Woodland part of town to Jean Duluth Road, jogs over to Amity Road, and catches a horse trail that leads to the parking lot at the junction of Hawk Ridge Road and the top of Occidental Boulevard.

"Doing Hartley and Lester together is a great ride," Morrison says. "You can spend 90 minutes in Hartley, if you ride it really well, then take 30 minutes to get to Lester, then Lester can easily be another 90 minutes, depending on what you ride and how fast you ride it."

Morrisson says, "There are two or three places on that connecting trail, just little bumps, where you can catch a bunch of air."

He also cautions, "You have to be careful to avoid the crap on that horse trail. We were single-file on a ride with all our St. John's buddies a couple summers ago, and we'd lead guys behind us right into piles."

Marshik says, "The horse trail flattens out enough that it's a bit slow on a single speed. It becomes a social ride. After that brief section where Hawk Ridge Road meets Seven Bridges Road [Occidental] you can dip into the Amity singletrack [which is how the, uh, unofficial Amity singletrack is referred to], and that first 200 yards of trail is as scary and dangerous as any section of trail I've ever ridden. For me it's a benchmark. If I ride that clean, it's going to be a good ride."

"I always ride through that section with the expectation that it's going to cost me a hundred bucks in parts," Glisczinski says. "All points of contact are basalt, not wood. It'll cost at least three chainring teeth."

Marshik says, "To the east [down] it's expert level. To the west [up] it's beyond rideable."

"I always think, 'This could mean a broken hip,'" says Reuter.

Marshik continues: "So once you get through that, it's 20 yards on Seven Bridges, then a right turn into the hill that starts the singletrack–right across from the second bridge down."

From that point on it's flat-out flying!

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Posted by: Pat on 08-14-2012

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