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The Willard Munger State Trail

 
lake along the trail snowmobil fun

•Minnesota United Snowmobilers Association
Minnesota United Snowmobilers Association (Mn USA) was organized in 1978 to protect, preserve and promote the sport of snowmobiling throughout Minnesota through favorable legislation and programs. Through the years, Mn USA has become a state and national leader in recreational support. Minnesota today enjoys over 20,000 miles of snowmobile trails because of combined efforts of local snowmobile clubs, State and Federal leaders, Department of Natural Resources and snowmobile volunteers.

snowmobile 1  Groomers on the trail Senic trail

•Moosehorn Rod & Gun Club
Moose Horn Rod and Gun is a snowmobile club with trails located approx. 40 miles south of Duluth near Barnum and Moose Lake, Minnesota We currently groom nearly 190 miles of snowmobile trails in Pine, Carlton and Aitkin county.These trails run from the Wisconsin border all the way west to Highway 65 south of McGregor. Come explore our trails, they go through a variety of terrain.  From riding through spruce and tamarack stands to crossing on a trestle high over the Kettle River.Many snowmobilers do not realize that they have good uncrowded trails that are so close to home.




Logging Miles


Bicyclists on the Willard Munger State Trail in the 2003 season.

Bicyclists on the Munger trail follow the tracks of local history.

Text and photography by Maureen M. Smith


As we biked the Willard Munger State Trail last May, we coasted down slopes spangled with white blossoms to wide-open views of Lake Superior. Our tires slapped the pavement, like the sound of an old steam engine chugging. Wind piped through our bike frames, like a train whistle blowing.

The sounds made it easy to imagine the historic trains that once roared along this route, carrying loads of lumber and passengers. The railroad first connected St. Paul and Duluth, and once delivered survivors from the disastrous Hinckley and Moose Lake fires.

But those trains stopped running long ago. All that remains of the original railroad is six miles of tracks, with a lone passenger train that takes tourists curving and rocking along the St. Louis River in summer. Bikes and rollerblades leave Duluth on a straighter paved trail, where the railroad ran near the turn of the century. Near Carlton, the paved trail rejoins the original railroad route to Hinckley.

When we saw the junction of the biking trail and the tracks, I marveled at this intersection of past and present. Later I’d examine historic maps to see which railroad route really came first.

To explore this human and ecological history, to glimpse scenery the first rail passengers saw, I wanted to bike the whole 70-mile trail. My trip began on a Greyhound bus, with bike in a box and handlebars jutting out like antlers. My partner, Mark, joined me in Carlton to bike to Duluth and back over a weekend.

As we biked, it looked as though spray-paint gods had speckled the woodsy hills with trillium. We spotted woodpeckers and fox holes; we distinguished gray-barked aspen from white-skinned paper birch.

Quaking aspen leaves fluttered like chimes in the breeze. Musical streams and brooks wove through surrounding ravines. Stout young cedars and taller firs grew out of rocky crags.


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The Willard Munger State Trail

is a collection of multiple use trails between Hinckley and Duluth. It consists of interconnecting trails offering hiking, bicycling, in-line skating and snowmobiling. It highlights the picturesque scenery and rich history of East Central Minnesota. The trail follows the route of the railroad that saved many lives in the historic Hinckley and Cloquet fires in the nineteenth century.


There are three different trail segments in the Willard Munger State Trail: Hinckley - Duluth segment, Alex Laveau Memorial Trail and Boundary segment.

The 63 mile Hinckley - Duluth segment of the Willard Munger State Trail is now completely paved, making this the longest paved trail in the world. The trail extends between Hinckley, Willow River, Moose Lake, Barnum, Carlton, and Duluth. The trail passes near Banning State Park, through Finlayson, Willow River and General C.C. Andrews State Forest, and through the spectacular scenery of Jay Cooke State Park. The northeast portion of the trail provides scenic views of the St. Louis River and the twin ports of Duluth and Superior.

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Mtrail LinkMesabi Trail
A Premier Minnesota Bike Trail

http://www.mesabitrail.com/

Located in northern Minnesota between the cities of Ely and Grand Rapids, the Mesabi Trail is a premier Minnesota bike trail winding through some of the state's prettiest regions. When completed, the trail will traverse 132 miles and connect more than 25 communities.

A superior paved bike trail that is well-mapped and well-maintained, the Mesabi Trail also makes an interesting walking path.

Partially built on old railroad beds, guests will find a 10-14 foot wide bituminous surface (asphalt paving). Great for summer activities such as biking, inline skating or walking, the trail also offers access to swimming, canoeing, camping and fishing. Winter activities may include cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and winter hiking.

Many campgrounds

munger thumb 5 here  Munger thumb 6  Jay Cook Park Thumb 8

Willard Munger Trail Log South

One of the longest trail rides in the state awaits riders of the Willard Munger Trail named after the state representative that served West Duluth for 43 years supporting many environmental and recreational projects throughout Minnesota.

The southern segment of nearly 55 miles, from Hinckley north to Carlton, and the northern segment of about 15 miles from Carlton north to Duluth provides bikers a wide variety of experiences from gambling to rock outcroppings, state parks and lakes.

The southern segment, known as the Hinckley Fire Trail, goes though Finlayson, Willow River, Sturgeon Lake and Moose Lake.

Side trips can be made to Sandstone connected to the Munger with its own part-trail, part-road route and three state parks: Banning, St. Croix and Moose Lake.

Nearly all of the trail is flat and straight on the bed of abandoned railroad right-of-way, although there is one spot (M15) the trail takes a dip and curves. The trail crosses several bridges, skirts ponds, crosses rivers and goes through the woods; there are also a couple stretches that parallel a busy highway.

The last 3.5 miles into Carleton were recently paved and takes riders through a mix of wetlands, woods and even rock before skirting logging operations.

Highlights along the trail, beginning at Hinckley
The northern segment of the Willard Munger Trail takes a 15-mile decent from Carlton to West Duluth downhill through trees, rocks with a powerful scenic views all the way.

Bikers can stop on a high railroad trestle to enjoy a breathtaking look over the St. Louis River estuary, cut through a mountain of rock, relax through fields of wildflowers and northern pines, view the wonders of a hydroelectric power plant, peddle through the largest stand of hemlocks and relax on a hillside rest stop overlooking western Duluth and acres of water.

Highlights along the trail into Duluth:

Jay Cook Park Thumb 10  Jay cook thumb 9  

Willard Munger Trail Log North
The northern segment of the Willard Munger Trail takes a 15-mile decent from Carlton to West Duluth downhill through trees, rocks with a powerful scenic views all the way.

Bikers can stop on a high railroad trestle to enjoy a breathtaking look over the St. Louis River estuary, cut through a mountain of rock, relax through fields of wildflowers and northern pines, view the wonders of a hydroelectric power plant, peddle through the largest stand of hemlocks and relax on a hillside rest stop overlooking western Duluth and acres of water.

Highlights along the trail into Duluth:

Munger trail thumb 14  Jay Cook Park thumb 11


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