Wet and soggy trails can be seriously tedious for cyclists in the Twin Ports. Instead of exploring our nearly 100-mile system of trails and logging legendary rides, we’re forced to twittle our thumbs or more likely, tinker with our bikes in the garage. When trails are wet - whether the region experienced a spring downpour or its the early winter “freeze-thaw” period - it’s vital to exercise proper trail etiquette on all COGGS trails.
These basic rules apply to all trail users. Whether you’re an experienced shredder or simply enjoy light hikes with your dog, here are some tips to keep in mind before hitting the trails.
Check the Twitter Updates: Best and Easiest Place to Get a Trail’s Status
Each trail center in the Twin Ports has its own Twitter account where up-to-date trail conditions are provided as often as humanly possible. Whether you’re speeding down flow trails in Mission Creek, taking on technical rock rolls in Piedmont, climbing up to Rock Knob in Hartley, cruising past waterfalls in Lester Park, or taking on old-school singletrack in Pokegama, the COGGS crew has you covered with Twitter updates. If the most recent tweet reports that trails are closed, then you can assume the trails are still closed. There are also sections of the Duluth Traverse that connect all of the centers mentioned above. If you’re not sure if a section of trail is open, refer to the conditions of nearby trail centers and use your best judgement. For a one-stop page with updates on all of these accounts, check out the COGGS trail feed page. It’s the true source for all trail updates.
If Trails are Wet, Do Not Ride
This one is a no-brainer. Wet trails are more susceptible to damage from both tires and footprints. Since trail fairies sadly do not exist, the COGGS crew needs to restore damaged trails. The less time COGGS spends fixing trails that were ridden wet, the more time COGGS can spend on building and maintaining new trails.
If Trails are Open with Wet Spots
There are times when trails are open with some wet spots. If you encounter a puddle or mud hole on the trail, ride through - not around - the wet spot. Alternatively, you can dismount and walk over the wet spot. If you’re feeling gnarly, bunny hop over the wet spot. Whatever method you choose, don’t go around the spot and widen the trail.
Trails Closed? Explore Double-Track and Gravel Routes
When the singletrack is closed, a good alternative is to ride double-track and gravel routes. Our region is FILLED with excellent, quiet, and scenic routes. The multi use Snively Trail at Hawk’s Ridge is a local favorite (watch out for horse apples), as are sections of the DWP trail. The Western Waterfront Trail is another multi use trail at your disposal, complete with sweeping views of the St. Louis River estuary.
The recently completed all weather trail, armoured with crushed limestone, awaits at Spirit Mountain and can be rideable shortly after rain (check Spirit for trail status). If you’re looking for more adventure, endless opportunities await with hundreds of miles of logging and forest roads, and snowmo trails (a fatbike is a good idea) in nearby Superior National Forest, or the Cloquet Valley State Forest. Alternately, trail closure is a great time to practice your “secondary” outdoor recreational pursuits. From whitewater paddling and big water sailing to fly fishing and surfing, there are plenty of sports that improve during the shoulder seasons.
Winter Trail Use
There’s no need to forgo biking in the cold months. As long as the trails are frozen solid (and not in the ugly freeze/thaw stage of early winter) trail riding is excellent. Just make sure to keep an eye on the COGGS Trail Feeds as you would in the summertime. Riding COGGS trails in winter on a fatbike is a BLAST as well. Keep in mind you should avoid riding immediately after the trails have been groomed. Let them set up for a couple hours. They should be nice and solid, just like dirt.
Safety First On and Off the Trail
Whenever navigating multi use trails, always be courteous of hikers and equestrians and always exercise proper trail etiquette. This is basic common sense stuff. When riding on gravel roads, use lights (both headlamps and taillights) and wear high-visibility clothing to ensure your safety.
Trails Closed? Road Trip Time!
Surfers are notorious for hitting the road to find the perfect wave, but mountain bikers are known to travel in search of epic hero dirt. When trails in Duluth are wet, hit the road and discover new routes beyond the Twin Ports. The CAMBA trails in the Hayward-Cable, Wisconsin area offer an IMBA-Bronze level ride center just 1 hour and 40 minutes away. The sandier soil in this area means that trails dry faster. Mt. Ashwabay also offers trails that drain extremely well that have a little bit of fun for everyone at just over 1 hour 30 minutes away. The mountain bike trails in the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area in Crosby, just an hour and 50 minutes away, can also dry out faster after a rain event. Visit the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Crew for information on trail closures.
When trails are wet, err on the side of caution and make calculated, not frustrated, decisions before riding the trails. Be a trail steward and ensure that our pristine singletrack remains just that, pristine, for years to come. Spread the word and share the love!