Nestled on the shores of Lake Superior, Duluth, MN is a city known for its natural beauty and breathtaking views. With its towering cliffs, serene forests, and picturesque harbor, it’s no wonder that Duluth is a popular destination for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a long-time resident, there’s always something new in this scenic city.
The goal here is to take a closer look at some of Duluth’s most beautiful and scenic places. From the iconic Aerial Lift Bridge to the tranquil forests of Jay Cooke State Park, we’ll explore some of the city’s most stunning attractions and hidden gems. So grab your camera, lace up your hiking boots, and get ready to discover the natural wonders of Duluth, MN!
- Duluth’s Aerial Lift Bridge and Canal Park offer stunning views of Lake Superior and the city’s bustling harbor.
- Enger Park and Tower, Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve, and Jay Cooke State Park provide beautiful vistas of the surrounding forests, rivers, and lakes.
- Visitors can take a scenic drive along the North Shore, stop at beaches like Park Point and trails like the Superior Hiking Trail, or explore the gardens and grounds of Glensheen Mansion.
- With its urban and natural scenery mix, Duluth offers a unique and diverse range of visitor activities, including hiking, biking, birdwatching, beach-going, and exploring historic sites like the Glensheen Mansion.
1. The Aerial Lift Bridge
The Aerial Lift Bridge is an iconic landmark of Duluth that spans the Duluth Ship Canal and offers spectacular views of the city’s bustling harbor and Lake Superior. Initially built in 1905 as a transporter bridge, the Aerial Lift Bridge was converted to a lift bridge in 1929 and is now one of the busiest bridges in the United States, raising and lowering over 5,000 times a year.
Visitors can take a stroll on the pedestrian walkway that runs alongside the bridge or watch ships pass through the canal from the nearby pier. For a more elevated view, head to the Enger Park observation tower or the Hillside neighborhoods for panoramic bridge vistas and the surrounding area.
To witness the bridge in action, plan your visit during the scheduled lift times every half hour during peak shipping season from March to December. A raised bridge offers stunning views of Lake Superior and the harbor, and is especially beautiful during sunrise and sunset.
2. Canal Park
Located on the shores of Lake Superior, Canal Park is a historic district in Duluth that offers a variety of attractions and activities for visitors. Originally a shipping district, Canal Park has been revitalized in recent years and now features a range of restaurants, shops, galleries, beautiful parks, and beaches.
One of the highlights of Canal Park is the Lakewalk, a scenic boardwalk that runs along the shore of Lake Superior and offers beautiful views of the lake and the surrounding area. Visitors can also stroll through Canal Park’s many parks, such as the Duluth Rose Garden or Leif Erikson Park, or relax on the beach and watch ships pass through the nearby Aerial Lift Bridge.
Other popular attractions in Canal Park include the Great Lakes Aquarium, the Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center, and the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center (DECC), which hosts different events throughout the year. Visitors can also take a sunset cruise on Lake Superior or rent a bike to explore the area on two wheels.
3. Enger Park and Tower
Perched atop a hill overlooking Duluth and Lake Superior, Enger Park and Tower offers stunning views of the city and the surrounding natural landscape. The park, named after a Norwegian immigrant who donated the land in 1921, features beautifully landscaped gardens, hiking trails, picnic areas, and a nine-hole golf course.
Enger Park’s heart is the Enger Tower, a 5-story observation tower built in 1939 as a tribute to Bert Enger. Visitors can climb the tower’s winding staircase to the top and take in panoramic views of Duluth and the lake from the observation deck. On a clear day, you can even see the distant hills of Wisconsin!
In addition to the tower, Enger Park features several other attractions, including the Peace Bell, a gift from Duluth’s sister city of Ohara-Isumi in Japan, and a statue of Leif Erikson, the Norse explorer who is said to have landed in North America over 1,000 years ago. The park is also home to several hiking trails, including a segment of the Superior Hiking Trail, that wind through the forest and offer scenic views of the city and the lake.
4. Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve
Located just north of Duluth, Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve is a 235-acre protected area that is known for its incredible birdwatching opportunities. Each year, thousands of birds of prey migrate through the reserve, including bald eagles, peregrine falcons, and several species of hawks, eagles, and vultures.
Visitors to Hawk Ridge can observe the birds from several scenic overlooks and trails that wind through the forest and provide panoramic views of Lake Superior and the surrounding area. Guided tours and educational programs are also available for those who want to learn more about the birds and the reserve’s conservation efforts.
In addition to birdwatching, Hawk Ridge offers several hiking trails and picnic areas that are open to the public. The reserve is also home to several other species of wildlife, including white-tailed deer, black bears, and gray wolves.
5. The North Shore Scenic Drive
One of the most popular attractions in Duluth is the North Shore Scenic Drive, a 154-mile stretch of road along Lake Superior’s north shore and offers stunning views of the lake and the surrounding forests.
The drive begins in Duluth and passes through several small towns and state parks, including Gooseberry Falls State Park, Split Rock Lighthouse State Park, and Tettegouche State Park. Visitors can stop at scenic overlooks, hike through the forests, or take in the views of the lake and the rocky shoreline.
One of the highlights of the drive is Split Rock Lighthouse, a historic lighthouse built in 1910 and now open to the public for tours. Visitors can climb to the top of the lighthouse and take in breathtaking views of Lake Superior and the surrounding landscape.
Other popular stops along the North Shore Scenic Drive include Gooseberry Falls, a beautiful waterfall cascading over rocks and flowing into Lake Superior, and the town of Two Harbors, known for its historic lighthouse and vibrant arts scene.
6. Spirit Mountain
Located just west of Duluth, Spirit Mountain is a popular year-round destination that offers a range of outdoor activities for visitors. The mountain, which rises over 700 feet above Lake Superior, features a ski resort, a mountain bike park, and several hiking trails that provide scenic views of the surrounding area.
During the winter months, Spirit Mountain’s ski resort offers a range of slopes for skiers and snowboarders of all levels, tubing hills and a terrain park. Visitors can also take in the views from the mountain’s scenic overlooks or enjoy a hot cocoa at the chalet.
In the summer, Spirit Mountain transforms into a mountain bike park, with over 40 miles of trails and several downhill courses that are designed for riders of all abilities. Visitors can also hike the trails, ride the alpine coaster, or play a round of disc golf at the mountain’s 18-hole course.
7. Park Point Beaches
Stretching for several miles along the narrow strip of land that separates Lake Superior and the harbor, Park Point is home to several beautiful sandy beaches that are popular with locals and visitors alike.
One of the most popular beaches on Park Point is the Park Point Beach House, which offers amenities such as a concession stand, restrooms, and showers. Visitors can swim in the cool waters of Lake Superior, play beach volleyball, or relax on the sand and soak up the sun.
Other beaches on Park Point include the Lafayette Community Club Beach, which is known for its scenic views of the Aerial Lift Bridge and the harbor, and the 42nd Avenue East Beach, which is a quieter and more secluded spot for swimming and sunbathing.
Visitors can also explore the Park Point Nature Trail, a hiking and biking trail that winds through the dunes and offers scenic views of the lake and the surrounding area. The trail is also a popular spot for birdwatching, as several species of shorebirds and waterfowl can be seen in the area.
8. Jay Cooke State Park
Located just southwest of Duluth, Jay Cooke State Park is a beautiful and tranquil oasis that offers a range of outdoor activities for visitors. The park is named after Jay Cooke, a wealthy businessman who helped finance the construction of the Northern Pacific Railroad, which runs through the park.
One of the highlights of Jay Cooke State Park is the St. Louis River, which flows through the park and offers opportunities for fishing, kayaking, and canoeing. Visitors can also hike the park’s many trails, which wind through forests of towering trees and offer stunning views of the river and the surrounding landscape.
One of the most popular trails in the park is the swinging bridge trail, which leads visitors across a suspension bridge that spans the river and offers breathtaking views of the rushing water below. The park also features several other attractions, including the historic Thomson Dam and the CCC camp museum, which showcases the history of the Civilian Conservation Corps.
In addition to hiking and water sports, Jay Cooke State Park also offers camping and picnicking facilities for visitors who want to stay overnight or spend a day in the park. The park is also home to several wildlife species, including white-tailed deer, black bears, and bald eagles.
9. Chester Park
Located just east of the University of Minnesota Duluth campus, Chester Park is a beautiful and historic park that offers a range of recreational activities for visitors. The park is named after Chester Adgate Congdon, a wealthy lawyer and businessman who played a major role in the development of Duluth.
One of the highlights of Chester Park is the Chester Bowl. This natural amphitheater was created by glacial activity and now serves as a popular spot for sledding and other winter activities. In the summer, visitors can hike or bike the park’s many trails, which wind through birch and aspen forests and offer beautiful views of the surrounding area.
Chester Park is also home to several historic features, including the stone bridges and retaining walls that the Civilian Conservation Corps built in the 1930s. Visitors can also explore the park’s gardens and picnic areas, or enjoy a game of tennis or basketball on the park’s courts.
10. Glensheen Mansion
Built in 1908 for the wealthy Congdon family, the Glensheen Mansion is a stunning and historic estate that offers visitors a glimpse into the lifestyle of one of Duluth’s most prominent families. The mansion, now open to the public for tours, is located on a 12-acre estate overlooking Lake Superior and features beautiful gardens and grounds.
Visitors to the Glensheen Mansion can take a guided tour of the estate, including a tour of the mansion’s 39 rooms, carriage house, and boat house. The tours provide a fascinating insight into the lives of the Congdon family, as well as the history of Duluth and the region.
One of the mansion’s highlights is the grand ballroom, which features a beautiful chandelier and stunning lake views. Visitors can also admire the mansion’s intricate woodwork and architecture and the many original furnishings and decorations that have been preserved over the years.
In addition to the mansion, visitors to the Glensheen estate can explore the gardens and grounds, which include several beautiful gardens, a boathouse, and a beach. The estate is also home to several hiking trails that wind through the woods and offer scenic views of the lake and the surrounding area.
11. Duluth Lakewalk
One of the most popular attractions in Duluth is the Duluth Lakewalk, a scenic boardwalk that runs for several miles along the shore of Lake Superior. The Lakewalk offers stunning views of the lake and the surrounding area, as well as access to several parks and beaches.
Visitors to the Lakewalk can stroll along the boardwalk and take in the views, or stop at one of the many parks and beaches. Some of the most popular stops on the Lakewalk include the Leif Erikson Park, which features a beautiful rose garden and a statue of the Norse explorer, and the Canal Park area, which is home to several restaurants, shops, and galleries.
The Lakewalk also offers access to several beaches, including Park Point Beach, which stretches for several miles along the narrow strip of land that separates Lake Superior and the harbor. Visitors can swim in the cool waters of Lake Superior, play beach volleyball, or simply relax on the sand and soak up the sun.
In addition to the parks and beaches, the Lakewalk also features several other attractions, including the Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge, which offers breathtaking views of the harbor and the ships passing through. The Lakewalk is also home to several public art installations, including the Duluth Fish Sculpture and the Rose Garden Fountain.
12. Superior Hiking Trail
Stretching for over 300 miles along the North Shore of Lake Superior, the Superior Hiking Trail is a world-renowned hiking trail that offers visitors a chance to explore the natural beauty of Duluth and the surrounding area. The trail features stunning views of the lake and the surrounding forests, as well as access to several state parks and other natural attractions.
Hikers on the Superior Hiking Trail can choose from a range of routes and distances, from short day hikes to multi-day backpacking trips. In addition, the trail features several campsites and shelters for overnight stays, as well as several scenic overlooks and waterfalls that are perfect for photo opportunities.
One of the highlights of the Superior Hiking Trail is the section that runs through Duluth, which offers hikers stunning views of the lake and the city skyline. The trail winds through forests of birch and aspen and features several bridges and boardwalks that provide access to otherwise inaccessible areas.
In addition to hiking, the Superior Hiking Trail offers mountain biking, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing opportunities. Visitors can also explore several state parks and other natural attractions along the trail, including Gooseberry Falls State Park, Split Rock Lighthouse State Park, and Tettegouche State Park.