Some of the best fall colors in the North Shore area right now are along Duluth’s western Skyline Parkway. Thanks to June’s floods, a whole long stretch of that scenic byway is closed to automobiles, making it PERFECT for a stroll through a colorful northern hardwood forest.
If you drive Interstate 35 to Exit 249 (Boundary Avenue and Spirit Mountain), follow the signs for Skyline Drive toward Spirit Mountain and continue past Spirit for a total of 2.2 miles from Interstate 35. At that point, the road simply stops at a barricade. Here you can park your car and start walking.
In just a few yards, you can see exactly why the road is closed. Right before the landmark dragon bridge you’ll find a maze of gullies and channels where the floodwaters crossed the boulevard and wiped out the roadway.
Press on through this eroded area and you’ll be back on a wide, very walkable gravel road you can follow all the way to the scenic overlook at Bardons Peak. The road is closed at the far end too, so there should be no cars on this stretch.
The sugar maple trees are red and orange, the birch trees are all yellow. Other trees like ironwood and sumac have amazing deep red colors.
If you’d like a little variety in your outing, you can try a short and dramatic stretch of the Superior Hiking Trail. About 200 yards on the left past the dragon bridge, there’s a big trailhead parking lot for the Superior Hiking Trail. It’s empty now because no cars can get here. If you get on the Superior Hiking Trail at the trailhead, you can take it west for just about a half mile, through lovely woods where glowing maples mix with tall white pine. There’s a cool crossing of Snively Creek and a great overlook of western Duluth neighborhoods. The Superior Hiking Trail returns to Skyline Parkway, and you can get back on the wide and easy road again.
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