New and improved Hartley Nature Center ski trails

In the heart of eastern Duluth, near the campus of UMD and just off Woodland Avenue, you’ll find Hartley Park — 660 acres of forest, pond and rock outcrops laced by trails and streams. Tucked into its eastern half is a compact set of cross country ski trails. These trails have been well used and well loved by generations of Nordic skiers. But they’ve been tough to navigate, with conflicting and confusing signage and too many trail junctions.

The Hartley trails have just received an excellent makeover.

No new trails were built. Instead, the signage was vastly improved, with new detailed maps at every intersection. In a few critical junctions, one-way trails are now signed for two-way travel. Instead of three possible parking areas, there are now just two: Hartley Nature Center right off Woodland Avenue is the “North Trailhead” and Hartley Road off of Arrowhead Road is the “South Trailhead.” Trail planners eliminated three or four confusing intersections, making a ski outing flow much more easily now.

It’s a lot easier now to know the level of difficulty of the trail. About half of the trails are rated “Easier” and marked with a thick green line, about one-third “More difficult” and blue. One steep stretch on the outer loop is justifiably rated “Most difficult” and black. That last black stretch can be skipped completely, thanks to the new trail routing.

I like to take at least two laps around the loops, combining and recombining the outer loop and inner loop. Each loop takes me about 20 minutes, so I can do three loops for a nice hour-long experience. All trails are double-tracked, which means they have two side-by-side classic tracks. No skating is allowed.

If you go

If this is your first time skiing at Hartley, I recommend heading for the main Hartley Nature Center, the North Trailhead. The street address is 3001 Woodland Avenue. From I-35 in eastern Duluth, drive up 21st Ave East from Exit 258 to Woodland Avenue. Turn right,and travel 2.4 miles to the nature center exit on the left. Here you’ll find indoor facilities, ample parking, and even cross country ski rental. With the new signage and trail routing, there’s a green “Easier” route into the trails. While you have to take one trail labeled “More difficult,” it’s really not bad for beginners.

Before you go, check out the current conditions for Hartley, either at Skinny Ski or at Duluth Cross Country Ski Club.

You do need a Great Minnesota Ski Pass to ski at Hartley. You can pick one up on your way up the hill at the Holiday Station Store at 1530 Woodland Ave.


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