Willard Munger State Trail (Hinckley-Duluth)


14 Reviews

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Willard Munger State Trail (Hinckley-Duluth) Facts

States: Minnesota
Counties: Carlton, Pine
Length: 70 miles
Trail end points: 2nd St. NW/CR 18 (Hinckley) and Indian Point Park (Duluth)
Trail surfaces: Asphalt
Trail category: Rail-Trail
ID: 6711746

Willard Munger State Trail (Hinckley-Duluth) Description

The Willard Munger State Trail is a collection of three multiple use trails roughly stretching between the towns of Hinckley and Duluth. The three trail segments include the Hinckley–Duluth, Alex Laveau Memorial Trail (which are joined in Carlton) and the Matthew Lourey State Trail, also known as the Boundary segment, and which lies to the east of the other two trails. The trails offer a total of 160 miles for hiking, bicycling, in-line skating, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. The trials pass through some of Minnesota's most scenic areas, following the route of the railroad that saved many lives during the notorious Hinckley and Cloquet fires in the 19th century.

The Hinckley-Duluth segment of the Willard Munger State Trail stretches 70 miles between central Minnesota and the state's gateway to Lake Superior. The trail follows the historic 19th-century route of the Lake Superior and Mississippi Railroad that carried goods and passengers between the Twin Cities and Duluth. As it's completely paved and relatively flat, the pathway is perfect for bikers, walkers and in-line skaters in the warmer months, and snowmobilers and cross-country skiers in the winter.

Along the way, trail-goers will enjoy stunning natural scenery, especially the northernmost 15-mile section between Carlton and Duluth. Here, you will travel through rocky cliffs and over the St. Louis River gorge. The trail skirts the northern edge of the Jay Cooke State Park, which—with its pristine forests, waterfalls and swinging suspension bridge—is definitely worth a stop.

The southern portion of the trail (Hinckley to Carlton) offers open views, rural landscapes and rustic towns. River crossings, lakes and ponds add to the picturesque backdrop. Shortly after passing the town of Willow River, you'll travel through the gently rolling terrain of General C.C. Andrews State Forest, a beautiful respite with its tall stands of pine, birch, aspen and oak trees.

Parking and Trail Access

Parking is available at the southern trailhead in Hinckley, 1 block north of the Hinckley Fire Museum at the intersection of Highway 61 and County Road 18.

At the northern trailhead in Duluth, parking is available at the intersection of Grand Avenue and 75th Avenue West.

Along the way, trail-goers can also find parking in the towns of Finlayson, Willow River, Moose Lake and Barnum.

Willard Munger State Trail (Hinckley-Duluth) Reviews

Great experience on Willard Munger!

We did the Willard Munger State Trail at the beginning of June and it was a fantastic trail! The first section coming out of Duluth was absolutely beautiful, there was some damage to the trail, but it was all clearly marked with spray paint so there was no danger of hitting any pot holes or cracks unless you weren't paying attention. The beginning had the most elevation gain and loss of the entire trail, but you barely even notice it. The gorge outside of Carlton was super scenic, and the rest of the trail down to Hinckley had tons of wildlife (swans, grouse, guinea fowl, deer, etc.). The lower sections of the trail starting near Barnum were definitely hot later in the day, and tree cover started to disappear, but overall this trail was excellently laid out and a ton of fun to ride!

Great Trail

We started in Carlton and biked 14 miles Round trip to Buffalo House Bar in Duluth where we stopped for beer. Love this easy flat trail, with some slight inclines along the way.

Nice MN Trail

Skated from Duluth to Hinckley & really enjoyed this trail. Very flat, never used the brakes once. The northern 15 miles are beautifully paved and the most scenic I think, but there is still plenty of worthwhile appeal for the rest of the trail. There are some spots of rough pavement but it's manageable. The majority is average as far as pavement quality is concerned.

Water is few and far between, so plan to bring a lot. I got some in Carlton, and then had to go into Moose Lake and Finlayson to find anywhere to get water.

Needs repair

The trail from Hinckley to Sandstone is in dire need of resurfacing. Many parallel and perpendicular cracks have widened and pose a safety hazard. There are also numerous places along the trail from Finlayson to Matowa where wash outs have occurred and it’s been a couple years and still no blacktop ....just gravel. This beautiful trail is not getting the attention it needs because no one is demanding it.


Beautiful ride

I started in Finlayson and rode to Moose Lake and back. This is a well-maintained and very pristine trail. Beautiful views and not a lot of traffic. There is quite a bit in Moose Lake in terms of food and beverages, so I’d recommend a stop there!

Carlton to Duluth is super

Carlton to Duluth has been repaved and is one of the smoothest trails I have encountered. Leaving Duluth and heading up hill toward Carlton there is only one road crossing in 9 miles so this is a great trail for families and serious riders. No water or restrooms.

Oh happy day!

Rode from Carlton to duluth. All downhill. Beautiful views, great scenery, lots of mature trees, all paved. Just a lot of fun. Would do the trail again. Only downfall? A few more signs, especially when nearing the big town...no real trailhead and no sign stating you were at the end of the trail.

at Jay Cooke park

I parked at Cooke park HQ and rode the spur to the main trail. I went south about 4 miles to where the trail closed then north of the spur about 6 miles (21 round trip). Pavement is mostly good with some sections freshly paved and most of it having some patches. Only a few sections had rough spots, but still very rideable. Being an old railroad track the slopes are gentle.

Duluth to Moose Lake R/T

Really awesome and scenic climb leaving Duluth and great trail to Carlton. After carleton the trail flattens and the scenery becomes less dramatic but still an excellent ride. overall the trail is in really great shape and a lot of fun. the day we rode is was 35 degrees and flurries (in mid may). We stayed at the Willard Munger Inn which provided super easy access to the trail. Def recommend and can you tell you it was worth the 7.5 hr drive from Chicago

As one of the older rail trails in Minnesota, the munger is in rather rough shape. As of July 2014 there are 15 sections of trail in the Carlton to Duluth section that are unpaved due to the flooding in 2012. There are also some extended paved sections in the area of Jay Cooke state park that need repaving. The section running from hinkley to Carlton is mostly a tree line away from county rd 61. While there isn't much traffic, it does detract from the remoteness of the trail. There are a few small towns along the trail, but most have little or no facilities. Restrooms are sparse as are sources of water. The section from Carlton to Duluth is pretty scenic, particularly the gorge just east of Carlton. The rest of the trail isn't terribly interesting. I did an overnight camping trip on the munger. Its not a trip I have a desire to do again. It also doesn't appear that repaving the gravel sections is a terribly high priority.

Perfect Fall color trail

Caught the peak of fall colors 10/10/13. "Is this heaven?" "No its Iowa and the Wm Munger Trail at peak color"

September 2013

Great trail! We started at the trailhead in Duluth headed uphill to Carlton then back to Duluth. Very scenic with some nice surprises along the way. There are several short sections that are not paved. Encounter some rough gravel. I had rode tires and there was some concern with the rough sections. I would have taken another of my bikes had I known. We are already planning another trip so we can ride the trail again.
Four stars only because no mention of gravel sections.

Great trail

There was a lot of flood damage to this trail last summer. They are repairing it and doing a wonderful job. Check the website for temporary closures. We got to ride it all since they opened it all for Labor Day weekend. The trail is well maintained. Very flat and easy riding on good pavement. They could add some directions to TH's to their map. Lots of shade and pleasant riding. We ride Trek hybrids.

Willard Munger Trail - October 2011

I took three days to ride the trail out-and-back, covering the entire trail twice.

Overall, the trail surface was excellent with newer pavement around the Duluth trail head area.

Most of the ride is straight riding with very little variation in the terrain. There is a brief section There is an interesting curving and hilly section between mile markers 90 and 93 along with some nice semi-secluded river scenery by the Pine River. Additionally, the section between Carlton and Duluth offers a lot of variety with a bridge crossing the St. Louis River (nice views of the gorge area), the ride the Jay Cooke State Park, and the rock gorges as you enter into Duluth.

Wildlife seen included a bald eagle soaring high overhead around mile marker 91, garter snakes, wooly bear caterpillars, and some great white tail deer.

I also highly recommend Peggy Sue's Cafe in Willow River for a tasty breakfast and the Cozy Cafe in Carlton for a decent broiled walleye dinner!

All in all, a nice trail ride if a bit boring with the long, straight stretches, but there is plenty to see if you keep your eyes peeled and mind open as to what the surrounding countryside has to offer.

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