The Duluth Lakewalk is famous and well-known to all who have visited Canal Park, Duluth Minnesota. In fact, it has a 5-star rating on TripAdvisor and is listed as the #2 thing to do in Duluth. Loved by locals and tourists alike, the Duluth Lakewalk is a relaxing location to stroll along the shore of Lake Superior. Despite popular belief, the lakewalk is actually much longer than the often announced 3 (or 4.2) mile-length. In fact, the Duluth Lakewalk stretches from Bayfront Festival Park, all the way to 61st Avenue East (just below Lester Park and just above Brighton Beach); a rough distance of 7.25 miles!
To ensure you take in all the sights and sounds of the path, here’s a guide to what you’ll find along the way.
Bayfront Festival Park
Starting (or ending) the Lakewalk path is the Bayfront Festival Park area. This beautiful park sits on the Lake Superior Harbor. It has a large grassy area and covered pavilion where festivals, concerts, and events are held throughout the year. Playfront playground and seasonal bathrooms are also located here.
Following the path around the outskirts of Bayfront, you’ll walk along the harbor and pass behind the Duluth Aquarium and the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center (DECC). Be on the lookout for a mini Statue of Liberty replica between the two buildings.
After passing the Vista Fleet tour on the corner of the DECC, you’ll have two options for your path:
1. You can walk around the historic William A. Irvin ship (feel free to stop and take the tour!) and the harbor area for the local fishing charters, or
2. You can shortcut across the blue Slip Bridge.
From this point you’ll have direct access to Canal Park and all its shops and hotels. While you can leave the path and head straight for S Lake Ave, I’d highly recommend following the path along the water and the backside of Grandma’s Sports Garden. Few visitors seem to walk this stretch of the Duluth Lakewalk trail, but it’ll give you a whole new vantage point of the Aerial Lift Bridge!
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Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge
Wrapping around the back of the Paulucci building and the Duluth harbor you’ll finally come upon Duluth’s iconic Aerial Lift Bridge. Be sure to check out the shipping schedule to find out when the next ship is expected to arrive or depart from the harbor -it’s truly a unique experience to watch the bridge go up and see a 1,000 foot ship pass by underneath it. Enjoying the view of the bridge? Stop a Grandma’s Saloon & Grill to eat lunch on their rooftop deck -which happens to be right next to the bridge!
I’d also recommend stopping by the free Lake Superior Maritime Museum. The museum’s exhibits demonstrate the history and operations of the upper Great Lakes commercial shipping and the Aerial Lift Bridge. Visitors can enjoy interactive displays, replicas and more.
After finishing a bite to eat and visiting the museum, make a quick pit stop out to the lighthouse at the end of the pier. The lighthouse spot gives a great vantage point of not only Lake Superior, but also of the lift bridge and the Duluth shoreline. (where the pier meets the Lakewalk sidewalk counts as mile marker 0)
Once you’re done at the lighthouse, head back to the Canal Park Lakewalk and reach the point where the wooden boardwalk begins -you’re now on the most popular and well-traveled section of the Lakewalk. You’ll find this location just past Crabby ‘Ol Bills next to Wheels Fun Rentals. From this point, continue on foot along the boardwalk or rent a bike (or 4-person coup) and head down the paved path. Be on the lookout on this section of the path for interesting statues and bits of history -from old anchors to the ‘locks of love’ pier posts and Uncle Harvey’s Mausoleum (aka “The Cribs”). There are informational placards for most of these points of interest.
This stretch of the Lakewalk passes by hotels along the waterfront and the length of Canal Park. Don’t be afraid to step off the path and walk along the shore. You can skip rocks or search for agates and sea glass. You can also take any of the connecting sidewalks between the hotels to gain easy access to all the boutiques and shops in Canal park.
Remember, this section of the Duluth Lakewalk has 2 parallel paths. The boardwalk is for pedestrians on foot, while the paved bike path is for those running or on wheels -bikes, roller blades, skateboards.
Following the boardwalk past the Canal Park Lodge and Endion Station, you’ll come to a corner (This is mile marker 0.5 from the lighthouse pier). On this corner are public bathrooms, drinking fountains (including a water dish for fido), and a bike repair station; plus stairway access to Lake Place Park. Take a moment to climb the stairs and get another view of the area and this gorgeous sculpture garden. Taking an immediate right upon reaching the top of the stairs into Lake Place Park will lead you to the Sister City section. Along the railing here you will find scopes to get a better look at ships and the lighthouse. Lake Place Park also has direct access over the top of I-35 to the Downtown Duluth area.
War Memorials & Shopping
Rounding the corner of the Canal Park Lakewalk section, you’ll pass by a maritime mural made of mosaics. Here you’ll meet up with the railroad tracks and begin to walk alongside them. Be on the lookout for trains and wave to the tourists as they pass by.
Just ahead you’ll come across the Northland Vietnam Veterans (the white shell structure) and Korean War Memorials, commemorating those who lost their lives. (this is roughly just past the 0.75 mile mark)
Continuing past the memorials you’ll progress further along the the lake-shore. Just before the Boardwalk ends (and begins a single paved path again), you’ll come across a staircase. This staircase will take you up to the historic Fitger’s Complex on Superior Street. Full of restaurants, unique shops, and a hotel, definitely take a side trip if you’re looking to get out of the heat for a little while.
A short ways down the path the boardwalk will come to an end at the bottom of a second staircase. This staircase will lead you up to a number of shops and eateries, including the Portland Malt Shop -perfect for a sweet treat stop! (this is roughly the 1 mile mark from the lighthouse pier next to the lift bridge)
Leif Erickson Park & The Rose Garden
Just before mile marker 1.5 you’ll come across Leif Erickson park. A large grassy bowl, with a stage, this spot is perfect for relaxing. The park is also home to movies in the park every Friday at sunset during the summer. Originally, this park was also the resting place for the authentically restored Viking ship that Leif Erikson sailed on to the area. At this point in time, the ship has been removed from the park to the LaFarge waterfront facility for repairs and storage until its new shelter is funded and constructed at the entrance of the park at the intersection of London Road, Superior Street, and 10th Avenue East.
After passing by Leif Erickson, you can continue along the Lakewalk or take the foot bridge up to the Duluth Rose Garden. The garden houses over 2000 rose bushes of some 99 varieties and numerous trees, shrubs and other flowers. The garden is gorgeous throughout the summer, but especially in July when most of the rose bushes are in full bloom. In the park you’ll also find a gazebo as well as public restrooms.
The Rest of the Lakewalk
Past the rose garden, the Duluth Lakewalk continues to meander next to Lake Superior for another mile. At this point it appears as if the trail ends at a parking lot just off 21st Ave. E. This is not the case. Walk a block or 2 down the sidewalk past the row of condos and the Beacon Pointe Resort. You’ll then meet up with the continuation of the trail.
At roughly 2.7 miles you pass a staircase that leads up to the Edgewater Resort and at 3 miles the path turns away from the lake-shore and takes you under London Road. The path then wraps up to a parking lot on the backside of a Holiday gas station. After this the trail heads into a forested area that passes through neighborhoods. This section of the trail is quiet and calming. Just past 3.5 miles you’ll get a lovely view of Tischer Creek as you pass over the small valley on a wood and steel foot bridge.
At mile 4.3 you’ll pass East High School and at mile 4.75 the path meets up with and runs parallel to E. Superior St. until it reaches its end at E. 61 St, just over a half mile away. The path stops just below the gorgeous Lester Park area -which is full of trails itself, and just above the Brighton Beach area back on Lake Superior’s shore.
Keep it Clean
The Lakewalk has plenty of benches along the way, perfect for resting, people watching, or taking in the Lake. Additionally, at many entrances to the walk are plastic bag stations (“mutt mitts”) to assist people in cleaning up after their pets. The City of Duluth does an excellent job of keeping the Duluth Lakewalk clean, so please do your part to clean up after your pet…and yourself if you have trash -there are also plenty of trash cans along the path!
Parking for the Duluth Lakewalk
I would recommend 4 parking locations for ideal access along the Duluth Lakewalk.
1. Canal Park lots and street parking
2. The Rose Garden -there’s a parking lot accessible from London Road between 13th & 14th Ave. E.
3. The parking lot below 21st Ave. E. -cross the bridge over I-35 and 21st Ave. becomes 23rd Ave. Take a right onto Water St. after you hit the stop sign.
4. Behind the Holiday gas station near London Road & 26th Ave. E.
Have you had the privilege of walking Duluth’s Lakewalk? What is your favorite section of the trail or your top site to take in? Leave a reply in the comments below!
By Jessica Carl