Discover the beautiful, secret parks of Duluth

Mom and dad discover Lester Park in Duluth.
Mom and dad discover Lester Park in Duluth.

Duluth tourists love to photograph the Ariel Lift Bridge, stroll along Lake Superior and shop at the old Fitger’s Brewery complex, but there are loads of beautiful places deep within the city not found in the Explore Minnesota travel guides.

Mom and dad stopped in town last week to inspect the newly purchased NickMoore Hotel and I took them on a side trip to one of those secret places: Lester Park.

Lester Park hugs the hills on the east end of Duluth. The park features the roaring Lester River, its quieter cousin Amity Creek and Seven Bridges Road, a 19th Century construction marvel that winds through a forest and over rapids carrying visitors to a stunning city overlook called Hawk Ridge.

While millions of travelers pass over the historic Lester River Bridge as they race up north on London Road, few know enough to detour a couple blocks and visit the park. Mom and dad are a good example.

In my Minnesota youth, the Nicklawske family made trips to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, Temperance River and points north throughout the 70s and 80s. We were caught in Sunday night London Road traffic jams and never thought to head up the hill two blocks for an easy Lester Park visit.

But the locals know it.

Lester Park features nine miles of trails, a small ski hill, a golf course and a summer swimming hole. It also has the requisite children’s play area, a handmade World War I memorial and forest land teaming with wildlife.

On a chilly spring day, I walked with mom and dad over a small stone arch bridge into the park. We strolled by a swing set and slide and down a trail toward Amity Creek. The water rushed over rocks under a bridge. We spotted a bird flitting around near a tree top. Dad wandered off up a log stairway and disappeared over a hill.

“All these years we’ve been coming to Duluth and we never knew about this place,” said mom. “It’s amazing. What a beautiful park and we’re right in the city.”

That’s right. And if you planned a wiener roast but forgot the mustard there’s a Super One grocery store two blocks away.

We found dad mulling over a map board on Seven Bridges Road. Someone walked by with a dog and said hello. We headed back over the Amity Creek bridge and stopped for a picture.

“Two old people,” cracked dad, as I pulled out my phone camera.

Yup. It takes a long time to learn all of Duluth’s secrets.

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