Northern Wilds Magazine
“Gravity riding”—as downhill mountain biking is sometimes called—is an exhilarating, high-speed sport that’s all about the descent. | HIGHER BASE MEDIA
Along the Shore

Gravity riding the North Shore highlands

Best known for its waterways and vast stretches of wilderness, it’s no secret that the North Shore is a great place to paddle, fish, camp, and hike.

Mountains, on the other hand, are less often associated with our neck of the woods, but ask anyone who has spent time recreating at Spirit Mountain in Duluth, Lutsen Mountain in Lutsen, or the Loch Lomond Ski Resort in Thunder Bay, and they will tell you just how real the mountains are along the world’s largest lake.

Despite topping out at 2,301 feet above sea level at Eagle Mountain, there are plenty of places along the shore that offer 700-plus feet of vertical drop, making these forested, southeast facing slopes perfect for a form of recreating that has seen a recent surge in popularity—downhill mountain biking.

Downhill mountain biking is an exhilarating, high-speed sport that involves riding down the gnarliest lines with the biggest features at the highest speeds.

“Gravity riding”—as downhill mountain biking is sometimes called—is all about the descent, and the heavy, full-suspension bikes that gravity bikers choose to ride are tailor made for that purpose. Pedaling back to the top of a trail is an inconvenience that is avoided whenever possible.

When it comes to downhill riding, there are two resorts leading the charge on the North Shore—Spirit Mountain in Duluth, and Mont Du Lac Resort in Superior.

Spirit Mountain—the larger of the two resorts—boasts an impressive selection of 24 downhill trails that range from beginner friendly flow to expert-only technical descents. Spirit runs its main chairlift Thursday-Sunday during the summer season, cutting out the need to pedal up its brutal return trail, The Puker, and giving riders an opportunity to cram in as many laps as possible.

A complete list of trail descriptions is available on Spirit Mountain’s website, as well as dates and details for their rad MTB summer camps for youths, like the Lil Rippers MTB Camp, and the more advanced Downhill Lift Access Camp for kids ages 9-15.

Ski Hut also recently opened their new Adventure Center across the street from Spirit Mountain—a full-service bike shop that will be renting out their line-up of Santa Cruz and Juliana full-suspension mountain bikes all summer long. The new Adventure Center will provide visitors with a great opportunity to experience the Spirit Mountain trails on a proper, high-end mountain bike.

Spirit Mountain boasts an impressive selection of 24 downhill trails that range from beginner friendly flow to expert-only technical descents. | HIGHER BASE MEDIA

Across the St. Louis River in Wisconsin, Mont Du Lac is the other North Shore resort that offers lift and shuttle service in the summer to its MTB trails. Though not quite as expansive as Spirit Mountain, the Mont Du Lac trails are equally rowdy and well worth the visit.

And then, of course, there’s Mont Du Lac’s Big Kahuna Water Park and Beach Bar which makes for a nice cool down after a long day of riding.

More information on season passes, daily rates, and all of the other summer adventure that can be had at Spirit Mountain and Mont Du Lac this summer can be found on their websites: and respectively.

For riders that are willing to earn their descent with a little uphill pedaling, there are plenty of downhill lines to be had elsewhere along the North Shore.

The Piedmont/Brewer systems in Duluth are known for their technical terrain, and a proper downhill rig will feel right at home on trails like Mejumpolis, DM, and Admiral Rockbar. COGGS—the nonprofit that manages and maintains the singletrack trail systems in Duluth—will be hosting the Duluth Enduro Series again this summer, starting June 4 at the Hawks Ridge Trail. These events are a great opportunity to test your downhill riding skills with other dedicated community riders.

More information on the Enduro Series can be found on the COGGS website:

Up towards Two Harbors, the Split Rock Wilds system is full of technical lines and features, but come prepared with tools, food, and proper first aid as the trails are significantly more remote than the riding elsewhere along the shore.

In Grand Marais, the Piedmont Trail system provides riders with opportunities to experience some quintessential old-school technical riding, on trails like Till-Ta-Whirl, The Back Eighty, and Canadian Shield.

Thunder Bay recently revamped the Trowbridge Trail system with a $1.5 million dollar investment into the trails, and will be hosting the 2024 Canadian National Cross Country Marathon this September. For more information, visit:

As trail systems continue to expand and develop between Duluth, Thunder Bay, and everywhere in between, the shore is quickly gaining a reputation as one of the premier mountain bike destinations in the Midwest, if not the country.

I recently talked with a bike mechanic at Continental Ski & Bike in Duluth, who moved from Sedona, Ariz.,—one of the best mountain bike locales in the U.S.—to Duluth this past summer for the mountain biking. He said that his steel full-suspension Starling felt more at home in the boreal forests then it did out ripping through the desertscapes of the Southwest.

It is an exciting time to be a mountain biker on the North Shore.

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