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Happy Trails: Newly opened Boulder Trail is a popular paved path

The trail which celebrated a grand opening in fall 2021 is popular with bikers, hikers and some wildlife.

Boulder Trail Entrance Stebner Park.jpg
Signs mark the start of Boulder Trail at the Stebner Park entrance in Hermantown.
Teri Cadeau / Duluth News Tribune
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HERMANTOWN — When thinking about trails I wanted to write about in this column, one that kept popping into my head was the fairly new Boulder Trail. I recalled seeing stories about its grand opening this fall and I wanted to get out there and check it out sometime.

This paved path is the first section of the larger Hermantown Connector Trail System that the city plans to implement, pending future funding. Right now the path runs from Stebner Park to Haines Road and down to Hermantown Road. The Y shape of the trail was a little confusing to me when I was deciding where I should start.

Boulder trail.jpg
Gary Meader / Duluth News Tribune

Google Maps advised me to the Hermantown Road entrance to the trail, which is right next to the former Engwall's Floral Lilac Hill location. I parked on the far edge of the Salem Lutheran Church parking lot and made my way to the trail. But the trail doesn't have very clear signage at this particular end, so I was concerned that I was trespassing for a couple of minutes, until a cyclist zoomed past me. I figured I was in the right place.

Later that same day I also checked out the Stebner Park entrance to the trail and I definitely recommend that over Google's directions. Signage clearly marks the start of the trail and, at least on a Sunday evening, there's plenty of parking nearby.

That said, the Hermantown Road entrance has a certain beauty to it. It's right next to a small pond where ducks can be heard quacking away. A little further down the trail, I heard a lot of bird calls, everything from the caw of a crow to the tweets and whistles of songbirds. I could still hear some of the sounds of the city, but they were pretty distant.

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A small pond near the start of a trail.
A small pond near the start of Boulder Trail near Hermantown Road in Hermantown.
Teri Cadeau / Duluth News Tribune

The trail currently passes over one roadway, Anderson Road, about a third of a mile from the Hermantown Road start. The crossing was pretty quiet and very clearly marked, so I felt safe while I made my way across the street.

The trail isn't terribly difficult even for inexperienced hikers like myself. It's not too hilly or flat. It doesn't boast particularly noteworthy views, but it is home to a nice variety of trees and other greenery along the trail's edge.

On the cool Sunday evening that I took my stroll, the trail was pretty busy. I met around a dozen people walking or biking on the trail between 6-7 p.m. Most of us simply nodded at each other or said "Evening," or passed without making eye contact. The one that caught me a little off-guard was the woman who asked if I'd "seen the bear yet?"

Those are not the most comforting words to hear when you're about a mile away from your vehicle. I asked if she'd seen a bear that evening and she said no. But she said she saw two bears near the picnic table that sits in the middle of the Y-shape where the path diverges in the past two weeks.

A paved path diverges into three directions in a wooded area.
Hikers on Boulder Trail can choose which direction they want to go at the Y in the middle of the trail. If the hiker continues straight from the Stebner Park entrance, they'll end up at the Hermantown Marketplace trail end. If they go left, they'll find their way to the trail's current end on Hermantown Road. Or the hiker could turn around and return to the Stebner Park trail end.
Teri Cadeau / Duluth News Tribune

"At first I only saw one of them, but then I noticed the smaller one hiding behind the bigger one, and that made me move a little faster," she said. "I didn't want to mess with any momma bears."

In the end, she was OK. The bear decided to leave her be. I finished my walk on the trail without seeing any signs of bears. My only personal interaction with wildlife was with a few mosquitoes, but that was mostly due to the time of day.

In the end, it's a trail I'd visit again. I'm excited to see it grow in the future.

Happy Trails logo.jpg
Gary Meader / Duluth News Tribune

Teri Cadeau is a general assignment and neighborhood reporter for the Duluth News Tribune. Originally from the Iron Range, Cadeau has worked for several community newspapers in the Duluth area for eight years including: The Duluth Budgeteer News, Western Weekly, Weekly Observer, Lake County News-Chronicle and occasionally, the Cloquet Pine Journal. When not working, she's an avid reader and crafter.
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