Hiking in Minnesota: Ely’s Peak Loop Trail

Find out why the Ely’s Peak Loop Trail is a local favorite for hiking in Minnesota. It’s the perfect combination of being relatively short, a little bit challenging, and has epic views of the river valley just minutes away from Duluth. The trail is also a spur or loop trail for the 300+ mile Superior Hiking Trail. So, it’s a great way to get a taste of the Superior Hiking Trail as a day hike.

This hiking guide covers everything you need to know to plan your adventure on the Ely’s Peak Loop Trail!

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Where is the Ely’s Peak Loop Trail?

Ely’s Peak Loop Trail is located just south of Duluth and just north of Jay Cooke State Park, near an area called New Duluth. The trail head is just a short drive off of the Beck’s Road exit off of 35W, the primary route between Duluth and the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St Paul.

This is a perfect day hike when visiting Duluth, Proctor and nearby Spirit Mountain. The trail overlooks the St Louis River valley and Lake Superior.

Large rocks make up the entire trail through a wooded section of the Ely's Peak Loop Trail near Duluth Minnesota.
Some sections of the Ely’s Peak Loop Trail are entirely made of up large rocks like this.

Trail Basics

  • Distance: 1.7-2.0 miles (depending on route)
  • Elevation Gain: 295 feet
  • Elevation Loss: 299 feet
  • Maximum Elevation: 1171 feet
  • Trailhead Start: Short Line Park Parking Area OR Munger Trail Trailhead Parking, both off of Becks Road
  • Trailhead End: same as start
  • Difficulty: Moderate (steep uphill and downhill, some scrambling on rock, sun exposure)
  • Recommended Start Time: Morning or just before sunset
  • Time on the Trail: 1-1.5 hours
  • Facilities: No bathroom along the trail or at trailhead parking lots
  • Gear Needed: Day hiking essentials

Getting To/From the Ely’s Peak Trailhead

There are two options for where to park for day hiking the Ely’s Peak Loop Trail. Both are located off of Becks Road. For each option, I’ve included an Ely’s Peak trail map!

Option 1 – Munger Trail Parking Lot

This parking lot is used for backpackers doing sections of the Superior Hiking Trail as well as bicyclers and others using the paved Willard Munger Trail. 

This option gives access to the 1.7 mile, slightly shorter version of the loop trail and is reflected on this trail map in AllTrails.

Benefits: More direct route to Ely’s Peak, no hiking along the road, slightly shorter.

Negatives: Does not take you to other nearby peaks. 

Option 2 – Short Line Park Parking Lot

This parking lot is relatively small and is the first you will see when you are driving on Beck’s Road from the highway. From this lot, you can access the paved DWP Trail (also called the Grant & Aide Trail), which is an old railway line.

This option gives access to the 2.0 mile, slightly longer version of the loop trail and is reflected on this Google map.

Benefits: Takes you to the entrance of the DWP Railway Tunnel, more peaks with views

Negatives: Some road hiking to get back to the parking lot.

Ely’s Peak Trail Highlights

Since I hiked the trail using Option 2 listed above, I’ll share highlights from that route. 

From the Short Line Park Parking Lot, walk across a short boardwalk before finding a set of steps that take you up to the paved DWP Trail.

A sign at the Short Line Park parking lot just to the right of a narrow boardwalk that leads to the Ely's Peak Trail.
The Short Line Park parking lot has a narrow boardwalk that leads you to the Ely’s Peak Loop trail.

Once you reach the DWP Trail, turn right and follow that until just before the DWP Tunnel. 

If you’re feeling brave, take a walk through the tunnel. Be sure to look above – this is a popular spot for rock climbing!

Return back to where you entered the tunnel. If you are facing the tunnel a Superior Hiking Trail Spur Trail sign should be on your left. Look for white blazes on the trees and rocks to make sure you’re on the correct trail. 

Top: View from inside of the DWP Tunnel on the Ely's Peak trail. Bottom Left: Me standing in front of the DWP tunnel entrance. Bottom Right: A white blaze, indicating an SHT spur trail, on a rock along the trail.
Top: The view from inside the DWP Tunnel. Bottom Left: Me standing in front of the murdery DWP Tunnel. Bottom Right: A white blaze on the rock indicate a Superior Hiking Trail (SHT) spur or loop trail (not the main SHT).

Pro Tip: The main Superior Hiking Trail is well marked with blue blazes (or stripes). These are found on trees and rocks all along the trail. The Superior Hiking Trail spur or loop trails are marked with white blazes. 

The trail winds through the forest for a bit before you reach the first peak. This peak offers a view of Ely’s Peak in the distance – which is where you’re headed!

Me with Ely's Peak in the distance behind me.
Get a glimpse of Ely’s Peak (over my shoulder) from the Superior Hiking Trail spur trail in route option 2 above.

From here the trail goes through a combination of forest and rocky sections with several viewpoints towards Duluth and Lake Superior. 

When you reach the main Superior Hiking Trail, marked by blue blazes, turn right. Essentially on this route you are always turning right because it’s a loop trail.

After a short hike, look for the Ely’s Peak spur trail, marked in paint on the rocks (see photo below). It’s just a short hike and then scramble to reach the peak from there. This is a perfect spot for a picnic!

Top: View of the St Louis River from Ely's Peak. Bottom Left: Me at Ely's Peak, Bottom Right: My feet looking down at a rock painted with the words 'Ely's Peak' to indicate the trail turnoff.
Ely’s Peak offers 360 degree views of the St Louis River, which connects with Lake Superior, and the surrounding valley near Duluth.

When you’re done enjoying the view, head back down the short spur trail. When you reach the main Superior Hiking Trail again turn right. Follow the trail as it wraps along the outside of the peak, gradually descending back down. 

Eventually the descent will get more steep, with large rocks to step down. Cross the paved DWP Trail and continue the descent down to the paved Willard Munger Trail. There’s nowhere else for the trail to go, so turn right on the paved Willard Munger Trail. Follow it across the paved bridge until you see the somewhat hidden turnoff for the Munger Trail Parking Lot. 

A paved path stretches out in front, with low green shrubs and yellow flowers on either side.
The Willard Munger Trail is a paved multi-use path, with a 70 mile section that stretches from Duluth to Hinckley.

From here, walk along Beck’s Road back to the Short Line Park Parking Lot. 

Pro Tip: If you prefer not to hike along the road, try this instead. When you reach the paved Willard Munger Trail, the opposite side of the Ely’s Loop Trail will be just a short distance on your right. You can follow this back up to the DWP Trail and turn left for the first time (marked by points C and G on the Google map). This will take you through the DWP Tunnel and back to the Short Line Park Parking Lot.

Ely’s Peak Trail Tips

The Superior Hiking Trail is known for its iconic tree roots and rocky terrain. Watch your step and be prepared to scramble in some sections over large rocks, particularly at Ely’s Peak.

The Ely’s Peak Loop is relatively short, but does have decent elevation change. So, expect the trail to be somewhat steep. Most of the trail is shaded but there are sections that are quite exposed to the sun. 

Pro Tip: Ely’s Peak has an awesome 360 degree view of the St Louis River valley and the surrounding area. It would be a perfect place to enjoy the sunset. Be sure to bring a flashlight or headlamp though for the way back down!

A hiking trail with visible rocks and tree roots is lined on both sides with green trees and the sun is peeking through the leaves.
The Superior Hiking Trail is known for its uneven terrain. Watch your step for large tree roots and rocks!

Ely’s Peak Trail Safety

As always, be sure to bring these day hiking essentials with you! 

Specific risks include sun exposure, uneven hiking terrain, and dehydration. Black bears are unlikely but not unheard of in this area. Make noise while you hike, especially around blind corners. Here’s more on bear safety tips for hikers!

The DWP tunnel is relatively short and worth a walk through if you are up for it! Consider bringing a flashlight or headlamp as it does get dark in the center of the tunnel. 

Ely’s Peak Loop Trail: A Local Favorite Hike

Can you see why this is a local favorite trail? It’s short, sweet, with epic views and a little bit of challenge to get your heart pumping. Hope you enjoy this trail as much as I do!

Related content to read next:

How to Avoid Getting Eaten Alive by Mosquitoes & Ticks (for Hikers!)

Minnesota Hiking Guides: 15 Books About Hiking in Minnesota

Day Hike Packing List: A Prepared Girl’s Guide

Check out my Minnesota travel page for even more inspiration and tips!

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Text: Ely's Peak Loop Trail, epic views near Duluth, Minnesota Image: 360 degree view of lush green vegetation with water off in the distance near the horizon.

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