Discovering the Beautiful Bagley Nature Area

The authors of Gentle Hikes of Minnesota’s North Shore invite you to discover the Bagley Nature Area, a beautiful wooded hike rich in maple and oak, featuring Rock Hill, Rock Pond, and Tischer Creek—all nestled amid 55 acres on the University of Minnesota Duluth’s campus.

On this 1.6-mile hike, photo ops abound and range from the plethora of wildflowers in spring and the blazing colors of fall to the sweeping vistas from Rock Hill, including Lake Superior, Duluth Harbor, Park Point, portions of Wisconsin, and UMD campus.

The trailhead begins near a metered parking area and kiosk map display. Enter the trail by the yellow gate and immediately experience the tranquility of Rock Pond, which borders the trail to the left. To the right is UMD’s Bagley Outdoor Classroom, which is committed to sustainability practices.

Continue beside Rock Pond until you encounter a “T” intersection. Here, turn right and proceed up a slight incline, passing a bench and then walking behind the Bagley Outdoor Classroom. Over the next 0.2 mile, you will encounter two more intersections. Continue straight on the path.

At 0.3 mile, look to the right to spot the walk-in Bagley Nature Area campground, located a few yards away from the path. Tent camping is welcome right here on UMD’s campus, with complete gear rental packages offered. Visit the UMD website for details.

Shortly after passing the campground, you will come to another intersection. Here, turn left (if you arrive at the baseball field, turn around, as you’ve gone too far).

In a few yards, at 0.4 mile, there will be another trail intersection. Turn left, as the trail parallels West Branch Tischer Creek for another 0.1 mile. As a point of wayfinding, beyond the creek are homes, and beyond those homes is Arrowhead Road. Continuing along the path, the trail will turn away from the creek as you encounter the area of steepest incline (16° for 25′) in this section. Ignore the spur trails, and continue for approximately 0.1 mile, where you will veer right at the intersection. In just a few yards, another right leads down a path, which loops back to the main trail in about 0.2 mile. You have the option to take it or stay on the main trail that passes behind Bagley Outdoor Classroom. While this can sound confusing, remember that as long as you don’t cross any roads, you will not get lost, as these trails will eventually bring you to a location you recognize or to a student who can help you find your vehicle!

At 0.7 mile, assuming you took the loop, you should now be back on the main trail passing behind Bagley’s Outdoor Classroom. Here, you will descend the decline that leads to Rock Pond. Continue straight on the trail that will soon parallel the top of Rock Pond and walk until you see a trail to the right. Take it, and shortly you will cross a quaint wooden bridge (double handrail) that is irresistibly photo-worthy in fall. Stay on this trail (ignore trail spurs) and in about another 0.1 mile there will be a bench just before you cross another quaint wooden bridge (double handrail) that is also irresistibly photo-worthy in fall!

Bagley Nature Area

After crossing that second wooden bridge (at 0.9 mile), you will encounter another intersection. Turn right. As the path continues to climb, there may be areas of erosion. Soon you will encounter two areas of incline, with the first being the steepest in this section (12° for 40′).

At the first intersection, turn right and continue climbing the trail. While there may be several very narrow trails to the left, keep ascending the main path, and very shortly you will reach a definitive intersection. Look left for a fairly wide gravel path. Turn left onto it and then continue left to follow it up the hill. This portion of trail is actually an old road that led to the top of Rock Hill. You are now 1 mile into your hike.

In a few yards, you will reach the top of Rock Hill (1.2 miles from start of hike). Once there, the location is very spacious. Look right to find an observation deck (guardrails). From this deck you can see a panorama of Duluth Harbor, Park Point, Wisconsin, Lake Superior, and the UMD campus. If you are fortunate enough to visit in the fall, the trees can be ablaze with color.

Retrace your path back down the hill and turn right on that previous gravel path. Turn right on a mulched trail, then right again in about 50′. At the next intersection, turn right once more. You will come to an area of decline (14° for 50′). At the next intersection (you are now at 1.4 miles into your hike), turn left. This brings you into a nice stand of maple and birch. Soon you will come to another intersection; turn left and encounter another area of decline (14° for 60′). Turn right at the next intersection.

At 1.5 miles, this section returns you to a clearing. Turn right, then right again at the next intersection. Next, you will come to another clearing. At a “Y” in the trail, take the path to the left. It will bring you to the parking area. (Note: Depending on trail maintenance, the hike may not loop completely around the pond.) Rock Pond itself is a wonderful reflecting pool for the fall colors that surround it, affording nearly perfect photo ops during sunny autumn late afternoons. From here, the parking lot and trailhead are only 0.1 mile away.

Trailhead Directions:
Take I-35 North to Exit 258 (watch for the sign indicating University of Minnesota Duluth), and turn left at the end of the exit ramp. Continue up 21st Avenue East until it ends at Woodland Avenue. Turn right and follow for 0.9 mile to St. Marie Street (there’s a traffic light and gas stations at the corner). Turn left and follow for 0.5 mile to one block beyond Montrose Avenue. Turn right into a paved parking lot (watch for a sign indicating Bagley Nature Area) and look for the limited metered (and monitored) parking. Additional parking is available in a pay lot just off the intersection of St. Marie Street and University Drive across from the campus stadium and track. Free parallel parking may be obtained along St. Marie Street, but it is hard to find when classes are in session, unless you arrive very early in the morning.

For more information, contact UMD Recreational Sports Outdoor Program at (218) 726-7128 or visit their website.

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Liliane Opsomer
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