Is Duluth the 'Best Town Ever'?

KERRI WESTENBERG | Updated 8/11/2014

Outside magazine says: yes.

Duluth's Aerial Lift Bridge
Mike Zerby

Duluth had better prepare itself for in influx of visitors and residents. The September issue of Outside magazine, which hits newsstands next week, extols Duluth’s virtues as a hub of outdoor adventure. It was named winner of the magazine’s “Best Town Ever” contest, decided by reader voting. That’s quite a title.

Outside did its math to report that Minnesota’s City on the Hill claims 6,834 acres of city parkland, 178 miles of wooded trails and 16 designated trout streams. It is also the southern terminus of the Superior Hiking Trail.

Duluth beat such obvious choices as Missoula, Mont., Boulder, Colo., and Burlington, Vt. All of them have thriving food scenes, walkable neighborhoods and, in the words of Outside, “incredible access to trails, rivers, mountains and lakes.” It also bested La Crosse, Wis., touted for several wooded parks, the Mississippi and the Elroy-Sparta Bike Trail.

Though these may be fighting words for some, Duluth (with a score of 88) also outshone Minneapolis (81), another entrant in the 10-city lineup. Oddly, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area was mentioned in the Minneapolis write-up, though Duluth is about 150 miles closer to that great wilderness.

Never mind the discrepancy. We who live here consider all of Minnesota our own beautiful playground. In fact, after we all get our hands on the magazine’s September issue, I can imagine the scene on Interstate 35. Cars and SUVs, topped with kayaks and mountain bikes, will stream in both directions. Twin Citians will head north to check out Duluth’s mountain biking trails while Duluth’s adventurers will turn south to sample one of Minneapolis’ many lakes, one that will be smaller than the lake they are used to.