The Willard Munger State Trail stretches some 60 miles from Hinckley to Duluth. A scenic converted rail trail, it sounded like the perfect place to get in a longer distance skate, and after reading several trail reviews I was looking forward to testing it out on my inlines. Well, after hopping on the trail at the trailhead in Hinckley, I quickly changed my mind.
The first couple miles were great. But a few more miles in and the pavement started to get rough, and I noticed more and more tar snakes (tar patches that are put down to cover and repair cracks in the trail) and debris such as gravel from the road crossings and branches and seeds from the tree-shaded areas. In hindsight I really should have turned around, but since I had already driven an hour and a half from the Twin Cities to scope it out, not to mention dragged my dad with me on his road bike to help pace me on my interval training, I wanted to make it worthwhile and try to get in some real miles. Needless to say, a few falls and some ugly road rash later, I learned my lesson and turned around, and decided that this particular state trail is not a good inline skating trail.
Before you check it out for yourself, read the reasons why you shouldn't go (at least not on inline skates!) below.
- Trail is far from the Twin Cities metro area - If you live in the Twin Cities, it takes a good hour and a half to drive to the city of Hinckley to hop on the trail. This means you have to account for travel time, as it takes half a day to drive there and back, and plan to spend some extra quality time in your sweaty workout clothes before you get to that post-workout shower.
- Trail is rough and not well-maintained - This one speaks for itself. Rough trail equals poor quality inline skating, which also equals higher potential for road rash and injuries. It's just not worth it; find a better trail. Or switch to your bike!
- Trail has many road crossings - The many roads that intersect with the trail will force you to slow down, look both ways for traffic, carefully pick your way across the different type of pavement, and then speed up again to try to regain your original momentum. If you're timing yourself, this will really eat into your average pace. But unfortunately, it's even more hazardous to skate blindly across without slowing down and hope you don't get hit by a vehicle.
- Trail has beautiful scenery - The one positive about the Willard Munger State Trail is that it's very scenic. The section just north of Hinckley includes rural landscapes and rustic towns, and you'll hear a few rooster crows here and there coming from nearby farms.
Key takeaway - hop on your bike, not your skates, to enjoy this particular state trail.