The Great Outdoors…With Beer

Dave Hoops dishes on his favorite places in northern Minnesota.

By Dave Hoops 


In this issue I am going to talk about some of my favorite places in northern Minnesota to hike, bike, camp, relax, swim, and of course enjoy a great beer. In 2006, the City of Duluth Comprehensive Plan showed a staggering 11,862 acres of parks and recreational space owned and maintained by the city. That, folks, is 16.6% of our total land area. Pretty sweet if you want to get outside and get active.

I’ll start with the Sea Caves on the South Shore of Lake Superior, five miles east of Cornucopia, Wisconsin. This winter the caves exploded into Minnesota consciousness due to unprecedented publicity from social media and local news outlets of the easy human access to the ice. The caves are strange and beautiful, like cathedrals of ice. My buddy Big House Bobby Olsen from the Duluth band the Black Eyed Snakes has a cabin in “Corny,” as we all call this cool little town. For many years we have gone up in January and hung at the Village Inn, played cribbage, enjoyed craft beer from Summit Brewery, and hiked the caves.

Only certain winter conditions allow ice access, but when it happens, it is a religious experience. I wasn’t thrilled that this winter was a shit-show of overpopulation, but I am happy about the great economic boon for the South Shore. If you aren’t able to make it in winter, wait for ice-out and kayak the caves in the summer for an equally awesome experience. My choice of beer to enjoy with this experience would be Bent Paddle Bent Hop—the can is great for easy transport.

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If winter lingers on as much as last year and there is still snow on the ground, get in a little last minute cross-country skiing. Most people love the Magney-Snively Trail near Spirit Mountain. This park is great for more advanced skiers and I recommend it. The Lester-Amity trails near Lester Park Golf Course are my favorite. During my frequent rest stops, a Black List Brewing Or De Belgique right out of the bottle warms the bones.

When the weather starts to warm up, another of my favorite places is Park Point. Ten miles long, Park Point is the longest freshwater sand spit in the world. Each year for the last ten years, my family has rented a small cottage on the shores of Lake Superior. Park Point is the best of Lake Superior and the best of Duluth.

On warm days, the beautiful sand beaches rival any famous beach location, the sand dunes make for great barefoot strolling, and the views are incredible. My favorite hike is Minnesota Point, located at the end of the sand spit, behind the hangar of a small airport. From there, a trail winds through an old-growth red and white pine forest. This is the best hike. At the end of the trail, a growler of Park Point Pils from Fitger’s Brewhouse completes the hike.

Sea-Caves, Wisconsin South Shore // Photo by Daisy Hoops

Sea-Caves, Wisconsin South Shore // Photo by Daisy Hoops

Next up is my choice for best view. Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory is right off Glenwood Street and Skyline Parkway in Duluth. The Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve provides some of North America’s best hawk watching and showcases a killer view of East Duluth and Lake Superior. This spot also doubles as my most favorite picnic spot. My choice for a beer here is Hawk Ridge Pale Ale from Fitger’s Brewhouse.

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