Wet Meadow Loop (2.6 Miles)
The Wet Meadow Loop is one of our favorite hikes in the park. Not only does this hike take you through a variety of diverse landscapes, it also takes you on a journey through the history of Hartley Park. In the early 1900’s most of the land that would become Hartley Park was a part of the Allendale Farm. The Allendale Farm was owned by Guilford Graham Hartley, and at 780 acres, it was the largest farm of its time in the city of Duluth. Evidence of the farm still exists in the park today. On your hike, you will pass the historic root cellar, as well as the remnants of the old Hartley farmhouse. The hike will also take you through the wet meadow, which was once cleared for the Allendale Farm lettuce and celery fields. The wet meadow has seen a fair amount of human disturbance over the years. However, the wet meadow has made an amazing recovery, and is now one of the best examples of its type in Duluth. The wet meadow also has one of the longest boardwalks in the region. At just about ¼ mile long, the boardwalk offers a unique perspective of the wet meadow that would otherwise be difficult to get. The rest of the hike travels through a forested landscape that is dominated by both native and non-native plant communities.
The Wet Meadow Loop begins at the yellow gates in the Hartley Nature Center Parking lot. This is also the start of Old Hartley Road, which crosses through the heart of the park. This trail follows the road that once gave access to the interior of the Allendale Farm, and along the way you will see some of the park’s historic sites. Almost immediately after walking through the yellow gates, Old Hartley Road crosses N. Tischer Creek. N. Tischer Creek is a designated trout stream that meanders through the city of Duluth on its way to Lake Superior. Over the next .2 miles Old Hartley Road parallels the creek, although it rarely gets close enough to see it. A short walk down the trail brings you to a large intersection near the pond. Continue on Old Hartley Road as it travels through one of the hardest hit areas of a devastating blowdown that occurred in the summer of 2016. During the storm, Hartley Park lost nearly 3000 trees. This area is beginning to experience some natural regeneration, and you may notice some small trees emerging. Additional efforts have been made to restore the area by planting a wildflower meadow. This is particularly lovely in the spring and summer. As Old Hartley Road leaves the blowdown area and re-enters the forest, you will pass the short spur trail to the root cellar. A remnant of the farm, the root cellar was used by the Hartley family to store goods that needed to stay cool. It is the most intact structure remaining in Hartley Park from the farm days. Continue hiking on Old Hartley Road as it passes the Rock Knob multi-use trail and crosses several wooden boardwalks. During the spring this stretch of Old Hartley Road is filled with vernal pools that often serve as home to frogs, salamanders, fairy shrimp, insects, and other important wildlife. A short distance down the trail you’ll come to a long unmarked wooden boardwalk that splits off the right. This boardwalk is called “the bump out” and it takes you to one of our favorite views of the wet meadow. After taking in the view, return to Old Hartley Road and continue until you reach the intersection with the Root Canal Trail. Here you will leave Old Hartley Road and follow the Root Canal Trail as it crosses the west branch of Tischer Creek. Make sure to stay right after crossing the creek, as the Superior Hiking Trail splits off to the left. Continue on the Root Canal trail as it travels through the forested landscape. Roughly a half mile down the Root Canal Trail the Naymark Trail will enter from the left, and the Root Canal Trail will become the Meadow Trail. Shortly after leaving the intersection with the Naymark Trail, the Meadow Trail will come to a nearly .25 mile long boardwalk that weaves it’s way through the wet meadow. Here you’ll be treated to expansive views of the meadow, Rock Knob, and even Hunters Ridge. Closer to the trail you’ll see the small ponds and little pools that give the wet meadow its name. Most of this water is slowly moving towards the southeast corner of the meadow where it exits the park as the West Branch of Tischer Creek (which you crossed earlier in your hike). The meadow is a great place to see birds, beavers, deer, and even the occasional bear. After leaving the boardwalk, the wet meadow trail once again travels through a forested landscape. A short walk down the trail will take you to the intersection with the Pines Trail. “The Pines” refers to the pine plantation that was planted by scout groups during Hartley’s early days as a park. In the days since, foresters have learned that single species (monoculture) plantings like these do more harm to the overall health of the plant community than good, and work has been done to help restore the area. Despite the low quality of this plant community, the pines are a popular location in the park, especially for photographers, and “fort” builders. The Pines trail circles “The Pines”, and going either direction will get you to the Tunnel Trail, which will take you back to Old Hartley Road and Hartley Pond. Continuing down the Tunnel Trail until until it’s intersection with Old Hartley Road at the pond. Take a left and return back to the parking lot where your hike began.