Trail Review: Bagley Nature Area (Winter)

Saturday I couldn’t stand another day on the treadmill, so even though it was -2 when I got up, I told myself if it was in the high single digits by noon, I would get outside for my run. It was, so I did.

I headed out to Bagley Nature Area, on UMD’s campus. A small portion of the trail is on the Superior Hiking Trail as it winds its way through the city. The trail is not paved, but is not particularly technical; there are no large rocks or tree roots or other obstacles. In the winter, its two main loops are groomed and there are classic x-c skiing tracks. There is a small hill where kids can go sliding/tubing that might cause some traffic jams or collisions on the way on or off the loops. Since school is closed, there’s parking right near the trail. When school is open, the parking lot is for campus residents, so I don’t know what non-students do. Street parking is impossible during the weekdays when school is in session.

I wore my shoes chains, which gave me plenty of traction on the groomed and slightly packed trails. At times there was ice directly under the snow, so I was glad to have the extra traction and stability. There weren’t that many people out since it was cold: a couple other runners and a couple cross country skiers, plus the kids on the sliding hill.

Click here for a map of the groomed trails. The east loop is definitely the easier loop: it has a few very small hills, but nothing too challenging. In autumn I love the east loop because the trees are simply gorgeous and the trail is carpeted in leaves.

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A little serenity on #umd campus at #bagley between games.

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The west loop, while shorter in distance, is more challenging. The walking trail diverges from the ski trail for a bit, so it’s a little longer than 1.2k as shown on the map. Two cute wooden bridges cross over a little creek and back again. Once the loop rejoins the ski trail the path comes to a large hill. I mean, not large by Rocky Mountain standards or anything, but it’s a more difficult hill than might normally be found on a tiny, semi-urban loop. The scenery at the top of the hill is lovely, in the winter there’s even a glimpse of the lake, but for some reason every time I’m up there, a dog at one of the nearby houses is out and barks and ruins the serenity!

The loop comes back down along Junction Ave/St. Marie St., following the pond. The descent is more gentle than the ascent (note that I run the paths the same direction as the skiers), but along the pond I found the path was at its iciest and had to be cautious. Since the two loops come together on the north side of the pond, it’s easy to make a few figure 8 loops of the trail and turn a short trail into a good place for a medium-length run.

Bottom line: Bagley Nature Area has groomed trails, few flat stretches, and lots of trees. It’s a great place to go on days when I’m not sure how I feel, because the loop is so short it’s easy to tap out after a few miles if it’s not my day. It is not a great place for speedwork or aerobic training, due to the large hill on the west loop.

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