Photographer Profile Series - Sandi Larson
Get Your Daily Dose of Adventure With Hike Duluth
It takes a lot of dedication to go hiking Every. Single. Day. But that’s what Sandi Larson of Hike Duluth does. And she wants to include you in her adventures.
In addition to working full-time, volunteering prolifically, and caring for her home and family, Larson operates Hike Duluth. In this small, social media-focused business, she posts photos and videos of her daily hikes.
Some of her specialties include views of Lake Superior, photos of flowers, wildlife, rivers, waterfalls, bridges, and “iconic Duluth images,” including Enger Tower and the Aerial Lift Bridge.
“I started Hike Duluth in 2012,” Larson explained. “It was my introduction to photography. It started out as something I did for fun, and then I got encouragement from other people. I was taking photos because I saw pretty things, and I thought I’d create a Facebook page. I thought, ‘Not many people realize that there are so many great hiking spots in Duluth; maybe I can inspire others to be more active and explore our great city.”
Larson hopes that her work will appeal to you whether you are a local, a tourist, or someone who has moved away and misses the area. Folks can choose to simply view and appreciate her photos or step it up a notch and join her on one of her daily hikes. She also sells an annual photo calendar, where she assembles some of her best images from the prior year.
A Full Life
Larson works full-time as the Director for the Women’s Business Alliance, a program of the Entrepreneur Fund. She also volunteers her time for the Giant’s Ridge Ski Patrol, Grandma’s Marathon, Rock Hill Community Church, and she serves on the Board of the Empowered Women’s Network of the Northland.
Despite her packed schedule, Larson never misses the opportunity for a hike. “I’m an early riser,” she explained. “I’ll get up at 4:30 am to catch a sunrise. I’m usually on the trail by 6 am, if not earlier, and I usually go back out in the evenings, too. And I hike year-round, 365 days a year. It doesn’t matter if it’s -20 and snowy. I’ll use my snowshoes.”
Larson, who is originally from Babbitt, Minnesota, moved here to attend college at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) and decided to stay and make Duluth her home. She has a bachelor’s degree in communications and a master’s degree in organizational leadership and community engagement.
Larson’s husband, Ron Larson, works for Amsoil. The couple has an adult son, Ben, currently attending UMD. The Larsons have a mixed-breed rescue dog (and enthusiastic hiking partner!) named Koda and two cats, Tig and Nico.
Hike Duluth began as fun yet modest hobby. Larson never really expected many people to see her work. But once she built it, the people came – in droves.
“I never told anybody about my page,” she noted. “I just waited to see who would find me. Eventually, Jerry Thoreson – Managing Editor of Destination Duluth, found Hike Duluth and asked if they could share a picture I had posted. I went from 350 followers to 700 followers overnight after Destination Duluth shared the picture.”
Women Hike Duluth
In 2018, the City of Duluth’s Parks and Rec Department asked Larson if she would help coordinate women’s hikes. She said yes, and this has led to an ongoing partnership. It also prompted her to start a private Facebook page called Women Hike Duluth, which is open only to women to coordinate hikes with each other and share their hiking adventures.
Larson usually hits the trail solo or with her dog, Koda, during her hikes. But, when a Women Hike Duluth event is coordinated, there can be up to 40 participants.
“Women Hike Duluth currently has over 2,600 members,” Larson said. “This includes people from around Duluth, the region, and the whole country. And, members include those residents, people moving to the area, visitors, and people who used to live here.”
Ask Sandi Larson about her favorite places to hike; she simply can’t contain her passion for the activity, along with all of Duluth’s amazing venues.
“It’s so hard to pick a favorite!” she exclaimed. “I love the Ely’s Peak area, Spirit Mountain, and Kingsbury Woods. I also enjoy the Piedmont trails, the quarry, and Tischer Creek. The antenna farm trail has great views, and you can see Bentleyville at night in the winter.”
“I also love Chester Park, Bagley at UMD, Hawk’s Ridge, Lester Park, and Lincoln Park,” she added. “Sometimes I go to Superior, up the shore, and I also hike wherever I go on vacation, too. The main thing is that I post a picture each day. I rarely allow myself to post photos of hikes that didn’t happen today.”
For Larson, photography is not about waiting until you have sophisticated camera equipment. It’s about starting where you are and utilizing what you have.
“I started taking pictures with an iPhone and have since switched to an Android Galaxy phone,” she noted. “People have told me I have a good eye and should get a big camera, but that would take the fun out of it. I say, use what you have.”
And, when it comes to hiking, her advice is similar. “Just go out and explore. There are many fun trails with so much to offer – everything from flat to challenging terrain. You can even hike with me, and I’ll show you some great spots.”
“One of the things I find most fulfilling is that there are people who follow my page because they are thinking of moving here, and it helped motivate them,” she said. “That’s a thrill for me.”
To stay informed of Larson’s daily hikes, please connect with the Hike Duluth Facebook page, or request membership for the Women Hike Duluth group. Additionally, every November, Larson sells a photo calendar.