Experience a New Connection

By late September, 2017, the Mesabi Trail will be whole again once more. The completion of a massive construction project that caused the paved cycling trail to be rerouted for nearly two years is reaching its conclusion in Virginia. It was an inconvenience that may very well be worth it: trail users will now experience a new bridge and connection between Virginia and points south and west.


The reconnection brings back 75 miles of continuous trail, from McKinley in the east, through Gilbert, Eveleth, Virginia and Mountain Iron, across the Mesabi Iron Range over to Grand Rapids in the west. Mesabi Trail spurs connect Giants Ridge resort with its 15 miles of hiking trails and 40km of off-road cycling, with Biwabik and Aurora.

A couple enjoys the early fall colors on the Giants Ridge hiking trails with views of the Superior National Forest

As the trail winds west, cyclists and hikers will pass lakes and cross wooded areas. 

Mileage from the east end of the trail, in McKinley, to Hibbing, is 35 miles. Be sure to stop by Hull Rust Mine View in Hibbing before Sept 30, and set up a free tour of the Hibbing High School. Recommended places to eat and snack: Kandyz-n-Konez or Memory Lane Cafe in Gilbert; The Shop Coffeehouse, Kunnari’s Kitchen and Natural Harvest Food Co-op lunch counter in Virginia; Mac’s Bar in Mountain Iron; Black Bear Bakery and Valentini’s in Chisholm; or JJ’s Coffee and Cream or Bailey’s Courthouse Cafe in Hibbing.

The new bridge in Virginia opens to traffic on September 15, 2017. The bridge’s pedestrian/bicycle lane opens later.


For information about fall travel on the Mesabi Iron Range, visit ironrange.org. Click here to see lodging specials, request scenic drive maps, or get other free guidebooks. 
















Share to:

Three Days Away for 600 Bucks

What can a couple do for $600 or less?  Spend three days on the Mesabi! 


Find midweek rates from $59 to $109 double occupancy at most of our great hotels, motels resorts and B&Bs. View your selection here! 


Say you go with the $109 room for two nights, with tax and tips, you’ll be spending around $260 for two nights, leaving around $340 to work with. So let’s start spending!


Food and Drink

If your lodging choice doesn’t include a free breakfast, as many do, we’re sending you to Kunnari’s Kitchen in Virginia for krupsua (Finnish pancakes) for $4.69. With coffee, juice and tip, you’re looking at around $25 for a morning meal for two!


Lunch at Black Bear Bakery in Chisholm is $6.95 for a pulled pork sandwich and chips, keeping your tab around $25 with a cold beverage and maybe even a cookie to share!


Burgers are $2.50 on Tuesday nights at Mac’s Bar in Buhl, and tacos are $2.00 each at The Thirsty Moose in Hibbing on Wednesdays, making evening meals come in anywhere between $20 and $40 both nights with a beverage on the side.

Other places to stop for tasty but thrifty meals and snacks include breakfast or lunch for around $12 at Memory Lane Cafe in Gilbert and, right down the road, hand-dipped ice cream at Kandyz-n-Konez. Back on the east end of the Mesabi Coffee and Cream in Hibbing has tasty lunch items and treats as well!


For dinner, get a plate of homemade pasta with a salad at Valentini’s Supper Club in Chisholm for $11.95 and up, or share a wood fired pizza for around $17 with craft beer on the side at The Shop Coffeehouse in Virginia.


Let’s do the math:

Two breakfasts x $25

Three lunches x $25

Two dinners x $45

Snacks, two days: $24

Total: $210 – we’re down to $130!



The 218 Taphouse in Virginia has vinyl night Wednesdays and live music Thursdays. You can also take in some tunes at Music in the Park in Biwabik, every other Thursday through summer.

Admission to Minnesota Discovery Center, the museum of the Iron Range, is free every Thursday after 3 p.m. Explore the indoor and outdoor exhibits, and catch a trolley ride at 6 p.m. for just $4 per person.


Can’t do Thursday? Admission Tuesday-Sunday and Thursdays before 3 p.m. is $9 for adults. Add in mining-themed mini-golf for $4 a person.


Rent bicycles and spend a half day exploring the Mesabi Trail for around $60 with three-day trail pass.


The Soudan Undergound Mine State Park tour is a must, and only $11 per person.


Admission is free for a wealth of knowledge at these locations: Hibbing Historical Society Museum, Hull Rust Mine View,  the Virginia Heritage Museum, and Olcott Park Greenhouse and Botanical Gardens.

Enjoy works by local artists at the Lyric Center for the Arts (free), or view the City of Virginia’s bold, nostalgic murals on local buildings’ exteriors. Impressive artwork, stonework and more await at the Hibbing High School. Arrange a guided tour by calling the Iron Range Tourism Bureau. Free. All free!


I could go on and on, but I’ll stop with these last two: express your patriotism by visiting veterans memorials in Virginia and Chisholm, or stop by Hockey Plaza in Eveleth for a free education about the region’s most-loved sport.


We’ve spent around $120 for tours and rentals, and given you a whole bunch of free options. Not bad! 


Move Your Body

To stretch your legs, hike around Carey Lake in Hibbing for a three-mile jaunt, or explore the trails at Giants Ridge, the Laurentian Divide, or Big Aspen Recreation Area. Free, free, free and free.

If you’d like a little history to go with your exercise, both Hibbing and Eveleth offer walking tours, complete with brochure. Call IRTB 218-749-8161 to request maps.


If all this walking and cycling warms you too much, dive in. Our beaches are just lovely! Find them in Hibbing, Buhl, Mountain Iron, Gilbert, Eveleth, Biwabik, and Hoyt Lakes.


What’s Left?

We’ve given you three fun-filled days’ worth of ideas, and you still have $10 in your pocket! All that’s left now – besides that $10 – is to request information online, give us a call, or just plan it all out on your own! www.ironrange.org














Share to:

Kick up some dust before you walk down the aisle

Motoring Mesabi: Bring your Bachelor Party to the Range

The awesome golf on the Mesabi makes for a fun bachelor party, but did you ever think about hitting the trails in an ATV? We’ve got the state’s largest ATV rec area in Gilbert – we call it The Park – and you can spend the weekend there, or add some side trips on our regional trails.

ATVs crawl over rocks in the Off Highway Vehicle Recreation Area in Gilbert, MN

Need machines? Rent ’em!

Off Road Rentals in Sturgeon River, MN is right on the way to the Mesabi Iron Range from the Twin Cities area. Talk to Shelly – she’ll get you set up with everything you need for a fun four-wheeling trip!

Rent ATVs, including side-by-sides, at Off Road Rentals in Sturgeon Lake, MN.

After your ride, it’s time to relax

If you’re a camping type of group, Sherwood Forest Campground in Gilbert offers great sites and a trail right to The Park. Plus, Gilbert kindly provides a liquor store, and restaurants including The Whistling Bird, Wandering Pines and two cafes, within walking distance from the campgrounds.

Jessica Leitz, owner of The Whistling Bird restaurant, serves up a Caribbean-style menu and plenty of other delish dishes.

Lodging to Your Liking

If you’d rather stay in a hotel, there’s a Super 8 in Eveleth with trail connection to The Park and BoomTown Restaurant right across the street. (There’s also an ATV dealer within spittin’ distance, in case you’re in the market to buy or need repairs).  At nearby Giants Ridge, stay at The Lodge, The Villas, or The Residence, for a resort-style experience – including golf if you like – plus onsite dining at The Burnt Onion. Take a break from riding to try the new climbing wall at Giants Ridge.

The Lodge at Giants Ridge offers 2- 3- and 4-bedroom suites.

Play on 4 Wheels, Go Home in 1 Piece

While you’re here, we want you to have a blast – but we also want you to be safe. Wear a helmet. Don’t drink and drive. Don’t get crazy, you’ve got a wedding coming up! Check the rules before you decide.

Riders enjoy the Northern Traxx ATV Trail near Chisholm, MN.

Got extra time? Hang out with us!

With the US Hockey Hall of Fame Museum (a sports fan must), mountain bike trails, mine tours, spa services and more, you might want to stay longer than you thought!

Riders at The Park in Gilbert, MN.

Questions? Just ask!

We’re here to help. If you need a party bus, ideas for evening entertainment, or anything else, give us a call at 218-749-8161, request or download some maps, and get the guys (or gals – we offer equal opportunity fun!), and get up here!

Water “play area” at The Park in Gilbert, MN.

Share to:

One Day on the Mesabi

Share to:

You’re ready to ride, are the trails?

This time of year, we’re all dying to get outside and enjoy our favorite activities, and that means the folks who maintain our trails are busy getting them ready for you. Take a look at what’s happening on the paved Mesabi Trail this time of year, and you’ll get a new appreciation for the work that goes into trail prep every spring!

Ride with caution in spring! You might find snow/ice on the trail in shady areas.

As you might expect, trail maintenance is constant in the riding months. The Mesabi Trail has one full time, year-round maintenance person, plus about five seasonal workers who are brushing and mowing the trail shoulders, using chainsaws to rid the trail of fallen trees, blowing rocks and debris from the trail and many other tasks.

Blowdown happens all year round, and with 120+ miles of trail, keeping the Mesabi Trail clear presents and ongoing challenge. Good thing the trail maintenance staff are up to the task!

A small crew obviously can’t be everywhere, all the time. In some communities, city staff lend a hand when it comes to trail maintenance. And the Mesabi Trail crew relies on riders to alert them to issues, too.

Good thing the Mesabi Trail crew sweeps the trail!

Another item the crew might have to deal with is, believe it or not, deer and other animal carcasses. Sometimes, you never know what’s under the snow! But lucky for you, when you hit the Mesabi Trail, THIS is what you’re likely to see! 

Or this!

Or this!

Covering wooded, industrial (iron mining), hilly, flat and in-town landscapes, the Mesabi Trail is a must-ride for any cyclist. To plan your Mesabi Trail adventure, or just to learn more about the towns and activities along the trail, click here:



Share to:

Must-See Mesabi for Families

Share to:

10 Ways to Make Winter Wonderful

Share to:

Made in Minnesota: 3 Easy Projects to Give or Keep

This time of year brings out the crafter in me. Maybe it’s from years of making homemade Christmas gifts and holiday decorations as a kid that puts me in the mood to create. Whatever it is, I’m not a year-long project person. I’m not even a weeklong project person. One day. A weekend tops. I’d rather be outside. Which is why I dig these two, kid-friendly, super quick-and-easy craft  projects, and one multi-step project that fits nicely with my twin loves of cooking and eating. Take a look!


So basic, but so cool. Who doesn’t like to look for rocks? And using the stencil cream was super easy. Everyone needs a paperweight, right?

This next one also involves an epic search for just the right piece (actually, we had a truck box full). Fun to find as part of a hike or just an afternoon outdoors. We cleaned our lake driftwood with a brush and dried in a closet with a dehumidifier. There are other prep methods, too, that are more time-consuming, but we aren’t making these to sell, just to enjoy for as long as we like looking at them.

Multi candle 2

We used a 1-1/2″ wood bore drill bit the same size as a tealight. You could sand the edges a bit, but frankly it looks find as is.

I love the look of driftwood, but I’ve seen nice birch pieces, too. Avoid pine! Too much sap.

With a runner underneath, or greenery around, this will make a great centerpiece.

With a runner underneath, or greenery around, this will make a great centerpiece.

If the driftwood needs stabilizing, sand the uneven part, or add furniture pads underneath. You can trim to fit or use the super small felt pad.

curvy candle

My fave so far.

So this last is one not complicated, but it does have many short steps along the way. We saved all the throw-away northern for a couple months, filleting and freezing them along the way (I must confess, I didn’t do much of the work in this step). Then it was just a matter of unthawing and getting to it.

Someone would love to help. Author's note: the corkscrew shown here is not necessary for this project. Just for opening the wine.

Someone would love to help. Author’s note: the corkscrew shown here is not necessary for this project. Just for opening the wine.

Cut 60-70 bit sized pieces and soak for 48 hours in one cup of non-iodized salt.

fish pickling kitty 2

Drain off the saltwater, rinse, and soak in white vinegar for 24 hours. Kitty is contemplating ways to get the dog to create a distraction.

You can download the recipe here, but in the final phase, you discard the straight-up vinegar, and boil together 1-1/2 cup sugar, 3 cups white vinegar, 4 bay leaves, 1 tsp whole allspice, 3 tsp mustard seed, 1-1/2 tsp whole black pepper, a couple peppers or 6-7 whole chili peppers, then cool to room temp (apparently, this is crucial. warm brine will overcook the fish and make it mushy). Add 2 cups white port wine, 2 large onions, sliced, and fish.


Put in canning jars, close tightly, and let stand in fridge for 8-10 days before eating with crackers. Yumaroo!

So good. So Minnesota!

So good. So Minnesota!

Thank you Aaron “Wally” Lingwall for this great recipe.



Share to:

Three Reasons to Love “Off-Season” Hiking

The leaves may be falling and winter fast approaching, but this in-between time of post-autumn-pre-winter is a great time to be in the woods. Need some reasons to bundle up and get out there? Here’s the top three, with some suggested trails to check out on the Mesabi:


1. You can see clearly now. Hunters know that falling leaves means improved visibility in the woods. But you don’t have to be carrying a firearm to get out an enjoy the trails, and any birds you might see along the way! Watch for grouse, whose beating wings and low-flying ways make them easy to distinguish. They’re covey-ing up for winter, feeding on the late season greens, like clover, as much as possible. If you’re walking with a dog, you’re almost certain to kick up a few of these. Other birds to look for: downy and pileated woodpeckers, chickadees, owls of all sorts, and flickers. Fewer leaves also mean more visible shorelines, so watch for otters, muskrat and waterfowl!

Fall trail

2. No bugs. Walk freely through the trails without fear of mosquitoes! It’s awesome. As always, check for ticks when you’re done.Sequence 1 01025420

3.   A new perspective. Fallen trees, rocks, game trails and land formations are much more visible this time of year. The dying undergrowth and falling tree canopy make exploring off trail easier. You never know what you might find! Don’t stray far from the trail, however. Bring a colorful bandanna and tie it to a tree along the trail; then make sure to keep it in sight while you explore.


Another hiking tip this time of year: wear orange garments. Find an orange hat, scarf or bandanna – for you and your pets. Use red if you can’t find orange. With bird hunters on some trails this time of year, it’s better to be safe than sorry!


Most US Forest Service trail systems, such as Big Aspen north of Virginia, and the trails of the Laurentian Divide allow hunting. Others, like Carey Lake in Hibbing and the ski mountain trails at Giants Ridge, are off limits to hunters. Bird season is open well into winter; Minnesota deer archery season is mid-September to December 31; deer firearms season in our neck of the woods is November 5-20.


View and download hiking trail maps here. Find info about Minnesota’s hunting regulations here.


Finally, bring plenty of water, a camera, and binoculars if you have them. Enjoy your time on our trails! Visit ironrange.org for lodging and dining info, plus other attractions and events.


Share to:

Biking Minnesota’s Mesabi Range

When my husband, Jeff, retired from the Army at age 54, I knew the road ahead would be challenging. What I didn’t know was that literal roads would end up making our relationship stronger than ever.


When Jeff left his Army career, he was determined to keep busy in the garage and workshop of our Minneapolis, Minnesota home. Working on classic cars, building furniture, tinkering. This didn’t last.


He took up fishing. He gave up fishing.


He golfed, but that only works six months of the year.


Meanwhile, I was still working full time as a nurse, and he was driving me crazy.


Then one evening he came home from the Maple Grove VFW and said he had bought a bike.


I thought, “That’s odd, but good for him. It will be good exercise.”


Then he started talking about the trips we’d take (he had his eye on some routes “up north”) and the places we’d go.


I protested “Whoa, whoa. It’s fine if you want to bike around the state, but I’m not sure I’m ready to give up my weekends to pedal across Minnesota!”


He laughed.


Turned out my loving husband had just purchased a Harley Davidson Road King.


Our lives were about to change.


Becoming a Biker Mama

Jeff immediately started motorcycle safety classes. He bought leathers. He bought bike accessories. He spent a small fortune, but he was smiling and excited for the first time in a long time.Clip #74 13311913


He started taking small road trips, and even though I worried about him on the busy freeways, I knew he was happy with his new hobby.


Then he invited me to go along.


And while I can’t say I loved it, I didn’t hate it. I was neutral, until he came up with a plan to ride for the weekend.


Magical Mesabi Makes Me Love Motorcycling

When my husband came to me with his idea to visit the Mesabi Iron Range for a long weekend on the motorcycle, I was skeptical. But when I found out how much planning he had done, requesting maps from the Iron Range Tourism Bureau  and checking out lodging specials in that beautiful area of northern Minnesota, I was hooked on the idea.


It didn’t hurt that the weather was turning cooler, and I knew we’d be in for some spectacular fall colors along the way.


The Road Trip: Day 1

We left on a Friday morning and took our time getting there, taking I-35 to Hwy 53 on the Mesabi Iron Range. It was only a 3.5-hour ride, and with a couple stops along the way, I was comfortable as could be.


A big Bob Dylan fan, Jeff wanted to make Hibbing our first stop. Dylan grew up there, and Jeff wanted to drive by the musician’s childhood home, Our second stop was Hibbing High School, where Bob Dylan was kicked off the stage by the principal during a talent contest. Our tour guide  did an amazing job leading us through the school, an incredible building that’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places and boasts crystal chandeliers, imported marble floors, and valuable murals throughout.  Fans of architecture (and Bob Dylan!) will love this stop.

Hull Rust 2012

While in Hibbing, we made our way to Hull Rust Mine View, and incredible overlook of Hibbing Taconite, an active iron mine that has been producing ore for more than 125 years.


I must admit, this wouldn’t have been my top pick of places to visit, at least not until I had been there. The amazing landscape was impressive on many levels, and the friendly volunteers at the visitor center were full of information and stories.


By now, we’d eaten up most of the afternoon, and it was time to grab a bite. We stopped at Valentini’s Supper Club, an Italian place just five miles from Hibbing, where the rigatoni with meatballs was delish! From there, we headed to the Holiday Inn Express and Suites in Mountain Iron, where we could park our motorcycle under a covered awning, and they even provided a kickstand puck for free!


The Road King (and Queen): Day 2

The next day we hit the road early (I’ll tell you, a good long soak in the hotel hot tub the night before felt great!), and followed the Skibo Vista with Motorcyclerecommendation of the Mesabi Ride Guide for a 155-mile loop around the region. From Virginia we headed west on Hwy 135, passing through the small towns of Gilbert, Biwabik, Aurora and Hoyt Lakes, before joining Forest Highway 11/the Superior National Forest Scenic Byway. Not far outside of Hoyt Lakes, we stopped at Skibo Vista, a former fire tower lookout with an amazing view of the forest and fall colors galore.


From there, we continued on the byway until it met Highway 2, which leads deep into the Superior National Forest (no place to stop and get gas here!), reaching the curvy and fun-to-ride  Hwy 1 outside of Ely well before noon. We made sure to visit the International Wolf Center, a fantastic museum where we saw exhibits and live wolves, before breaking for lunch at a restaurant on Ely’s busy main street.


We followed Hwy 169 east out of Ely, and stopped at Soudan Underground Mine State Park for a 90-minute tour ¼-mile underground. Jeff was fascinated by this tour, led by a wonderful guide who seemed to know everything there is to know about the state’s last underground mine, now open weekends after Labor Day into October.


Just outside of Soudan, we hopped on Hwy 135 in Tower, taking this gently winding, pine tree-lined route back Aurora and Eveleth, which we heard was the birthplace of Minnesota hockey. As a Minnesota Wild fan, Jeff wanted to see the US Hockey Hall of Fame Museum, open Friday-Sunday after Labor Day. Even though I don’t follow hockey, this museum, a mecca of all things hockey, impressed me!


Jeff back to the hotel to freshen up, and we headed back to Eveleth for dinner and drinks at BoomTown Woodfire Grill. I recommend the prime rib!


The Adventure Continues: Day 3

On Sunday, we took the Ride Guide’s “Mines and Pines” tour up Hwy 5 through McCarthy Beach State Park and the Sturgeon River State Forest. Lunch was in Virginia at a great restaurant and market run by a local farming family called Kunnari’s Kitchen (order the soup!). From there we followed the Superior National Forest Scenic Byway again, this time all the way to Lake Superior.


STAY(640x427)The awesome view of the lake was thrilling. We stopped at Split Rock Lighthouse in Two Harbors for a tour, and then found our way back to Biwabik and Giants Ridge Recreation Area where we stayed onsite at the resort Villas where we could relax in a condo-style lodging with a  kitchen, fireplace and hot tub. The lakeside view was wonderful, and the Caribbean-style restaurant, The Whistling Bird in nearby Gilbert, was amazing!


A glass of wine in the hot tub on the deck of our Villa, under the stars, was a romantic way to end the day. The hour or so we took the following morning to walk the paved Mesabi Trail across the Embarrass River was a great way to counteract all that “seat time” from the past two days!


With two great golf courses  on site, plus bicycles and kayaks to rent, and trails to hike, we could have easily stayed another day, but it was time to head for home.


We departed early in the afternoon, one of us extremely proud of himself and his new found trip-planning abilities, and the other one a converted fan of motorcycle travel!


Ready for some adventure? Get more information on magical Mesabi motorcycle rides, or call 800-777-8497.


Share to: