Here on the Mesabi Iron Range, our lives are inextricably tied to the land around us, from the natural resources that sustain our economy to those that sustain us spiritually and emotionally. As Rangers our past, present and futures are linked to what nature has provided and fortunately, there are myriad ways to explore what it has historically meant to rely on the land, what mining means today, and how we can benefit from everything our environment offers. I’m talking, of course, about the ways area museums tell us the stories of the land and the people, and the ways our trails, lakes, and other outdoor venues keep us active, keep us healthy and keep us here.
This year, explore the Mesabi as you are able and comfortable, and discover or rediscover some of the ways it is truly magic.
Can you really appreciate a place if you don’t know its history? The Mesabi has done a wonderful job of preserving our history and telling our stories. If you love this area, or simply don’t know much about it, these museums should be on your must-see list.
Virginia Heritage Museum in Olcott Park includes the former park superintendent’s home, a tourist cabin, a Finnish-style log house and permanent exhibits about logging and lumbering. Starting in July, the Heritage Museum will be open on Fridays from 11 to 4 and on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays by appointment (except July 4). People can call 218-741-1136 for a tour.
When you’re there, be sure to stroll through Olcott Park and see the newly restored fountain.
The Hibbing Historical Society Museum tells the tale of “the town that moved,” and features permanent and changing exhibits from the collection. The museum, located in the Hibbing Memorial Building, is closed until at least August 31, but is normally open year-round.
Nelimark Homestead Museum in Embarrass opens July 2, on Thursday, Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. through September. Finnish is spoken in this historic farmhouse at the corner of Hwy 21 and East Salo Road, and crafts and baked goods are for sale.
US Hockey Hall of Fame Museum honors history and recreation in a unique way. Exhibits tell the story of hockey and celebrate the sport’s greats. Kids and adults of all ages will enjoy this one-of-a-kind shrine to hockey in Eveleth (stop by Hockey Plaza on Grant Street in Eveleth as well, for selfies with the Big Stick and more hockey history). The Hockey Hall reopened June 11, 9-5 Monday-Saturday and 10-3 on Sunday. Admission ranges from $6-$8. Find an admission discount coupon on their website.
Minnesota Museum of Mining is one of the few places kids can climb on mining equipment and have an underground mine experience without actually going under ground. Chock full of area history, this indoor/outdoor museum is always worth a stop. The Minnesota Museum of Mining will open July 2 on Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays 9-5, and Sundays 1-5. Admission ranges from $4-$8.
Minnesota Discovery Center promises to be a hub of activity this summer, with the new RedHead Mountain Bike Trails open, not to mention the Rustic Pig Restaurant in the food court Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays noon to 8 p.m. Trolley tours and mini-golf are back as well. Visit MDC’s website for details on what’s open and what’s not, and follow them on Facebook for up-to-date info. Admission ranges from $5-$9, and trolley rides and mini-golf are $4 each per person. Admission is always free Thursdays from 3-9 p.m.
Locomotive Park in Mountain Iron features mining equipment and a locomotive engine, plus interpretive signage about the mining process. If you haven’t been here it is definitely worth a stop, and it’s conveniently located along the Mesabi Trail if you want to incorporate it into a ride.
Iron Range Veterans Memorial in Virginia is a hidden gem of a statue and memorial site that should be on your ‘visit list’ this summer. Near Bailey’s Lake and the Mesabi Trail, you can make it part of a walk around the water and a bit of quiet reflection.
Hull Rust Mine View, with its stunning panorama and gigantic production trucks opened July 3! The gates are open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily, with staff onsite 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily. Tourist Center Gift Store in Hibbing is open 10-3 Monday-Saturday. Contact them at 218-262-4166. In addition, several overlooks provide sweeping views of mining and non-mining countryside, including Finntown Overlook in Virginia and Leonidas Overlook in Eveleth. Skibo Vista outside of Hoyt Lakes is a nice drive down the Superior National Forest Scenic Byway and interpretive signage there draws you into the area’s history. Bridge View Park along the Mesabi Trail in Virginia is about ¼ mile from a parking area and offers a scenic look at Rouchleau Mine and the Tom Rukavina Memorial Bridge. Walk, bike or ATV another ½ mile and you’re on the bridge.
From hiking trails with great views of the Superior National Forest at Giants Ridge and the rustic woodsy routes at the Laurentian Divide, to the towering trees of the Big Aspen trails, the grassy paths around Carey Lake in Hibbing, and the paved trails around Virginia’s Bailey’s Lake, there’s no shortage of routes that make for great afternoon hikes. If you’re looking for folks to hike, bike or paddle with, check out Mesabi Outdoor Adventures on Facebook, or look for their free recreation meet-ups on ironrange.org.
Also at Giants Ridge, enjoy mountain bike trails and scenic chairlift rides. This recreation hub is also home to one of many area disc golf courses. Find more disc golf in Chisholm, Buhl, Mountain Iron, Eveleth, Virginia and Aurora.
For the motorized crowd the Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation Area in Gilbert is the Midwest’s premier OHV park, and it’s free and open all year. Bring Jeeps, dirt bikes, side-by-sides and more to this motorized playground where it’s okay to get muddy and dirty – then use the wash bay onsite. It’s amazing how many locals have never been here, even though there’s 36 miles of trails to explore. Other trail systems in the area include the Ranger Trails in Biwabik, Aurora and Hoyt Lakes, Northern Traxx in Chisholm, and Quad Cities in the Virginia area.
Finally, if you haven’t biked or walked the 135-miles paved Mesabi Trail, you’re missing out! Learn more about Mesabi Trail adventures.