Pedal Your Way Through Autumn

Iron Range fall drives are fabulous, but for a unique perspective, try a fall ride on the Mesabi Trail. No other trail is as long, colorful and full of historic and scenic sites as the Mesabi Trail, named “Minnesota’s Best Rural Bike Trail” by the Star Tribune. Brandenburg-rock-cut-640x426 Multiple route options give everyone a chance to experience the quiet forests, clear lakes and welcoming communities of the Range. From scenic overlooks to quiet forests, sunny open fields and views of both active and reclaimed mineland, the Mesabi Trail is an experience bicyclists won’t want to miss.

At 115 miles, this trail’s width is 10 to 14 feet. More than 20 access points make it easy to find, and the modest fee of $5.00 for  a three-day pass or $25 for an annual pass makes it affordable in every way.

Along the way, find places to stay, eat and shop, or just enjoy the peaceful ride through the woods. If you’d rather have your route planned out, contact Chris Johnson of the Mesabi Trail Shuttle Service, for best rides, lodging options, even dining and snacking recommendations.

Shuttle service includes transportation for riders, bikes, gear and luggage, with bicycle repair options at the Giants Ridge Rental Shop. Wynne Lake near Biwabik and Giants Ridge From Giants Ridge ejnoy the scenic ride past Wynne and Sabin lakes.  A spur trail in Aurora follows the cliff-line of Saint James Mine Pit Lake.

Looking for something off-road? While the Mesabi Trail is queen of the paved experience, Giants Ridge offers trails that any mountain biker will enjoy. Climb 40 km of maintained mountainside trails, consisting of single track, cross-country ski trails, snowmobile trails and abandoned logging roads.

For the truly adventurous, join the “Legendary Laurentian” bike ride Saturday, September 20 at Giants Ridge. This multi-surface “gravel” event is $20 per person and includes lunch and door prizes.


Travel planning, lodging, maps, attractions:

Giants Ridge golf, disc golf, rentals, bicycle trails and the Legendary Laurentian:

Mesabi Trail information: mesabitrail

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Superior Fall Drives on the Iron Range

WATCH: Our Fall Drives are Golden

Minnesota fall drives

In northeastern Minnesota, four special fall color routes combine nature’s beauty with a touch of unique state history.

More than 320,000 acres of the Superior National Forest meld together  with dozens of lakes and rivers, making  the Iron Range a great place to enjoy scenic drives.

The Superior National  Forest Scenic Byway: Enjoy two of Minnesota’s most compelling landscapes, from the shores of Lake Superior to the rugged woods of the Iron Range. This 165-mile loop begins in Eveleth, just off of Hwy 53, and heads east, reaching the Big Lake in Silver Bay and Beaver Bay. Follow the coastline south to Two Harbors, then go north on Hwy 2 and reconnect with the Byway.

Be sure to stop at Skibo Vista near Hoyt Lakes in the east,  With backdrops like the Laurentian Divide, fall-color-seekers enjoy lovely autumn landscapes and scenery.

For lodging, choose from Northern Comfort B&B in Embarrass, the resort properties or Green Gate Guest Houses at Giants Ridge Recreation Area in Biwabik, Trailsedge Lodging in Gilbert or the Eveleth Super 8. the Green Gate Guest Houses

The Laurentian Divide Tour: Experience the Iron Range communities of Virginia, Eveleth, Gilbert, Biwabik and Aurora, then heads north to Tower and back again in a 70-mile loop. Be sure to stop at Mineveiw in the Sky in Virginia for a great view of active and reclaimed minelands (open daily through September), and visit the US Hockey Hall of Fame Museum in Eveleth (open Friday-Sunday). Hike the trails or picnic at the Laurentian Divide and Lookout, or Giants Ridge Golf and Ski Resort.

Lodging can be found at the Coates Plaza Hotel in historic downtown Virginia, Pine View Lodge near the Virginia Golf Course, or LakeShor Motor Inn on the paved Mesabi Trail.

The Mines and Pines Tour: Wind your way from Hibbing to Chisholm, Buhl, Mountain Iron and Virginia, north to Cook, east to McCarthy Beach State Park and back town to Hibbing on a 102-mile  loop. The pine forests of the state park area are soothing and beautiful. Watch for wildlife! Along this route, visit Hull Rust Mineview in Hibbing, the museum of the Iron Range, Minnesota Discovery Center in Chisholm, and the Big Aspen Recreation Area north of Virginia. Take in a little history with your nature!

Mitchell-Tappan House B&B in Hibbing makes a great place to stay, as do Hibbing Park Hotel (with excellent attached restaurant), the Chisholm Inn & Suites (right near Minnesota Discovery Center), Holiday Inn Express and Suites in Mountain Iron, or AmericInn Lodge & Suites of Virginia.

The Northern Lights Tour: head east from Eveleth to Hoyt Lakes where you’ll hop on the Superior National Forest Scenic Byway for a bit before heading north to Ely and back to the Iron Range. Big Lake Recreation Area in Hoyt Lakes is a great place to hike, while the Soudan Underground Mine in Tower offers a truly unique tour deep under the earth’s surface. Mileage for this route is approximately 155.

For the best photo opps, travel west in the morning and east in the evening. Fall colors peak here between mid-September and mid-October.  For Iron Range Fall Color Maps, lodging information, motorcycle routes, bicycle trail maps, fall color updates and Iron Range attractions information, visit For recreational gear rentals, Giants Ridge golf, and resort hiking trail information, visit

View and download your free fall drives guide, with maps, here. Or, request the fall drives guide plus bicycling trail maps, motorcycle route maps and more here.

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Conquer Scenic Bike Trails on the Iron Range

Mesabi_Trail_2013One of the best ways to see the Iron Range is to hop on a bike and pedal the scenic bike trails that crisscross Minnesota’s north woods. Multiple trail options give everyone a chance to experience the quiet forests, clear lakes and welcoming communities on the Range. Plus, you can make a speedy get-away from the mosquitoes. Read more

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Choose Your Next Northern Minnesota Vacation Package

IronRange_Website_Logos-150x150Getting a great deal on a great place to stay is easy when you book your family vacation on the Iron Range.  Choose a northern Minnesota vacation package that fits your needs, pack your bags and stay on the Range.

Are you ready for a peaceful get-away?   Head to the Northern Comfort Bed and Breakfast in Embarrass, Minnesota.  True to its name, this sturdy Finnish homestead turned B&B creates a comfortable atmosphere where you can unwind, walk among the tall pines that fill the woods and breathe the clean air.  Get a massage, take an authentic Finnish sauna, and then spend the evening watching amber flames dance in the bonfire.  Ahh…perfect.  Plan to stay at least two nights and receive 25% off your visit.

Looking for a place to stay next to northern Minnesota’s OHV park?  Trails Edge Lodging in Gilbert has access trails right out the door and plenty of parking for your 4x4s, dirt bikes and the trailers they rode in on.  Trails Edge can accommodate a large group in their 4 bedroom suite.  One – three bedroom suites are also available.   You’ll be hungry after a day on the trails and will appreciate the full kitchen in your suite, along with grills and picnic tables so you can fill up on brats and burgers before relaxing in front of a campfire.  This summer you get 10% off any 2-night stay.

AmericInn Lodge and Suites offers a “buy one get one” coupon at their Bear Den Pub when you stay with them.  This hotel, located right on Highway 53 in Virginia, offers comfort and convenience for travelers.  The Bear Pub Den is the perfect place to unwind and chat with friends while you plan the rest of your Iron Range visit.  Snacks, sodas, wine coolers and beer are available.

Mesabi_Trail_2013Minnesota’s Iron Range communities have lodging choices for big families, quiet travelers, ATV enthusiasts, nature lovers and golfers.   Make your plans to vacation on the Range.




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Summer has arrived on the Iron Range!

Summer is here on the Iron Range. The sun warmed the lakes, ripened the berries, and brought the incredible scents of pine and fern to the woods again. It’s time to get outside and enjoy it!

Take your pick of great campsites and spend a summer evening around the campfire. There are over 300 sites to pitch a tent or park a camper scattered throughout the Iron Range. Veteran’s Park Campground in Eveleth is easy to find off of Highway 53. Rolling hills, hiking trails, and campsites close to the sandy swim beach make it a family favorite.

Summer edibles are in season. A visit to the farmer’s market yields fresh produce, fruit, eggs, meat, yarn, honey and hand-crafted items. It’s amazing to see what folks can grow in the land of cold and snow. Check out Hibbing’s farmer’s market, Kunnari’s in Virginia, then head to Peterson’s Berry Farm in Eveleth for fresh-picked berries.

4th of July Independance Day Fireworks Atlantic CityFestival season continues on the Range with the Hoyt Lakes Water Carnival, July 24 – 27, 2014.  Celebrate the community’s 59th annual event with your friends and family.  You’ll find music, a softball tournament, and food booths, plus special treats that make the Water Carnival a top event year after year. Friday is a great day for kids with turtle races and fire truck rides. Saturday has events for the whole family: the grand parade at noon, an amazing water ski show at 6:00, and fireworks at dusk.

Take a break from the sun at the Lyric Center for the Arts in Virginia. The First Stage Gallery showcases local artists whose latest works were created for the theme “Life and Work on the Iron Range.” Their art exhibit runs July 31 through August. From the Lyric Center it’s a short walk to The Shop Coffeehouse on Chestnut Street. Stop in for an iced coffee or tea and enjoy the local crowd.

Summer may not last long here but with all these great activities you can really get out and make the most of it!

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Hibbing honors man who created Greyhound shrine

Greyhound-bus-640x480While one iconic American company is celebrating 100 years of bus transportation, the museum dedicated to its past will be dropping “Greyhound” from its name and honoring instead the man who made the shrine possible.

Greyhound Bus Lines can trace its roots back to Hibbing, when an entrepreneur saw a way to make money bringing northeastern Minnesota iron miners to and from work.

By squeezing as many men as he could into an eight-seat “touring car,” Carl Wickman started a business model that essentially turned into the largest intercity passenger bus company in North America.

Greyhound has received worldwide press for reaching the 100th anniversary of bus transportation, even though that 1914 “bus” wasn’t called a greyhound or even owned by the company. You can read a few stories about Greyhound’s celebrations and company history here, here, and here. And an especially thorough one here.

Hibbing, where bus transportation, if not Greyhound Bus Lines, originated, is mentioned in many of these stories and some even call out the Greyhound Bus Origin Museum, located on the edge of town not far from mining activities that forced residents to pack up and move south (several miles, not South), starting in 1919.

But as Greyhound generates press about its long history, the city of Hibbing will be celebrating the man who almost single-handedly brought the museum dedicated to Greyhound travel into existence.

This summer, coinciding with all-class reunion activities, the “town that moved” is re-dedicating the Greyhound Bus Origin Museum “Gene Nicolelli Bus Origin Museum.”

As the story goes, Mr. Nicolelli discovered a plaque from Greyhound honoring the town as the birthplace of the busing industry. This was sometime in the 1960s, and in the 70s, Nicolelli began pursuing the idea of a ‘bus origin’ museum in earnest.

He was the greatest champion of the cause and after years of badgering politicians – and operating out of the Hibbing Memorial Building – finally received funding for the museum. It opened in 1999 and receives somewhere in the neighborhood of 5,000 visitors each year during its summer operating hours.

One can only imagine the hundreds of hours Nicolelli he put into acquiring the buses, memorabilia and Greyhound ephemera that fill the building and grounds. Or the  many days spent greeting visitors or working on a museum-related project.

It’s fitting that the museum is named after him. As a 16-year city councilor and volunteer for dozens of community nonprofits, Mr. Nicolelli was well-known. The Iron Range Tourism Bureau presented him with a Spirit of Hospitality Hall of Fame award in 2012, just over a year before his death in 2014.

Here’s hoping for a good turnout at the re-dedication, Thursday, July 10. You have to wonder if someone from Greyhound will be there, if not to honor the company’s city of origin, then to acknowledge the man who built a memorial in its name.

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Iron Range Family Vacation on a Budget

Your family vacation is one of the best parts of summer. You get a chance to bond with your kids and experience travel through their eyes. If your family is like mine, you’re on a budget and appreciate the free and fun stops along the journey. Here are a few that I’ve found while traveling northern Minnesota’s Iron Range. I know you’ll love a Minnesota family vacation!

family-vacation-mineview-in-the-skyMineview in the Sky

We always feel that we’ve arrived on the Range when we drive by the big dump truck up on the hill at the south entrance to Virginia. But Mineview in the Sky is much more than a welcome sign; it’s a beautiful overlook, a clean rest stop, and a place to let the kids play after a long car ride. You get all this for free. Mineview was built as a place where mine foreman could observe mining operations. Today you get a great view of city, mines, and forest, along with the wind turbines on the other side of ridge.

The top of the overlook has an information center with nice restrooms and a gift shop. Outside there’s a picnic area, playground, and King of the Lode. That’s right – the big truck has a name. The massive truck is the perfect place for a family photo, but you’ll probably just get one tire in the frame.

Lake Leander

Looking for an afternoon on the lake without a paying for a boat or a cabin? Head to Lake Leander in the Superior National Forest. Lake Leander is a short drive from Virginia and has just what you need to enjoy time in the North Woods. Wind swept red pines, scattered through the picnic grounds and surrounding the lakefront, fill the air with their fresh scent.

The kids love the sandy beach with designated swim area and adjacent playground. If you’d like a little more seclusion choose a picnic table off the beach and in the pines. You can imagine you’re at your own lake place as you walk down to the water. Amenities include grills, a picnic shelter with changing rooms and rustic (but clean) toilets. Camping isn’t allowed.

Independence Day Celebrations

Another fun and free way to experience the Iron Range is to take in an Independence Day celebration. Depending on what town you’re in, the festivities start July 2 and run through the 4th. Expect parades with candy and other freebies for the kids, school carnival style kid games, and of course fireworks. Bring a blanket and bug spray as you enjoy one of life’s pleasures with your family.

If you are interested in attending Iron Range Fourth of July activities or any other summer events, please visit our Event Calendar.

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When the digging’s done: What happens to mineland?

From top: Glen, Godfrey and other mines as seen from the Minnesota Discovery Center trolley; the Mesabi Trail by Jim Brandenburg; overlook at the Gilbert OHV Park; Hibbing Taconite

From top: Glen, Godfrey and other mines as seen from the Minnesota Discovery Center trolley; the Mesabi Trail by Jim Brandenburg; overlook at the Gilbert OHV Park; Hibbing Taconite

Mining has been happening in northern Minnesota for over 100 years but what’s most surprising about the Iron Range, at least to a nonnative, is the extent of mine reclamation that’s taken place. It’s not a wasteland.

Reclamation: reforesting, wetland re-creation, mine pits filling with groundwater, these things are happening all the time. Either managed by the mining companies and regulators  (dewatering an area for mining and moving the water into an existing wetland, watershed or pit for example), or by Mineland Reclamation – a division of Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board – or by nature’s hand, change doesn’t end with mining. And much of the time, it ends up looking pretty good if not amazing.

Holes in the ground fill with clear spring water and game fish are introduced. A boat launch, a beach, maybe a campground are added. Loons start nesting and because the water is so clear you can see them hunting far beneath your boat. Exploring “pit lakes” in a boat, canoe or kayak is fascinating. Between the ability to see deep into the lake (but certainly not to the bottom, 200+ feet away), and the rocky walls that tower above, it’s a memorable experience in itself.

In some cases, reclamation has been done by developers. The OHV Recreation Area in Gilbert is a good example. So is Giants Ridge Golf & Ski Resort. The Mesabi Trail makes use of scenic views of reclaimed mineland from one end of the Range to the other. So does Minnesota Discovery Center. Two of the most popular places for tourists to visit are Mineview in the Sky and Hull Rust Mineview, both overlooking active and reclaimed mineland. Lake Ore-Be-Gone, also in Gilbert, is a popular site for divers.

There are many other examples of mineland turned into recreation land and other tourist hotspots, and I haven’t even mentioned industrial and residential uses; after all, in more than a century there’s hardly a square foot that hasn’t been touched by mining in one way or another.

But don’t take it from me. See for yourself. Visit an area that has been influencing the national economy for a hundred years and get to know the people who love the outdoors as much if not more than anyone in the country. See an Iron Range that supports industry and wildlife, that extracts and preserves natural resources, and produces both the raw material for steel production while sustaining a way of life that many would envy.

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Mesabi Trail Tour celebrates milestone

For 10 years, “happy trails” has been more than a corny saying for participants and volunteers of the Mesabi Trail Tour.


A decade of offering bicycling enthusiasts a fun and exciting way to experience northern Minnesota’s Mesabi Trail has resulted in a reputation for being one of the best-run tours in the state.

“Our volunteers are rated, and I quote, ‘the best in the planet,'” said Tour Director Ardy Nurmi-Wilberg. “We give everyone a healthy does of that northern Minnesota nice experience and treat them like gold.”

The ride (official name Great River Energy Mesabi Trail Bike Tour), offers four routes of varying lengths (from 12 to 69 miles) along the 115-mile paved path that leads from Grand Rapids in the west to Aurora in the east, with plans to complete the trail to Ely.

This year’s tour begins in Fayal Township near Eveleth and ends in Coleraine. The hospitality of volunteers, more than150 in all, help make the ride fun, but the whole package: scenery, food,music and fellowship, make it an event that keeps families and groups coming back year after year.

“It’s always fun to see people register in their tour shirt from years past,” Nurmi-Wilberg said. “For a lot of folks, the tour has become a family tradition.”

The full-service tour includes transportation for bikes and riders, mechanical assistance and first-aid. Not to mention snacks and music at every rest point along the way and a picnic with entertainment at the end.

Rest stops include the Greyhound Bus Museum in Hibbing and Hill Annex Mine State Park in Calumet. At the finish line, paddle a canoe or kayak, compliments of Spring Creek Outfitters of Mountain Iron.

The tour wouldn’t have been possible without support from day one from Great River Energy and Ampers, a collection of 15 independent radio stations across the state. The event is a fundraiser for both the trail and Ampers. To mark the tenth anniversary, participants will be getting a special gift from Great River Energy. Registration is inexpensive (kids under 18 ride free) and includes snacks, picnic lunch and a t-shirt.

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The Iron Range: Your Minnesota Golf Course Destination

iron-range-golfVacation planning became a lot more fun when I discovered the number of golf courses on the Iron Range. Sure, I was looking forward to spending time with friends on the lake. But I’m not the type to just lounge on an air mattress all day. I need to get out, walk a quick nine holes, and see how close I can get to a par 36.

I was amazed when I saw my golf options on the Iron Range. There are eight public courses, all with unique features that set them apart but all with the beauty and views that come with a northern Minnesota setting. I can’t get enough of the granite rock outcrops, whispering aspen, and pine-scented breezes.

I looked into municipal courses in Virginia, Hibbing, Hoyt Lakes, and Eveleth. I chose the Eveleth Municipal Course (par 36) because I’ve always loved the views around St. Mary’s Lake and it was close to where my friends had gathered for the week.

Another day I got a group together and played The Legend at Giant’s Ridge. What a spectacular course! The Legend was ranked in the top 5 Minnesota golf courses by Golf Digest last year, and remains one of the top golf destinations in the world. Towering red pines and quaking aspen set the scene for an incredible afternoon of golf. The Legend’s beauty is equaled by its peaceful aura; there aren’t freeways in the background, just more forest.

The Legend is a high level course. Multiple tee blocks made the challenge fun for players of all abilities. My friends and I chose the “Nine & Dine” special where we enjoyed 9-holes of golf followed by a delicious dinner. It was a day of great golf on a gorgeous course that we’ll remember for years to come.

I’m already looking into golf get-aways for next year. I’d love to try the other municipal courses around the Range. I also want to venture a bit north and try Wolfridge Golf Course, a rugged little 9-hole course north of Virginia. It looks fun and I’m curious to play a reversible course. From Wolfridge it’s a short drive east to The Wilderness at Fortune Bay. It looks like a beautiful 18-hole course and comes with high rankings from Golf Magazine.

Find out more about The Iron Range area and Minnesota golf courses to add to your vacation plan:

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