A Group Tour to Hibbing Taconite Mine

hibbing-taconite-hull-rustExperiencing the Iron Range’s gorgeous lakes and woods has always been a wonderful part of my trip to northern Minnesota, but I was ready for something different. So on a sunny June day I walked to an overlook and caught sight of a gigantic machine loading tons of blasted rock into a truck so big I barely have the words to describe it. I was on a group tour at Hibbing Taconite.

Tours of Hibbing Taconite, an active mining site, are available through the summer and are an inexpensive outing for a large group (tickets are $5.00 per person). I called the Minnesota Discovery Center (218-254-7959) for reservations. Although the kids love the trolley tours at the Minnesota Discovery Center, the Hibbing Taconite tour is intended for adults and teens (ages 12 and up).

We spent the morning at the Discovery Center and then got in line for the tour at 12:45. At 1:00 we were seated on a comfortable coach bus provided by Shubat Transportation. We settled in, ready to relax and learn about Minnesota mining. Our driver was friendly and within moments we drove past the Iron Man statue (not the Marvel super hero but a tribute to the miners of northern MN) and headed down the road to Hibbing Taconite. The ride was about 15 minutes and gave us a chance to admire both the rich, red hills outside and the snazzy hard hats that we wore on the tour.

We were asked not to take pictures on Hibbing Taconite property so I put my phone away and tried to take it all in. A professional tour guide led us on a journey through history as we learned about the iron ore called taconite, how it was mined, and how it’s still being pulled from the earth today. Taconite is a hard rock and must be blasted out. At one stop we saw an area that had been recently blasted with explosives and the small taconite pieces were being loaded into a huge truck. Even from our view point we could feel the immensity of the machines at work. We learned the shovels can hold 85 tons of rock and the gigantic, 3–story high dump trucks can hold 240 tons of taconite rock. Everything is big at a taconite mine.

As I stood watching the shovel scoop load after load into the truck I thought of other tours I’ve been on and how this one was different. The person in the 3-story tall dump truck wasn’t a park interpreter in costume and those aren’t folks dressed up like miners from long ago; they are people at work, doing the job of mining taconite out of the ground.

Two hours later we were back at the Minnesota Discovery Center feeling thoughtful about our experience at the mine and ready to grab an afternoon snack before heading out on our next Iron Range adventure. If you’re ready to have your own group adventure at Hibbing Taconite, visit our Group Tours page for more information.

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Experience Northern Minnesota ATV Trail Riding

A great way to enjoy the great outdoors in Northern Minnesota is on your ATV. With an Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation Area, plus many trails, there are lots of places to chose from to ride your ATV.

OHV Park:

Gilbert is home to Minnesota’s first Iron Range Off-Highway Vehicle Recreational Area. This 1200-acre park has trails exclusively for ATVs including 4X4 vehicles, all-terrain trucks, and motorcycles.

The park is managed by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and covers 30 miles of trails. Well marked trails indicate the level of difficulty for all ATVs.

The Genoa Trail connects the town of Eveleth with Gilbert via the old Genoa mining area, providing a link to the Iron Range Off-Highway Vehicle Recreational Area. Sherwood Forest campground in Gilbert is where you will find the trailhead that connects the trail to the OHV Recreational Area. The Genoa Trail is also open to snowmobiles from December to March.

atvOverlookDEaOther Trails for Northern Minnesota ATV Trail Riding:

The Red Dot Trail is a 27 mile trail with Silver Bay on the north shore of Lake Superior as its terminus. This trail winds through the Sawtooth foothills close to the Superior National Forest Scenic Byway. It includes scenic overlooks and campgrounds and is ideal for groups of ATV riders who want to enjoy camping and fishing in a more remote area.

The Thistledew Trail runs through the aspen and pine groves of the George Washington State Forest with 27 miles of trails. It’s maintained by the Department of Natural Resources and includes part of the Circle T snowmobile trail system. Also open for hikers during the summer and fall, the Thistledew Trail is located 27 miles north of Nashwauk off of Highway 65.

The Stony Spur II trail north of the town of Virginia has 26 miles of trails through the Bear Island State Forest. Starting in Babbit, it continues east through picturesque terrain.

The Alborn-Pengilly trail is located near Hibbing. This 42-mile long trail follows an old abandoned railroad between the towns of Alborn and Pengilly. Riders should see deer and other wildlife along this trail.

The Aurora Trail is open year-round for ATVs and snowmobiles, in season. This 25 mile trail between Biwabik and Hoyt Lakes includes warming huts and spur roads to the Giant’s Ridge Golf and Ski Resort.

All-terrain vehicles are fun and a great way to experience Northern Minnesota ATV trail riding. The scenery is spectacular and a welcome change from highway traffic. See our online visitors guide on www.ironrange.org for more ways to enjoy ATV trail riding in the Northland, plus so much more.


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Plan an Iron Range Family Weekend Getaway

The snow is finally melting and you are eager to get out and see the countryside. It’s time to plan for an Iron Range family weekend getaway. This is a great opportunity to explore the byways of northeast Minnesota by car and even by bike.

You can visit a mine and learn about the industry that built this part of the state. Ride your bike along the Mesabi Bike Trail, visit the Minnesota Discovery Center, and the Hockey Hall of Fame Museum.

The Iron Range has many campgrounds, lakes, forests and rivers worth exploring over several weekend family vacations.

Mine tours

Hill Annex State Park offers mine tours from May through September in Calumet. This is a former iron ore mine that became a park in 1988. You can also dig for fossils and view wildlife in this park. Picnic tables make this a great place for an outing.

If you want to see an underground mine, visit the Soudan Underground State Park at Soudan on Lake Vermillion. This park offers tours on mining rail cars, elevators, and trains. The University of Minnesota maintains an underground physics lab at this mine.

The Minnesota Museum of Mining is open in Chisholm from Memorial Day through Labor Day offering a history of the industry. The museum showcases equipment used to extract ore and taconite over 100 years ago.

Mesabi Bike Trail

The Mesabi Bike Trail is one of the longest paved bike paths in the United States. It roughly parallels Highway 169 between Grand Rapids and Biwabik. The trail in total is 115 miles long and expanding.

Take your bikes and ride sections of the trail on your family weekend getaway. The 75-mile paved section goes from Grand Rapids to McKinley. The trail was created from old railroad beds and mining road and is also great for walking. The trail can be accessed from areas with campgrounds and other facilities.

Other activities

Eight golf courses dot the Iron Range, challenging the best golfers. This includes municipal courses in Eveleth and Hibbing.

The U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Museum is located in Eveleth and dedicated to the history of the sport in the U.S. The museum is open daily from Memorial Day through Labor Day and on weekends during the remainder of the year.

These are just a few of the many activities to be enjoyed on Minnesota’s Iron Range.

Visit the Iron Range Tourism Bureau at www.ironrange.org to see all that can be found on the Iron Range and begin planning your weekend getaway today.

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