Top Five FREE Things to Do on the Mesabi

Free yourself and your whole family with these fun – and totally free – things to do this spring and summer.


1. Museums and Historic Sites: That’s right, free admission to the interesting and educational – and that’s just the wonderful staff! The exhibits are great, too. Best of the best: Hibbing Area Historical Society Museum, Virginia Heritage Museum, Olcott Park Greenhouse, Nelimark Homestead Museum.

2. Trails:  These trails are perfect for an afternoon hike. Pack a lunch, maybe even a fishing pole, and get out into nature on these family-friendly trails. Our faves: Cary Lake Trail, the trails of Giants Ridge, and the Laurentian Divide trails.

3. Viewpoints: From Skibo Vista’s views of the Superior National Forest and beyond, to Leonidas’ panoramic of communities, minelands and forests, to Finntown Overlook, where you’ll see a vast mine lake, these views are not to be missed!

4. Photo Ops: Take your pic with an iron man, a moose or a giant hockey stick at these made-for-selfies stops across the region. Take time for seriousness, too, when you visit two veterans memorials along the way.5. Get in the Groove: Stop by Biwabik on a Thursday evening and you might catch some free music in the park. Check out all the great events happening around the region this summer!


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Get in the snow, be in the know: Info on Nordic and snowshoe trails on the Mesabi

Here on the Mesabi Iron Range, getting outside is an essential part of getting through winter! For many, Nordic skiing or snowshoeing is the best way to find fresh air, exercise and the beauty of winter, all in one!

Cross-country skiers enjoy the Nordic trails at Giants Ridge. Find groomed trails at Big Aspen, Carey Lake, McCarthy Beach State Park and Hoyt Lakes.

Rent Nordic skis and snowshoes from Giants Ridge, where there are 60 km of Nordic trails, including three km of easy, lighted trails. Loops range from four to 14 km, mostly are two-way, and two of the 10 loops are lift-served. Download a map here.

All the trails at Giants Ridge are groomed classic and skating. Rental packages range from $9 (children’s) to $39. Lessons are from $30 (semi-private) to $84 for a three-hour private lesson. Nordic lessons must be requested 48 hours in advance. Daily ski passes range from $10 to $17. Ages 6 and under ski free.

Skis can also be rented from the  Hibbing Parks and Recreation Department. The Carey Lake system in Hibbing includes 25km in five single-direction loops groomed classical-only or skate-only. Download the map here.

There are 32km of classic-groomed, looped trails at Big Aspen Recreation Area 11 miles north of Virginia. This site is located in the Superior National Forest, and managed by the US Forest Service. No pass is required to ski here.

Also in the Superior National Forest system, Lookout Mountain has 25km of trails four miles north of Virginia on Hwy 53. These two-way, single-track  trails are easy to explore and offer great views. A portion of this system is kept ungroomed for the adventurous. Find map and details here. 

Just over 3km of trails at Carey Lake in Hibbing are designated for snowshoeing/hiking and fat biking.

Snowshoe trails are also offered at Giants Ridge and range from easy to more difficult. A pass is required and ranges from $10 to $17 daily. Hiking is also permitted on the Lookout Mountain trails near Virginia. Request a map that includes 11 area Nordic trail systems, or call 218-749-8161 for more information. This winter, get out there!













































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Bazaar Times on the Mesabi

It’s the first week of November. That glorious season when some in northern Minnesota don orange and head into the woods while others, mostly women, make the rounds of the holiday bazaars


You can literally map a route across the region and spend days stopping into churches, community centers, armories and memorial buildings, shopping for all manner of gift and personal items from homemade bath bombs, quilts, mittens and kids toys to jams, jewelry and repurposed “junk.”


You can restock your Scentsy, Young Living Essential Oils and Tastefully Simple supplies, go in for the handmade items, or both!


And the luncheons. Holy Hannah, the luncheons. Sandwich loaf, chili, beef stew, chicken a la king, turkey salad, wild ride soup and more, lovingly cooked by the wonderful church ladies who make the world go ’round (and maybe an occasional Confirmation class volunteer). And for like, $8.00. With pie!


Buy gifts for others or yourself if you want, but don’t forget to do your “holiday baking,” too. Who will know you didn’t make those buttery spritz cookies? (Only everyone).

As if these gatherings of bakers, builders, creators and crafters aren’t enough to fill a couple weekends and empty a couple pocketbooks, all our favorite stores are hosting open houses with sales, snacks and surprises.


On my list: Rozalla’s Rack and Firelight Galleries, Smith’s Infusion, Irma’s Finalnd House, Material Girl,  Casey’s Drug, Fine Edge Custom Framing, Moxie, Silver Birch Gifts, Northern Comfort, Kunnari’s, the Knitting Knight, and Bender’s Shoe and Sport. Who did I miss? Let me know:


And happy hunting to everyone, whether you’re carrying a rifle or a purse!

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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 Click here to see lodging specials, request scenic drive maps, or get other free guidebooks. 
















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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!














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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.

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One Day on the Mesabi

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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:



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Must-See Mesabi for Families

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10 Ways to Make Winter Wonderful

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