All About Fall On the Mesabi

Is there anyone who doesn’t love fall? Make the most of this glorious season by exploring Minnesota’s Mesabi Iron Range! Here are some of our favorite autumn activities to get your started:

Ride the Trolley

Take in fall colors and mine lake views on Minnesota Discovery Center’s trolley!

Travel on a trolley, the way miners and their families used to on the Range! This one departs from Minnesota Discovery Center’s trolley station on Thursdays at 3 and 5 p.m., and Saturdays 1 and 3 p.m. through October (weather permitting). If you’d rather be spooked, stick around for a Museum Flashlight Tour!

Have fun on the farm

The Eli Wirtanen Farm Fall Fest is a great way to get kids outside and learning where our food comes from and how early farmers used to live. Looking for other fall events? Click here for our calendar.

Reach the summit

Superior National Forest as seen from the top of Giants Ridge ski hills in Biwabik.

Weekends through October 20, make a date to ride the ski lift at Giants Ridge (or hike, if you prefer!) and take in some magical views of the Superior National Forest. Don’t miss out on their dinner-and-a-view deal!

Have a pasty!

Happening October 5, 2019, at the Mountain Iron Community Center.

The first annual Pasty Festival will include music, games, brews and the indomitable pasty, a hand pie filled with meat, potatoes, carrots and rutabega. We’ll also have a vegetarian version, and a contest for best pasty. Learn more and pre-purchase your pasty meal for $10 here.

 Go industrial

240-ton production trucks pass each other in a Minnesota iron mine.

Hull Rust Mine View in Hibbing offers 360-views of an active mine, nearby towns and the Superior National Forest. Visit daily through September, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and chat with retired miners and other volunteers.

Soak it all in

A couple hikes near Giants Ridge in Biwabik.

Safe but secluded hiking trails mean you can experience nature without ever getting too far afield. Try the trails at Carey Lake in Hibbing, for example, or the Laurentian Divide near Virginia. There are a number of family friendly trails in the area that will show you the beauty of the region.

Save Room for a Snack

Find great places for lunch, treats and local brews on the Mesabi Cycling Trail.

There are plenty of great places to eat on the Mesabi! Here are a few:  The Hive in Aurora, the Burnt Onion in Biwabik, or the Whistling Bird in Gilbert;  Kunnari’s Kitchen and Natural Harvest Foods Co-op in Virginia, Black Bear Bakery in Chisholm, and Boomtown Woodfire Grill and Brewery in Hibbing.

Just Ride

Skibo Vista just outside of Hoyt Lakes offers great views of the Superior National Forest.

Request or download our Ride Guide and chart your course for fall colors and adventures.

Still have questions? Contact us at or call 218-749-8161 and we’ll help you plan your fall fun on the Mesabi! 



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Spotlight on our Cities: Chisholm

Editor’s Note: Spotlight on our Cities is a monthly sub-blog that coincides with a HomeTown Focus series, “Focus on Community.”

Chisholm is literally an “event-full” lil’ town. For a city with a population of just under 5,000, it has to have one of the highest community events-per-capita in the state. But events aren’t the only thing Chisholm has going for it. A lovely setting, great people, and awesome partnerships are helping make things happen all over town.

Doc “Moonlight” Graham Days parade always draws a crowd.

The Chisholm Area Chamber of Commerce does a great job developing and running events, like the Chilly Open, Moonlight Escape Rooms, DMG Days, the Holiday Expo and more. It helps that they have some wonderful community partners to help maximize opportunities for all ages.

Events and activities galore in Chisholm, MN!

Northern Traxx ATV Club is a huge asset for the community. They’ve worked hard to build a 16-mile ATV trail and promote club rides and youth training classes.

ATVs on a trail ride north of Chisholm.

The city is also fortunate to have the Downtown Revitalization Project bringing fresh ideas and a touch of culture to Chisholm’s iconic Lake Street.

A crowd relaxes in the Chisholm Pocket Park while musicians perform.

This group created a historic walking tour,  helped enhance Kiwanis Park near the Longyear Lake shore, and developed a pocket park further up the street, complete with artwork and programming!

Their latest project will bring a beautiful mural to Lake Street.

The Chisholm Beautification Association is active as well, planting trees, painting houses and supporting the Bruce Mine Headframe Park (more on that below).

One of the great ways the Pocket Park is bringing people together !

Throughout the year, the Chisholm Kiwanis actively sponsor events, like Kids Days, the annual ice-fishing contest, and Holly Jolly. And the city is very fortunate to have the Chisholm Community Foundation and Chisholm Kids Plus around to host and sponsor a wide range of activities and projects.

Kids Plus hosts a great 5K, the DMG Days Water Ski Show and much more.

And let’s not forget that Chisholm has not one, but two amazing museums.

Both of these must-stop locations offer hands-on exhibits for kids and special activities like monthly Family Discovery Days at Minnesota Discovery Center and the annual Iron Pour at the Museum of Mining.

Best of all, no one in Chisholm is standing around waiting for things to happen. New developments include the Redhead Regional Mountain Bike Park at Minnesota Discovery Center, and an interpretive site at Bruce Mine Headframe, along the Mesabi Trail.

This project celebrates mining history and enhances a unique feature along the Mesabi Trail.

With so many things happening all year round in Chisholm, it’s no wonder that you can find great places to eat on Lake Street. From Snickers and Choppy’s to Jim’s Sports Club and the legendary Valentini’s – and don’t forget Black Bear Bakery – there’s a lot of fun and some of the best food on the Range waiting for visitors and locals alike.

So get out there! See what happens when a community comes together with the support of a great City Council, city staff and local leaders to make an awesome town even better.

















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The Return of Mine View

This summer, Hull Rust Mine View makes a comeback. The iron ore mine overlook located in “Old North Hibbing” closed in October of 2017 and mining operations moved in.

Hibbing Taconite’s mining operations, as seen from Hull Rust Mine View in 2017, moments prior to a blast.

A new location was soon identified, and over the course of the next two years, sitework was done to make the new viewpoint accessible.

Hull Rust MIne View overlooking Hibbing Taconite in July, 2018.

Andrew Lucia, who grew up in Hibbing, is a designer, artist and academic working with the City of Hibbing to infuse the new site with drama and optimal functionality.

Forterra is a company that makes concrete culverts, like the one shown here. This unique use of their product got the company onsite for a photoshoot.

Today, mining equipment has been moved onsite, including a 38-yard shovel bucket donated by Komatsu Mining Corp. Eventually, a new visitor center, in the style of the culverts, will be added to the site.

In the meantime, the Hibbing Tourist Center Seniors will staff the location daily from a temporary building.

Andrew Lucia took this photo from inside one of the concrete culverts that frame views around the site.

The views don’t stop with mining. See up to 40 miles in every direction atop this “overburden” pile (earth moved in mining but not used to make taconite).

Looking to the east from Hull Rust Mine View in Hibbing.

After a lot of hard work by the City of Hibbing, support from Hibbing Taconite, and a great deal of patience from visitors hoping to glimpse where steel gets its start and where 80 percent of the country’s taconite comes from, the site is set to reopen on May 25, 2019.

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A Trail Like No Other

Travel from the Mississippi River to the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Bicycle or hike through the Superior National Forest and over the Laurentian Continental Divide. Imagine a day of sunshine and a path to explore nature and the 28 communities nestled along the way. The Mesabi Trail is one of Minnesota’s […]

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Winter Wonders: Soudan Underground Mine

Editor’s Note: This series, “Winter Wonders” looks at what some of our Mesabi attractions are doing during the winter. You can read the previous blog about Minnesota Discovery Center here. The Soudan Mine entry is courtesy of guest blogger James Pointer, Interpretive Supervisor, DNR Parks and Trails. 

For some winter is a time to ski, snowmobile, or just have fun making snow angels.  At the mine it is time to prepare for our next big tour season.  Our maintenance staff spend the time painting and repairing the man-cages, deep cleaning and waxing the floors of the visitor center, and adjusting the tour equipment.

Soudan Mine maintenance staff work to reconnect the wheels on the man-cage after it was cleaned and painted. Photo courtesy DNR Staff.

This winter I have been busy developing and adjusting the new tours we plan to offer this summer.  I choose the days of the polar vortex to spend underground, which was a wise plan.  As schools and postal offices closed due to the cold weather, I was able to go underground.  This resulted in a 91 degree Fahrenheit difference in temperatures from the surface (-40 F) to the 27th level (51F).

The mine headframe and grounds in new-fallen snow. Photo courtesy DNR staff.

The trips underground let me determine what needed to be done to prepare our two new tours.  Given the success of our walking drift tour this past fall, we have found a way to offer it every Wednesday morning in the summer and again in the afternoon this fall.  We have also had many requests for tours of the physics lab since its closure two years ago.  We are developing a new science tour that will take visitors into the lab to learn about the former experiments, but it will also include information on the ground breaking research that UMN is conducting on the bacteria found in the mine’s ground water.

Interpreter James Juip shines a light on hematite with quartz during a geology tour of the mine. Photo courtesy of the Timberjay Newspaper.

Enjoy the rest of your winter activities while you begin making plans to visit the mine this summer.  Whether you take the traditional mine tour or one of our new tours, you are sure to have a great adventure.

For information about Mesabi Iron Range area attractions, visit 

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Winter Wonders: Minnesota Discovery Center

Summer is surely the high season for many of our Mesabi attractions. Ever wonder what goes on at places like Minnesota Discovery Center in the winter? Luckily for all of us, “The Museum of the Iron Range” is open year-round, but of course the popular trolley ride can’t happen with three feet of snow on the ground!

Visit the Museum of the Iron Range any time!

Don’t worry! There’s plenty of other things to see and do at MDC in the winter! You’ll see award-winning exhibits, like “Blue-Collar  Battleground: The Iron Range Labor Story” and “The Emigrant Journey,” where you take an emigrant passport and follow their journey in their new home.

Blue-Collar Battleground received an award from the Minnesota Alliance of Local History Museums.

You might even get in on a Family Discovery Day event, where kids and caregivers get to learn, have fun, and most likely get a snack!

Museums are a great place to foster a love of learning!

If outdoor fun is on your agenda, rent snowshoes from MDC and explore their outdoor exhibits, or get in on a guided snowshoe hike every Thursday and Saturday. It’s a great way to experience winter!

Rent ‘shoes for just five bucks!

And what could be better than capping your MDC experience off with a tasty meal and maybe a little music? Visit the Rustic Pig, a Saturday-only onsite restaurant with intriguing menu items and fabulous decor.

Curry salmon from the Rustic Pig made an appearance on the February menu.

When exploring the Mesabi, don’t forget visit our year-round attractions, like Minnesota Discovery Center in Chisholm!

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Best Ideas for Fall Fun on the Mesabi

Superior National Forest at its finest!

Start out with something brand new to Minnesota’s Mesabi Iron Range: a ski lift ride to the top of the mountain at Giants Ridge. Take it all in then head back to the base for a bite and a sip at The Sleeping Giant or The Burnt Onion.

Get a whole different view when you walk 1.8 miles along the Mesabi Trail in Virginia and cross the state’s tallest bridge in Virginia. You’re standing 200 feet above the former Rouchleau Mine Pit, now a source of the city’s drinking water.

This is one cool bridge walk.

Learn more about mining and glimpse US Steel’s Minntac operations at Locomotive Park in Mountain Iron. Pop in to Mac’s Bar for a burger, or bring a bike to explore the paved Mesabi Trail, one of the state’s longest, and currently paved between Grand Rapids and Gilbert, MN.


Here’s comes the trolley!

A trip to the Mesabi isn’t complete without a stop at Minnesota Discovery Center, a sprawling indoor/outdoor museum offering fall color trolley rides through September on Thursdays and Saturdays. Bring the kids for mini-golf themed fun in between exhibit exploration.

Your evening entertainment should most definitely include Moonlight Escape Rooms in downtown Chisholm. Try the Harry Potter-themed “Muggles and Mayhem,” or the underwater adventure, “Trident” weekends from the end of September to the first weekend of November.

Catch “Dinosaurs” at the Paulucci Space Theater in Hibbing on October 19th and find plenty of other activities from craft projects to musical performances right here.

If it’s outdoor adventure you crave, Lookout Mountain at the Laurentian Divide has hiking and mountain bike trails, but the newest trails in the area are up at Giants Ridge, and give mountain bikers a lift-served gravity ride and a lot more.

Maybe motorized is your thing, in which case we have the state’s best Off-Highway Vehicle Park. Jeeps, motorcycles, side-by-sides and more are welcome here.

Find places to stay right here. Need more info? Email us! 

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Guest Blog: the Mesabi by Motorcycle, Part 2

Editor’s Note: Please enjoy this guest blog by traveler, teacher and motorcycle enthusiast Phil Holbo. Phil and his wife traveled from the Twin Cities area in the spring of 2018 to experience the Mesabi Iron Range by car and motorcycle. You can read part 1 of their adventures here. 

After picking up a Mesabi 2017 Ride Guide at the International Motorcycle Show, I decided 2018 was the year I would visit the Iron Range on the motorcycle. This publication is good because it provides suggested routes, attractions, and restaurants along each route.

My wife, Jean, prefers short rides rather than long ones, so we “trailered” the BMW up to Mountain Iron. Our first stay at the Holiday Inn Express-Mountain Iron served as our base of operations. It’s nice, and the location is good for our rides throughout the Iron Range. The staff are great (thanks Travis), the place is clean, and the complimentary breakfast helps make an early getaway easy. A good choice.

The scenic Mines and Pines Tour made for a good tour to start our week. We went counter-clockwise through Virginia, Cook, down to McCarthy Beach State Park, then down to Chisholm.

McCarthy Beach State Park offers lake views, picnic areas, trails, beach and camping.

This ride was on a Monday. The Minnesota Discovery Center, and a few of the recommended restaurants, were closed on Mondays, so we saved them for another day.

Farms dot the landscape of the Mesabi Iron Range.

The route was nice. The spring growth in the forests provides a multitude of greens. I understand when riders come up for the fall colors, but the spring colors were a vision I did not expect. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many shades of green. Mother Nature at her best.

The “Mines” part of the ride was a fitting conclusion to a ride in the Range. After a nice lunch under a shade tree at The Stand, we visited the Minnesota Museum of Mining for a fun time learning about the history of the region’s mining.

Iron Man stands tall over one entrance to Chisholm, home to the Minnesota Museum of Mining.

After a couple of hours at the museum, we headed back to the Holiday Inn Express for a little “R & R” before dinner. The recommendation we had for a dinner restaurant was the Northern Divide Bar and Eatery. It was great! It’s been a long time since I had such a nice dining experience. It was nice, quiet, and a good place for a date with My Bride. The food and service were great! (Thanks Serena.)

The Northern Divide restaurant in Virginia overlooks the municipal golf course.

For more information about recommended rides for motorcycles, bicycles and regular old cars, contact the Iron Range Tourism Bureau at or call 218-749-8161 and leave a message. Happy trails!  

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Guest Blog: You *must* take this tour!

Editor’s Note: James Pointer is an Interpretive Supervisor at the Soudan Underground Mine State Park.

The “Iron Range” of Minnesota offers visitors world-class art venues, a multitude of recreational adventures, fantastic wildlife viewing, and a wide variety of historical attractions. The one attraction; however, that everyone needs to put on their travel plans when they visit the area is the Soudan Mine.

The former iron ore mine was a vital link to the development of the state and the country, which is evident by the National Historic Landmark status that it received shortly after opening for public tours in 1965.

On the surface, one might think that only history buffs would like the mine tour, but that is far from accurate. Whether you like history, geology, engineering, the arts, wildlife or you are looking for some adventure, the mine has it all.

While on the tour, you will travel ½-mile underground in a “man cage”, similar to what the miners used. Once underground, you load up on a train and travel ¾-mile to the former working area. Upon arriving at the working area, you will learn how the miners removed all the iron ore, what life was like as a miner and if you are lucky, you might even be treated to some singing. Visitors will also learn about the variety of rocks that make up the mine, including hematite, quartz, greenstone, and the beautiful banded jasper.

The Soudan Mine is part of Lake Vermilion – Soudan Underground Mine State Park. They offer public tours of the mine daily from Memorial Day weekend until September 30th and weekends into October through the teacher convention weekend (usually around Oct 21st). Tours run from 10 am – 4 pm and reservations can be made on-line at or by calling 1-866-857-2757. Visitors can reach the park office at 218-300-7000.

Make sure you visit the Soudan Mine, as your underground adventure awaits.

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Guest Blog: The Mesabi by Motorcycle Part I

Editor’s Note: Please enjoy this guest blog by traveler, teacher and motorcycle enthusiast Phil Holbo. Phil and his wife traveled from the Twin Cities area in the spring of 2018 to experience the Mesabi Iron Range by car and motorcycle. Enjoy reading about their adventures! 

When I told my niece, I was going to tour Hibbing High School, she asked, “What for?” You might think the same, so let me share with you why. In a word, spectacular! Any building like this is worth a look. Hibbing High School is an example of what a community can, did, and still do, to support their school.

Hibbing High School is frequently called “Castle in the Woods”. Because the mining company determined valuable iron ore was under the City of Hibbing, the entire town was moved. The company paid for building the new high school at a cost of $4,000,000 in 1920.

From Holiday Inn Express-Mountain Iron, we rode into Hibbing. Check a current map, because the City of Hibbing wasn’t always where it is now. In 1918, the mining company determined Hibbing was sitting atop a rich ore deposit. Hibbing, and its high school had to move. Yes, the entire town had to move, two miles south of its original location.

Parking the motorcycle outside the Sportsmen’s, inside it’s easy to tell this is the place for breakfast. Large tables are full, and conversations are lively. Tasty food, good service, who would ask for more?

The auditorium is capable of seating 1,800. The ceiling panels were created on site during construction. These ceiling panels are unique as they have white backgrounds, unusual for the style.

At the school, we were met on the front steps by Mary and Joe. That’s right, just like in the Bible. Both attended school there and are on the historical board. They shared a comprehensive history with us. After visiting the “History Room”, filled with artifacts, year books, and memorabilia, Mary took us on the tour starting with the flag pole dedications; then inside we went. The spectacular building is especially well preserved. It was a good tour.

We discovered several of the open pit mine overlooks were closed, some permanently. We inquired about that and, well let’s just say, “I know a guy who knows a guy.” With that, we were able to visit the new overlook for the Hull Rust Mine, even though it is still under construction. So, through locked gates, and in “our guy’s” SUV, we received a personal tour of the area around what will be open to the public in 2019.

. It is very hard to gain a perspective of the size and depth of the mines. This panorama photo includes some huge ore trucks, and a “huger” excavator. Can you find them?

The first stop along the trolley ride was the mine view overlook. This portion of the mine is being reclaimed by nature.

After lunch., we made it to the Minnesota Discovery Center. First, we took the trolley ride around the Center. The two conductors described the history and details of the surrounding mining and related cultures. Part way through the trolley ride, we stopped at another station for a thirty-minute stop. Near there we found period housing, more mining equipment, and an opportunity to stretch our legs. The trolley ride continues past an overlook of the mine, then back to the station at the Center’s headquarters.

This house is an authentic miner’s home. They were built without basements. This allowed the mining company to move the house(s) anytime the mining activity required it. The description of the house described occurrences of miners coming out of the mine and having to find where their house went! Built in 1905, and occupied until 1935, the mining company charged $5 to $10 per month rent. At one time, this house had thirteen residents!

For a short ride, we packed in a lot of activities on the History and Heritage Tour. So much to see, it deserves another visit to see more of it. We’ll be back. We’ll have to.








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