The great outdoors defines much of life on the Iron Range, and residents and visitors alike love to enjoy being outside. Being in the outdoors means many different things to many people, and this region is no exception. The beauty of outdoor recreation on the Range is that there are plenty of opportunities for everyone to enjoy the outdoors — no matter what that means to you! Anyone can enjoy Iron Range natural beauty — year round!

Iron Range Lakes

When it comes to lakes, Minnesota is known for its quantity and the Mesabi Iron Range is known for its quality. The Iron Range is home to some little gems: lakes that are small, friendly, accessible, and offer great amenities like campgrounds, beaches, trails and some amazing fishing. No matter where you are staying on the Iron Range there will be a lake nearby with calm waters, gorgeous shoreline and plentiful fish.

Want to walk around a lake? The twin lakes of Virginia, Bailey and Silver lakes, are surrounded by walking trails and multiple businesses, including LakeShor Motor Inn. In Chisholm, Longyear Lake at the end of the town’s main street is surrounded by walking trails.

West Two Rivers Reservoir in Mountain Iron has a boat launch, swimming beach and campgrounds. Mountain Iron’s traditional downtown is just blocks from the Mountain Iron mine pit overlook.

Want to recreate on a lake for a day? Canoes, kayaks, and stand-up paddleboards may be rented at the Vermillion Campground in Biwabik. Call 218-865-6705 for information. At Giants Ridge,Wynne and Sabin Lakes, along with nearby Embarrass Lake in Biwabik, are great for canoe, kayak, stand-up paddleboard,and boating.

There’s fish to be caught in all these lakes, especially Whitewater Lake in Hoyt Lakes (also home to Colby Lake), and Lake St. James in Aurora, a reclaimed mine pit with great trout fishing. Find these and other great lakes on the Magic Mesabi using the DNR Lakefinder.

Blue lake with clouds, trees and sky reflecting in water

Iron Range lakes are home to beautiful beaches! These include:

Stubler Beach, Buhl: This spring-fed mine lake is a beauty! Right on the Mesabi Trail, it’s the perfect swimming hole for cooling off. This beach is clean, sandy and comes with changing rooms, a pavilion and a great view.

Birch Cove Beach: On scenic Colby Lake in Hoyt Lakes, this beach is equipped with a picnic area, boat launch, playgrounds and a lifeguard on duty daily, mid-June through mid-August.

Carey Lake: Beach with changing house, pavilion, picnic areas, fishing pier and awesome trails. Find this little gem in Hibbing just a few miles off Highway 169.

Vermilion Trail Campground Beach: The lifeguard is on duty at this lovely beach on Embarrass Lake in Biwabik. Rent canoes and kayaks from the campground hosts to experience even more of this charming lake visible on Hwy 135 near the entrance to Giants Ridge.

West Two Rivers: Mountain Iron is home to this reservoir that once was a water source for Minntac but has been reclaimed as a recreation area with campgrounds, playgrounds, pavilion, boat launch, beach, ball field and disc golf course. West Two Rivers

Lake Ore-Be-Gone: Take a dip in the clear mine lake waters of Lake-Ore-Be-Gone in Gilbert. Enjoy the beach, boat launch, and bicycle trails, all onsite along with Sherwood Forest Campground. These waters are so clear, the lake is popular with scuba divers.

Veteran’s Park and Campground: On Ely Lake, just off Highway 53 in Eveleth, find this scenic lake with beach, picnic area, campsites, playground and pavilion.

Girl scub diving with thumbs up

Dive the Iron Range!

Scuba diving is not limited to the tropical waters of the Caribbean or Hawaiian Islands. Iron Range lakes will give you a unique and unforgettable scuba experience that you’ll want to share. Discover a multitude of fish and other wildlife as you explore the clear depths of our various lakes. You’ll see perch, bluegills, northern, and trout swimming around you. Turtles are plentiful and if you are lucky you may even spot a diving loon. To find all of the Iron Range’s ideal locations for scuba diving and access points, view the DNR Lake Access Map.

Check out these lakes for an unforgettable Iron Range scuba experience!

Lake Ore-be-Gone: A lake bed full of long unused and sunken mining equipment, planes and even a helicopter will be your playground when you dive the 433 foot depths of Lake Ore-be-Gone in Gilbert, Minnesota. Lake Ore-be-Gone was once three open mine pits that have since been reclaimed as a recreational lake site for the city of Gilbert, MN. When you are done exploring the underwater sites, you don’t have to go far to enjoy an evening under the stars if you choose to stay at the Sherwood Forest Campground right on the lake.

Lake Mine Quarry: With a maximum depth of 400 feet, Lake Mine Quarry is home to a variety of freshwater aquatic life. Fifteen miles from Virginia, in Biwabik and close to Giants Ridge. Located on Mn-135 North 

Stubler Mine: Located 12 miles west of Virginia near Buhl, Stubler Mine is an excellent place for a variety of summer outdoor activities. In addition to its prime diving opportunities, Stubler Mine boasts a beach, onsite campgrounds, nearby hiking trails and is right on the famous Mesabi Trail, giving you access to miles of biking.

Disc Golf on the Iron Range!

There’s no shortage of disc golf on Minnesota’s Iron Range. Find interesting courses from one end of the Mesabi to the other. Most of these courses see year-round use, so don’t let a little snow scare you off!

Get your Disc Golf Gear at Knitting Knight in Hibbing ~ Call for hours and info: (218) 262-5764.

The Chisholm Disc Golf course  (18 holes)  is mostly open with minor elevation. Take Highway 169 to 4th Ave. SE. Go north on 4th Ave. SE. The parking lot is one block up on the west side. First Tee: (-92.872091054919,47.481567169854); Parking Lot: (-92.872080326088,47.481716944826).

Try the 9-hole Painted Turtle or 9-hole Snapping Turtle, both at West Two Rivers Campground in Mountain Iron. Snapping is more of a challenge. Rent discs Memorial Day-Labor Day at the campground office. From US 53 N: Take US 169 W in Virginia for 6 miles. Take a left on Campground R. Go 0.3 mile to the West Two Rivers Campground on the left.First Tee: (-92.666883,47.488121).

“Flat and woodsy,” the 12-hole Blue Heron course is located in Virginia’s Olcott Park. Take US 53 North; exit on to 135/9th St N, going east to a right on 9th Ave West. The course and parking on the right after a couple blocks.

This pay-to-play course is located on the Giants Ridge ski mountain, so play is limited to between late March and late November. Get ready for a challenge, however, as you’ll encounter woods and elevation. There are onsite disc rentals, driving range, and pro shop. Head north on 35 to Hwy 33, 20 miles to Hwy 53, follow to Eveleth, right on Hwy 37 into Gilbert, through town to a right on Hwy 135, go past Biwabik 2 miles, left at Giants Ridge Sign (Hwy 138) 3 miles, resort on left. First Tee: (-92.289619,47.539883)

Heavily wooded, technical, great elevation, plats around an old mine pit (lake), but water really only comes into play on one hole.

Off of Rt. 169 turn north at the Short Stop gas station / convenience store in Buhl (Forest St.). Turn left onto Memorial Dr., turn left just before skatepark, Park back by the ball fields.

Starts at the bottom of the sledding hill and works its way up and down. Two sets of tees. Roughly 4-5 blind throws.

US-53 towards Eveleth. If heading north, drive past town and make a left onto Old US 53N followed by a quick left onto Park Ave. If heading south, just merge onto Park Ave. Go past Hat Trick Ave. and take a left on the dirt road with the signs for the sledding hill and dog park. The course starts approximately 40 yards uphill and to the right of the small warming house at the bottom of the sledding hill.

Disc golf on course - made of steel

Mesabi Outdoor Adventures

Interested in meeting up with others to share your love of the outdoors? Mesabi Outdoor Adventures is a volunteer-run organization that gets people together to enjoy free outdoors activities. Enjoy a group fatbike ride or a kayak trip or a snowshoe up Lookout Mountain. Contact the group to learn more!

Man and 2 boys on horseback

Iron Range Horseback Riding

Horseback riding on the Iron Range is arguably the best way to experience the natural scenic beauty that can be found along our many miles of horse trails. What could be better than breathing in the crisp fall air while riding a leafy path strewn with autumn colors through one of Minnesota’s well preserved state parks?

For a memorable horseback experience, check out these trails:

Taconite Trail: The Taconite Trail extends 145 miles from Ely to Grand Rapids. It passes through two state parks, McCarthy Beach and Bear Head Lake, as well as George Washington, Bear Island, and Sturgeon River state forests. The Taconite trail is easily the largest state trail on the Iron Range that is approved for horseback riding and with its numerous access points, many of which are large enough to park a horse trailer, you’ll have no problem getting out and enjoying the natural scenery of the Minnesota State Parks and Forests. See a trail map here. 

Arrowhead State Trail: The Arrowhead State Trail extends off the Taconite Trail at an intersection near Tower and extends to three miles south of International Falls. Approximately 69 miles of the 135-mile trail are ideal for horseback riding. Ride by lakes, streams and rolling hills that are heavily laden with a wide assortment of tree species.

Mesabi Trail: The Mesabi Trail, though best known and most widely used as an extensive and scenic bicycling trail, allows horseback riding and camping in parts of its 120 miles. Just as the Mesabi Trail offers an exciting experience for bicycling it can provide you with a memorable horseback riding experience. Check out the official Mesabi Trail site here for more information.

Want to camp on your horseback ride? George Washington State forest boasts two horse friendly campgrounds: Stoneybrook camp and the nearby Togo campground. Both campgrounds provide pull-through campsites, picket lines, manure bunkers, an accessible loading ramp and open spaces. Equestrian campsites have a fee of $16 per night. See the state Horse Camp Trails map for more information. 

A Horse Pass is required to ride on any of the Minnesota state trails that are approved for horseback riding. Any person age 16 and older will be required to hold a horse pass,  issued through the Minnesota State DNR. Annual passes are $21 and are valid for one year. Daily passes are also available for $5 and are only valid for the day shown. Visit the DNR website to purchase online. 

Mom and her two boys fishing on the dock

Fishing on the Iron Range

Warmer temperatures and melting ice gets Iron Range sportsmen excited for spring fishing in Minnesota. The challenge is to have your plan in place for the Spring Fishing Opener, in the beginning of May. (Small and largemouth bass season opens two weeks later in areas South and West of Hwy 53, from Duluth to I-Falls.)

It can be difficult to decide on the right Minnesota fishing lakes to begin your season with. We have compiled a basic list of Iron Range lakes and the common species in each, but whether they are caught or not depends on your skill – or the skill of the fishing guide you employ.

Get your tackle and gear together for a great Iron Range fishing season!

In the early spring, walleye can be found in shallower areas, following the shiners and small fry as they spawn. Later in the summer they make their way out to the deeper, cooler waters. They are a difficult fish to catch regularly, as they are constantly on the move throughout the season. Fortunately, the reward is great: walleye fillets are universally considered delicious.

Bass are fun to catch, especially right away in the season when they are eager to snap at light-handed casting. Largemouth bass are especially aggressive, and put up an impressive fight for their size. If you enjoy bass fishing, there are many tournaments throughout the state of Minnesota to join in on, or simply observe.

The crappie are an extremely elusive fish, always moving from one area to another.  Keep an eye out for reports from local fisherman when they are spotted in an area.

Northern pike make an exciting day of angling. An extremely aggressive fish, they are often caught by anglers who are searching for another fish. They’re also tasty in any meal. 

Trout are an exciting challenge for fisherman, requiring a very natural, light hand at casting. The Minnesota DNR offers some insight to get you a solid start at fishing for this awesome species.

There are a few designated trout lakes on the Iron Range, which have a specified set of rules that must be followed. Such lakes include: Camp Four Lake (Wessman) & Judson Mine Pit Lake (Buhl), Embarrass Lake & Lake St. James (Aurora), and Lake Mine (Giants Ridge). Non-designated trout lakes in the area are: Lake LaRue (Nashwauk) and Lake Ore-Be-Gone (Gilbert).

Hunting on the Iron Range

The Range is blessed with 320,000 acres of the Superior National Forest, three state forests, and 500 lakes, rivers and streams that provide hunters and sportsmen with a perfect habitat for the growth and management of wildlife. Over 42% of Northeastern Minnesota is public land and open to different types of hunting at various times under the guidelines of the Department of Natural Resources and the United States Forest Service.

Guide services are available for some outdoor hunting activities, and some lodging properties offer special packages or group rates for hunters and sportsmen, depending on the season. We encourage all visiting sportsmen to leave only footprints and bestow this great pristine wilderness area onto another generation of sportsmen for them to enjoy just as you do today. We invite you to polish your guns, grab your hunting gear and get to The Iron Range for a great hunting experience.

What’s it like during hunting season on the Iron Range? Orange is the color of the day, not only for hunters, but anyone in the great outdoors this time of year. Even dogs wear orange neckerchiefs or collars so they stand out in the brown foliage of the season. Hunting clothes hang outdoors (to air out and lose the scents that might keep deer away) and hunters stock up on the food they’ll need to fuel long days in the deer stand or on the drive. Bread, lunchmeat, mini-candybars and chili usually top the lists! Whether you’re headed to your own land, or somewhere in the Superior National Forest, the brisk air, the quiet woods and wildlife await. Coming in from out of the area? It’s easy to find a friendly place to stay.