Let hunters have the woods for now and check out these great alternative hikes
As the weather gets cooler the temptation to stay inside grows, but if you take a hike in late fall or winter it can be super-rewarding: views you didn’t know existed open up when the leaves and brush go down. The beginning of this cooler season coincides with the Minnesota firearms deer season (Nov 6-21 in this neck of the woods). Hunters definitely deserve their time in the woods, unpestered by hikers, so… when you want to take a hike on the Mesabi Iron Range, where to go?
Know Where To Go
First off, know your seasons. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is your source for this information. Because hunting seasons vary across the state, it’s imperative to check before your go. Next, find out where hunting is allowed, what the rules are, and what areas are closed. For example, hunting is allowed on all US Forest Service lands (except on private land within the forest, and where there are campgrounds and facilities), including the Boundary Waters. On the Mesabi, that means hunters may be near trails like Bird Lake, Big Aspen and Lookout Mountain. Though not in the Forest, Redhead Mountain Bike Park is closed for hiking and biking during deer season. While the Mesabi Trail isn’t closed per se, it does come close to a lot of hunting grounds. Again, for safety and respect for hunters, it’s best to stay clear.
Our Favorite Hikes For Deer Season – and Any Season!
Here are some ideas for shorter-to-medium-length hikes and walks that are great for kids, shouldn’t interfere with hunters, and might just take you somewhere new.
- Walk Virginia. Virginia, MN has done a great job curating various in-town walking routes. From Baileys Lake (visit the Iron Range Veterans Memorial along the way!) to Bridge Walk and Olcott Park, you can bundle up and get fresh air and scenery – and maybe a treat at Canelakes Candies afterwards. Hikes range from just under one mile to just over two miles.
- Climb the Giant. If you’re looking for something a little more challenging, take in the views from atop Giants Ridge ski hills. You’ll look out over the Superior National Forest, and just be a short hike from civilization (and Vi’s Pizza in Biwabik) You’ll have a short time between now and the targeted ski open date of Thanksgiving weekend (sooner if temps allow). Hikes range from .3 miles to 2.2 miles.
- Scout your next snowshoe route. There might not be enough snow to snowshoe – yet – but you can check out the 1.9 mile snowshoe trail at Hibbing’s Carey Lake. You can also follow the park road along the lake for a nice view and leisurely walk.
- Tour the Towns. Hibbing and Eveleth have walking tour brochures you can request here. Bundle up to explore historic and interesting sights and grab a locally brewed beverage at BoomTown (located in both cities). Bonus walk in Eveleth: little but lovely Fayal Pond.
- Do a leg of Longyear. Longyear Lake in Chisholm is surrounded by a paved trail that can be walked in its entirety of around 2.3 miles, or cut roughly in half by crossing the Bridge of Peace. Either way, enjoy lake views and make the short walk to nearby restaurants like Jim’s Sports Bar and Valentini’s afterwards.
- Pick a Picturesque Pit. St James Pit in Aurora offers a 3.0 mile walk on a paved trail that circles the scenic mine lake. Make it a day and grab a bite at Rudy’s while you’re there!
Resources for Your Take a Hike Days
Before you take a hike, consult these resources. Find maps, closure information, and tips on accessing state and Forest trails any time of year.