Planning that Minnesota Summer Biking Vacation: The Iron Range


The Iron Range region of northeastern Minnesota should be on your list of biking destinations this Summer.  It boasts one of the state's premier trails, the Mesabi Trail, that has been named the Best Rural Bike Trail in StarTribune's 2013 Best of Minnesota.  If mountain biking is more your style, there are miles of trails that include dirt singletrack, old logging roads, abandoned railroad grades, cross country ski trails and natural surface snowmobile trails.  There is something here for everyone from the beginner to advanced mountain biker, the long distance road cyclist and those looking for a fun, family bike outing.  Head to the Iron Range this Summer or catch the changing colors this Fall and experience all of the biking opportunities this area has to offer.   

The Iron Range Tourism Bureau has made it easy to plan your trip with a wealth of information on its Ironrange.org website.  Plan your trip two ways, order free travel guides or online with My Trip by creating a My Trip account.  The site will help you explore area towns, places to stay and things to do including a section on where to bike.  

Trail Highlights

The Mesabi Trail

The Mesabi Trail stretches 115 paved miles from Grand Rapids to just past Giants Ridge in Biwabik.  When completed it will span 132 miles from Grand Rapids to Ely connecting 28 communities along the way making it one of the longest paved trails in the US. 

Image Credit:  Iron Range Tourism Bureau

The 10' wide paved surface was partially built on old railroad beds, logging and mining roads that will take you on a scenic tour of the Iron Range.  A Wheel Pass is required for riders over 18 and can be purchased at businesses along the trail, at self-pay boxes at entry point kiosks (Grand Rapids, Bovey, Calumet, Keewatin, Hibbing, Chisholm, Buhl, Mountain Iron, Virginia, Eveleth, Giants Ridge near Biwabik) and online.  A Wheel Pass is a great deal at $5 for a 3-day pass or $15 for a season pass and revenue raised supports the Mesabi Trail.

Image Credit:  Iron Range Tourism Bureau

Shuttle service is available May 1st through October 15th from Grand Rapids to Aurora (and all point in between) and can accommodate up to 12 bikes and passengers per trip.  The Mesabi Trail Shuttle Service also has a Lodge to Lodge program that can help you plan lodging, luggage shuttle, box lunches and recommend sites to see and places to eat along the trail, returning you and your bike to your vehicle when your are done.

Iron Range Tourism Bureau
Paper maps can be ordered online or download a PDF copy.  The Mesabi Trail website also has an interactive map that has locations of trail amenities such as lodging, dining, attractions, shopping and bicycle services.  It will also show you where to find wheel pass vendors and trail entry points.  To see more photos of the Mesabi Trail visit the Photo Gallery page of the Mesabi Trail website. 

Giants Ridge

Giants Ridge in Biwabik has over 24 miles of beginner to advanced singletrack, cross country ski trails, snowmobile trails and abandoned logging roads to ride May through October.  Mountain biking here is a great deal, only $5 for the day or $50 for the season.  Mountain bike rentals are also available at the Summer Rental Shop.  Trail Map 

John Filander talks about mountain biking at Giants Ridge

McCarthy Beach State Park

Image Credit:  Minnesotaseasons.com

McCarthy Beach State park is located near Hibbing, MN and contains 17 miles of park trails and low maintenance roads ideal for mountain biking.  These trails meander their way through the heavily wooded hills and around the lakes of the state park.  The Taconite State Trail that passes through the boundary of the park can also be explored.  McCarthy Beach State Park map     Taconite State Trail map

Superior National Forest

Image Credit:  Evergreenmagazine.com

Superior National Forest is prime for the mountain biking enthusiast.  It's trails may not be as technical as designed trails, but they have a lot to offer the off-road adventurer.  There are miles of trails to ride that include old logging roads, forest roads, county roads, old railroad grades, grassy cross country ski trails and natural surface trails.  You will definitely want to bring your GPS unit along to keep from getting lost.  See my post Great Mountain Biking Awaits You In Superior National Forest for more information.

Big Aspen Recreation Area

The Big Aspen Recreation Area in Superior National Forest, located 11 miles north of Virginia, is a multi-use trail system that allows mountain bikers, ATV's, hikers and horses.  These looping trails travel through pine and hardwood forests on old logging roads and abandoned railroad grades providing trail uses with several scenic vistas.  Trail Map

Taconite State Trail

Image Credit:  Johnny Eloranta

The Taconite State Trail is a 165 mile trail that starts in Grand Rapids and goes all the way to Ely through aspen, birch and pine forests, State Forests and three State Parks (Bear Head Lake, Soudan Underground Mine and McCarthy Beach).  The trail is paved for first 6 miles leading out of Grand Rapids after which it becomes natural treadway.  Some areas along the trail may have standing water in summer, but others are suitable for mountain biking and hiking.  Trail Map

Arrowhead State Trail

Image Credit:  Sevenminutemiles.com

The Arrowhead State Trail is a 135 mile trail that intersects the Taconite State Trail near Tower and stretches northward just short of International Falls.  This natural surface trail is mostly used in winter by snowmobilers but about 69 miles of the trail are suitable for mountain biking and hiking in summer months.  Most of the trail travels through the heavily wooded Kabetogama State Forest and may contain wet areas in summer.  Trail Map


The Tour de Togo is a three day fundraiser tour for the Flaming Pine Youth Camp that takes place July 12, 13 & 14.  The routes take riders along quiet scenic country roads and portions of the Mesabi Trail.

The MS TRAM is a fundraiser tour for the National MS Society July 14th through the 19th that follows a route from the Canadian border, through the Iron Range and down Lake Superior's North Shore. 

The Great River Energy Mesabi Trail Tour takes place August 3rd in support of recreational trails and AMPERS-"Diverse Radio for Minnesota Communities".  There are four routes to choose from this year including a metric century (62 miles), and three shorter ones of 48, 26 and 13 miles all leading to Alcott Park in Virginia.  Transportation for riders and their bikes from the finish to the chosen starting point before the ride will be provided.  At the end of the day there will be a picnic and concert.


Iron Range Tourism Bureau
Twitter:  @IronRangeMN
Facebook:  Iron Range Tourism Bureau

The Mesabi Trail
Facebook:  Mesabi Trail

Great River Energy-Mesabi Trail Tour
Twitter:  @MesabiTrailTour
Facebook:  Great River Energy - Mesabi Trail Tour

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