Y;; ;;; ;;;; ;; ;;;;;;;; on the state’s tallest bridge in Virginia, peering down into a former open
pit mine that’s now filled with clear,
mineral-rich spring water. The wind
envelops you as you steer a mountain
bike down plunging trails at Biwabik’s
Giants Ridge resort. Monster truck
fantasies come to life on an o;-road joy
ride across former mining land, with a
souvenir coating of iron-red mud.
Minnesota’s industrial hub in the late
1800s and throughout the 1900s, the
Mesabi Iron Range arcs across northeast
Minnesota, from east of Grand Rapids
to west of Duluth. Mining carved the
landscape, leaving behind big recreation
areas and even bigger cultural legacies
in towns such as Chisholm, Mountain
Iron, Eveleth, Gilbert, Biwabik, Aurora,
Virginia and Hibbing.
At Giants Ridge in Biwabik—named
for an Ojibwe legend about a sleeping
giant—hills up to 500 feet high are open
for mountain biking and disc golfing in
the summer, and skiing, snowboarding,
tubing and fat biking in the winter.
Two of Minnesota’s top-ranked golf
courses, The Legend and The Quarry,
stretch across a former sand and gravel
mining operation and into the Superior
National Forest. New additions to the
property include a chalet, climbing
wall, a high-speed chair li; and gravity
mountain bike trails.
With 36 miles of roads, visitors rev
up their truck, ATV and Jeep engines
at the Iron Range O;-Highway Vehicle
Recreation Area in Gilbert, a high-octane outdoor playground where
riders rumble across rocky terrain,
splash through mud holes and grind
up the hill climb. Camp and cool o;
along the shores of Lake Ore-be-gone,
an open pit now filled with natural
spring water. Summer ATV and winter
snowmobiling trails can be found
throughout the region.
Cyclists shouldn’t miss the 120-mile
paved Mesabi Trail that spools from
Grand Rapids to Ely, passing open pit
mines, forests and lakes over the new
Highway 53 bridge, the tallest in the state.
Join the Great River Energy Mesabi Trail
Tour in August, or arrange a shu; le or
lodge-to-lodge bike tour through Giants
Ridge, o;ered May through mid-October.
In addition to posing for selfies
with the world’s largest free-standing
hockey stick and puck, fans who visit
the U. S. Hockey Hall of Fame Museum
in Eveleth will see the triumphs of
the “Miracle on Ice” 1980 U. S. Olympic
hockey team and other national hockey
stars—many of whom grew up playing
on the Iron Range.
At the Greyhound Museum in Hibbing,
hop aboard vintage buses from the
company credited with launching
America’s bus industry. It began humbly
in the early 1900s as a Hupmobile
touring car that transported residents
between mining towns before becoming
an essential part of the nation’s
transportation by World War II.
For an overview of the Iron Range and
the immigrants who kept the industry
humming, hop aboard a trolley to a
former pit mine, tour outdoor exhibits
that include an early homestead and
Norwegian stabbur, and study exhibits
on the region’s geological resources at the
Minnesota Discovery Center in Chisholm.
Once you’ve worked up an appetite,
Sunrise Deli, Virginia’s Italian Bakery
seek out local eateries such as Hibbing’s
and Chisholm’s Valentini’s Supper Club
for European and Nordic Iron Range
specialties, including potica (“
poh-TEE-sah”), a roll of fine pastry layered with
walnuts; Italian pastas and porke;a
sandwiches; sarma (stu;ed cabbage
rolls); and pasties, the iconic meat pies
miners took for lunch.
For dessert, Canelake’s Candy has
sweetened downtown Virginia for more
than 100 years.
Go Big on the Range
Recreation and history loom large on the
Mesabi Iron Range. | LISA MEYERS MCCLINTICK
WYNNE LAKE, BIWABIK