Mesabi Trail Log

Trail description and log

Grand Rapids to Taconite. 

The first dozen miles of the Mesabi Trail from Grand Rapids through Chisholm and Bovey to Taconite give a foretaste of what is coming on the other on trail that zig-zags up and down hills as it skirts around hills of taconite tailings and ore piles and through pines and popples. Now the trail takes you downhill and through a sharp right turn. You will notice the iron rich soil that is typical of nearly the entire length of the Mesabi Trail. 

M1.1 Another left turn, then downhill. 

M1.5  Left again, through the trees. 

M1.9  This area has been logged and is now full of young popples. 

M2.4  At the top of the curve is a log shelter (also used in winter by snowmobilers) with benches inside, picnic table outside and a toilet in back. 

The trail will now go downhill for nearly a half-mile, so relax and enjoy. 

M3.2  The trail sights are unique: a red hill of taconite tailings besides a huge pit of water; call it a lake and a mountain. 

You may want to stop and take in all that this man-made scenery means, with more ahead as the trail goes by an idle mining complex, over a bridge and up against another lake and hill over the next .5 miles. 

M3.7  The trail splits; stay right and go up a paved hill. 

M3.9  The trail takes you on a fast downhill ride and then whips to the right before going uphill to M4.2. And then you,ll repeat the same sequence to M4.4 where the trail levels off for a half-mile. 

M4.9  Another downhill ride to 5.1 where the trail is closer to a highway. 

M5.4  Cross the highway carefully. The trail will go up and right. 

M5.6  The trail will take a sharp right and then climb to M6 (with a lake on our left). The trail then levels off to M6.4, when it goes downhill for .1 mile, then uphill for .1 mile, and then downhill again for a mile. 

M6.9  Cross railroad tracks. 

M7.0  Go straight if you are going into Coleraine; watch for a turn-off to the left to continue on the trail to Bovey and Taconite. 

M8.0  You,re already in Bovey. Then you,ll go up hill, dip down and go up to M8.8. 

M8.8  The trail levels off as the trail goes into the woods and through a wetland. 

M9.6  The trail is closer to the highway. 

M10.3  Watch for a rock flag at Braxton Spur. 

M10.9  The trail comes to Hwy. 15, but there,s more. Follow the arrows along the highway and continue the trail that is parallel to the one you were on. It,ll take you on a loop to the edge of Taconite and Bennet Street at M 11.6.

Nashwauk to Keewatin  

The segment of the Mesabi Trail from Nashwauk to Keewatin is only 4.5 miles long, but it offers a variety of environments. 

There are a couple of short hills; most of the trail is flat. 

Some of the trail goes through the woods; some of it is open; and some of it is near water. 

Part of the trail is an overlay upon an old roadway; other sections take off from the roadway on their own routes. 

Cyclists can park at the Nashwauk city park, which is on Hwy. 65, one mile north of Hwy. 169. 

To get to the trail, follow some green arrows .3 miles one block south and three blocks east and then another .3 miles along a highway; watch closely for the trail that comes off the highway on the right. That,s where this mile-marker description begins. 

M0-M.9 The newest segment of the trail begins in the woods as it takes you to a paved road (not in use) where an overlay of tar is the trail. 

M9 The trail leaves the roadway and  takes a sharp right turn through the woods. 

M1.2 Enjoy a short hill up to M1.3, where you can stop at a bench that overlooks Hwy. 169. 

M1.3 A short, steep, curvy  hill carries you down alongside a lake (O,Brien Reservoir) for a few tenths of a mile. 

M1.6 The trail ducks into the woods as it follows the reservoir,s shoreline. 

M1.8 The reservoir,s recreation area includes parking, picnic shelter, fishing pier and lots of space. The trail resumes just about straight ahead, through two large boulders that keep unauthorized vehicles off the trail. 

The trail goes off through the woods that include lots of young and middle-aged popple as well as some birch, blue spruce and a few fir. The trail is flat and flanked by trees. 

M2.2 A bench offers rest and an overview of the wetland below. The trail is then open for a short distance before going back into the trees for a swift ride down a hill to M2.4. 

M2.4 The trail turns sharply to the right as it rejoins that roadbed left at M.9. The trail, as in overlay, will be flat with only a couple low and short inclines the rest of the way to Keewatin. 

M2.8 The trail comes out of the woods and next to a marshland and an old farm. 

M3.3 A pond is formed between ore piles. 

M3.5 The trail again goes through a couple of boulders and closer to Hwy. 169 for a short distance. 

M3.8 A bench beckons with a view of an ore hill and a marsh. 

M4.2 The trail crosses a real, live railroad track; watch for trains. 

M4.5 The end of this trail segment in Keewatin at 3rd Ave. and 7th St., which is Hwy. 82 that goes south to Hwy. 169.

Hibbing to Leetonia 

The 3.5 mile ride from Hibbing is probably the shortest segment of the Mesabi Trail, but most cyclists will say the round-trip ride is one of the most exhilarating with two of the finest panoramic views on the trail. 

There are more hills per mile here, but should be negotiable by even casual riders. That,s the fun of it. 

There are places where you,ll want to slow for curves, but the trail doesn,t cross highways or other interruptions. 

The trail is simply to be enjoyed as it goes up and down, around and through, the woods, hills and vistas. There,s little open space on the trail, just where you,ll have fantastic views. 

Start from the access point in Hibbing just north of the Greyhound Bus Museum on 3rd Ave. about a mile north of its intersection with Howard St. in downtown Hibbing. 

M0 The trail starts out going down hill (past a landfill road) right away for .4 miles, so make sure your brakes are operational. 

M.4 The trail crosses a creek and then climbs about .2 miles. 

M.6 The trail will follow what feels like a flat ridge for nearly a half-mile. 

M1 You,ll go up again to crest at M1.2, but you,re still beside water. 

M1.7 These big tires have been here a long time; trees have grown through the middle of some of them. As you look around both sides of the trail, you conclude this must have been a dump at one time. 

M1.8 The top of the hill, but the rest will be short as the trail again climbs, all the way to M2.1 Then hold on as the trail drops quickly; watch for the curve at M2.4. 

M2.4 Stop at the curve and enjoy the panoramic view of the mining operation you can hear and nearly see what seems like a mile wide.

From here the trail will feel like a switchback until M2.8. 

M2.8 Another cool spot to stop. The trail is on the edge of the hill and overlooks a large pit lake in an expansive panoramic view. A nice rest stop, but get out of the way of any bikers using the trail. 

M3 to M3.5 This is another neat section as it curves around hundreds of young pines on a slight descend. 

M3.5 The trail ends at a highway in Leetonia at 5th St. You could meet a shuttle here, but the short return trip on the trail would be more fun.

Hibbing to Chisholm 

The 7-mile ride on the Mesabi Trail from Hibbing to Chisholm has a few challenging hills, plenty of flat miles, lots of vegetation and a finish that will take you up to some mining history. The ride starts out with a few hills that are fun to climb as they go through open areas with hills on the side, then goes downhill before flattening out much of the way to Chisholm with less than a mile of hill at the end. Most of the ride is in the open, but trees are always nearby and often form a canopy over the trail. This ride begins at the Hibbing access point, which is just past the Greyhound Bus Museum on 3rd Ave. about a mile north of its intersection with Howard St. in downtown Hibbing. There's parking at the access; water or toilets are not available. 

M0 The ride starts out heading up to mountains of iron ore tailings that will appear frequently during the ride. 

M.9 You,ll head up a hill and through young popple to M1.1 where the trail will flatten out again. 

M1.3 After rounding a couple curves, the trail will rise again. 

M1.6 There,s a bench for a hilltop rest. From here, the trail will take a nice downhill drop all the way to M2. 

M2 Go through the gate and then downhill some more, through the curves dotted with young popple before flattening out again, which will be the case for nearly 2.5 miles. 

M2.7 The trail goes under a busy Hwy. 169 bridge that,s perfect if you want a break from the sun, rain or wind. 

M3.7 The trail crosses Stuckel Rd. and loses the snowmobile trail that has been alongside you. 

M3.9 A nice wetland pops out on the left. 

M4.1 The trail, still flat, heads into a canopy of trees that includes spruce and some fir. 

M4.5 The trail is no longer flat, but drops quickly. The momentum should carry you to the top of the next little hill where it flattens out again. Even guys will say this segment is "pretty. 

M5.2 The trail goes up beside railroad tracks that don,t appear to be used anymore. 

M5.4 The trail takes a sharp turn to the right (with an ore tailings hill on the right) and goes through some curves. 

M5.5 A lake on the left as the trail goes through a lush section of vegetation and trees. 

M5.6 A couple of turns. 

M5.9 Here's an intersection that gives you the choice of going straight on the original trail to Chisholm (about a mile) or going to the left on a newly-paved trail segment of two Grand Rapids to Taconite miles to Ironworld Discovery Center. The first half of the two-mile ride goes through woods and offers a nice, high view of the lake. The next mile is closer to the highway and climbs up to a large parking area (for the county fair) before ending on the doorsteps of Ironworld. You could park your bike and enjoy a day touring the many exhibits, viewing the activities and eating ethnic foods. 

M6.1 The trail goes under Hwy. 169. You,ll soon be climbing again nearly all the way to Chisholm, about 3/4 of a mile. 

M6.2 Two ponds will pop up on the right. 

M6.3 The trail goes at a slightly-higher incline. 

M6.7 A remnant of the area,s mining past is on your left. 

M6.9 The trail ends at an access point straight ahead where the trail comes up against a highway. 

If you plan to continue on the trail to Buhl and Kinney, watch on the right for the newer paved section just before the access point.

Chisholm to Buhl  

M0-M1.1 The trail begins in vegetation, then travels through an open area as it goes downward for most of a mile, then hits a sharp right turn and heads up a steep hill. 

M1.1-2 The work-out continues in the solitude as the trail goes up a hill again, but his time only for a short distance as the downhill ride resumes and then the trail flattens out. 

M2.5 You,ll come up closer to Hwy. 169, but only for a little while as the trail heads into the woods. From here the ride is mostly flat for over a mile. Way out in the open. 

M3.7 You,re at the top of a hill; enjoy the .6 mile fast-ride to the bottom. Fortunately, you need to ride about .2 up that next hill; watch for the turn to the left. 

(And, yes, if you come back this way, you,ll have to climb the big hill you coasted down). 

For now enjoy the quiet, wooded ride for a mile. 

M4.7 A nice park on the right that includes black, bathrooms and shelter. 

M4.9 The end of the paved trail in Buhl. Follow the street (Pennsylvania) to State Street where you,ll turn left and end up at the next paved segment. The route from one segment to the next is about .5 mile.

Buhl to Kinney 

M5.4 The trail resumes in Buhl; up that short hill the trail turns right and follows lakeshore for nearly .3 miles. then the trail goes back through wooded vegetation. 

M6.3 The trail crosses a highway. 

M6.5 to 6.8 The paved trail ends for .4 miles, so follow the highway to the left where there,s a shoulder area. It,s mostly downhill from here. 

M7 to M7.1 A lake is on the right. 

M7.2 You,ll ride under a railroad trestle; there are five of these over the Mesabi Trail. 

M7.4 Another lake on the right in a quiet setting. 

M7.9 End of the trail in a quiet parking area off the highway.

Virginia northwest to Mt. Iron, south to Gilbert and Eveleth 

Virginia is the convenient point for a 5.2 mile ride northwest to Mt. Iron and a 5.7 mile ride south to Gilbert.  

The rides are different, but both enjoyable in their own way. 

Highlights along the trail from Virginia to Mt. Iron: 

After a couple miles of riding through the streets (and Park) of Virginia, the trail takes off to Mt. Iron and ends with two miles of secluded, wooded vegetation. 

M0-M.2 The trail leaves the overlook flanked by vegetation. 

M.2 Follow the arrows in the road shoulder for about.2 miles. 

M4  Cross the highway carefully; the trail resumes on the edge of a lake. 

The trail will soon take you on a nearly two mile ride through Virginia. You,ll follow arrows on the streets and sidewalks, up through a large and shaded park , alongside a cemetery and across some busy highways and a railroad crossing. 

Watch for traffic all the way and keep an eye on the arrows ahead - or to the right or left.  

M2.3 The trail turns to the left along a quiet highway. Enjoy the vegetation as you head for Mt. Iron. 

M3 .1 The trail comes to Hwy. 109; turn left and follow the arrows (on the right hand side of the highway. 

M3.4 The trail resumes on the right. You,ll now have nearly two miles of trail to enjoy as it goes slightly downhill amidst seclusion again as it passes through popple, birch, spruce and some pine. Even a lake pops up on the right. There are no houses, but lots of signs of wildlife. 

M5.2 The paved trail ends at Hwy. 102; you can see the next segment of the trail across the highway that is scheduled to be paved soon (and could be done in 2001). 

Highlights along the trail, beginning at Virginia to Gilbert: 

The ride from Virginia to Gilbert includes a few hills, but only one that casual riders may need to take at a low gear. 

The trail offers nice views of Rouchleau Mine (make sure you drive to Mine View Information Center for all kinds of background information). 

While the trail has several sections rich in vegetation and shaded by woods, the trail cuts through rocks in two areas where riders can feel like they are going through mountains. 

M0-M.2 The trail takes off alongside the west edge of the Rouchleau Mine, which will be a companion for nearly 1-5 miles. 

M1.5 to M1.6  Work your way up a high hill to a batch of posts in the trail. 

M1.6 to M2 The trail is similar to a wide bike lane of a paved road. Watch for the sign to "Mine View (at the next batch of posts in the trail) on the hill to the left; it,s a long grind to Mine View, but the overview at the look-out is expansive with an eagle,s view of the lake and the city of Virginia. Plus, there are exhibits and stuff for kids to climb on. 

M2.1 Watch on the left for view of the waters of the Rouchleau. 

M2.3 Cross a highway and take the trail through more woods. 

M2.9 - M3 A nice downhill ride, but obey the stop sign because the trail turns sharply to the right. 

From here the trail goes through wetlands and vegetation amidst a feeling of seclusion. this section will relax you - and there are no hills, either. 

M3.7 - M4.2  The trail cuts through rock, on which trees and other vegetation have grown. Even the moss is interesting. The massive rocks are reminders that his is iron or country. 

M4.3 The trail is on  high grade where you ride high above a pond with ducks and herons. Again, enjoy the seclusion. 

M4.7 The trail goes up, but just for .1 mile, then the trail is flat for over a half-mile to M5.4. 

M5.4 The trail turns right; enjoy a series of right and left curves for .2 miles. 

M5.6 Cross a road and then follow the trail to the end of the pavement and the access at Gilbert that includes a parking area and could be a trailhead. Follow the trail across Hwy. 135 and go straight on Broadway to downtown Gilbert where there are several dining options, or continue left along the trail to the Gilbert city park and campground and then on to Eveleth. 

M6.4 After the trail takes a sharp turn or two, it will cross a road that (to the left) takes you down to the city park on Ore-B-Gone Lake. The trail will go through the city,s campground.

M6.7 There,s a bench here if you,d like to stop and look over the lake; there,s another view just a few spins down the trail. 

M7.4 The trail that has been skirting the edge of downtown Gilbert takes off into the woods for over a half-mile. 

M8 The trail comes out of the woods, through some post-guards and then across the Sparta Rd. that takes you to (you guessed it!) Sparta.  

The next mile of the trail is closer to the highway and the last mile into Eveleth is more wooded. You,ll end up at the top of a hill that takes you lickety-split to the end of the trail. Check your brakes; you,re headed toward a busy highway. Keep going west to get into downtown Eveleth and "The Big Stick, or go north on Hwy. 53 to lodging, dining and the Hockey Hall of Fame.



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