Traveling across the Iron Range of northeast Minnesota, the Mesabi Trail stretches from the Mississippi River in Grand Rapids, to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness near Ely – with a few small gaps to be completed.

Currently over 155 miles are finished. When totally complete (in 1-2 years), it will traverse almost 165 miles, plus a variety of spurs to link 28 communities. There are just two sections remaining. A Wheel Pass is required by anyone 18 and older using wheels on the trail.

Visitors to the trail will find a 10 foot wide bituminous surface (asphalt paving) built on a combination of old railroad beds, abandoned highway grades, old logging and mining roads, and blazing trail through the forest to get the next community.

The Mesabi Trail is NOT simply a rail-to-trail conversion – it is not flat & straight. The terrain varies from hilly to flat over the entire length. A few hills will test your stamina going up, and your brakes going down – none are greater than an 8% grade – but some are fairly long.

The Trail is not groomed in the winter months.

Take a virtual tour of the entire trail, section by section to get a better idea of the terrain. Or, download our paper map and check out the bottom for an elevation chart.


Current Trail Status

The Mesabi Trail is still under construction in two spots; and there are occasional detours and closures beyond our control – check Trail Updates & Conditions for current status.

The trail is always accessible, but the best biking conditions are usually from sometime in April through mid October. Weather in Minnesota is always unpredictable – late or early snow can shorten or lengthen the season. Portions of the trail are in heavily wooded areas; we do not advise riding until all the snow & ice have melted in the spring and our trail staff has had a chance to clear away winter debris. Keep an eye on Trail Updates & Conditions, we’ll let you know when it’s ready for riding.


The longest continuous stretch of 78 miles runs from Grand Rapids to CR 20 in McKinley. This section offers multiple spurs, including to the Minnesota Discovery Center and the Redhead Mountain Bike Park, and another from Gilbert to the Mesabi Station Trailhead in Eveleth, and on to Fayal Township. One of the many spectacular features along this section is crossing the Representative Thomas Rukavina Memorial Bridge just outside of Virginia. The Mesabi Trail takes up 14 feet of one side of the tallest bridge in Minnesota…the view is incredible!


The Trail East of Buhl that is on Whiteside Road  has been milled 0.3 miles. It will be rough gravel for that part. This section will have signs up and also this wont get fixed until secure money for entire Buhl to Kinney section of trail can be completed. Please ride with caution.


Plans are to finish this section in 2024 – check back here for updates on construction of this 5.5-mile segment. For now, you can divert onto the shoulder of Hwy 135 (at your own risk) to get to Biwabik, with the understanding that Hwy 135 is a busy two-lane highway. Inexperienced riders are advised not to take this route.


Pick up the trail again outside of Biwabik and bike the next completed segment which stretches approximately 22 miles through the Giants Ridge Recreation Area & lift service mountain bike park, continuing 9.5 miles past Embarrass to Hwy 26 / Wahlsten Road in Kugler Township.There is also an additional 5.85-mile spur into Aurora.This section of the trail is not to be missed, running along the continental divide – it’s another spectacular view – topped off with a ride across a 3/4-mile-long floating bridge crossing the Embarrass Wetland Complex and the Darwin Meyers Wildlife Management Area. This floating bridge is truly one of a kind, and built right in Embarrass! Just a little heads up…there are a lot of hills on this section, and it might be a bit challenging for kids or inexperienced riders – build up your stamina and take this section on a little later in the season.


The trail ends in Kugler Township – leaving a gap of about 6.8 miles short of Tower. There is no advisable connection to Tower – Hwy 135 may look like a good route, but it is a two lane rural highway with NO USABLE SHOULDER. This section has been planned out, but funding is pending, you may see some construction in 2024 with possible completion in 2025. Check back in for updates.


Pick up the trail again in Tower near the train museum. The next stretch will take you through Tower/Soudan and into the Lake Vermilion Soudan Underground Mine State Park (complete with a State campground). After touring through the state park, the trail heads toward the Eagles Nest Township where the route follows an absolutely gorgeous 11 mile stretch passing several lakes, streams, and ponds – taking you right into Ely.


Once you get to Ely, you are at the door step of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, one of the premier wilderness areas in the country. There is also connectivity to other trails – including the 3.8 mile long Tezona Trail around Miner’s Lake, and the road leading to the Hidden Valley Mountain Biking area. Reward yourself with a stay at any of the area’s accommodations, enjoy exploring Ely’s downtown, and visit some of the local attractions like the International Wolf Center, the North American Bear Center, and the Dorothy Molter Museum.


2024 CONSTRUCTION PLANS (Only two more sections remaining!)

  • Five miles from McKinley to Biwabik (started late summer).
  • A portion of the seven mile section between Hwy 26/Kugler Township and Tower (started late summer), but not the whole thing…total completion targeted for 2025.
  • These are the “plans” for 2024 – sometimes plans can be thwarted by circumstances beyond our control – watch updates for progress and closures.

By the end of 2024-25, the Mesabi Trail should be short just a few miles leading into Tower.


Funding Source

The Mesabi Trail™ has been funded in part by the LCCMR and the Minnesota Environmental and Natural Resources Trust Fund.