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.
Currently approximately 145 miles are finished. When totally complete (in 2-3 years), it will traverse over 165 miles, including a variety of spurs to link 28 communities.
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 Mesabi Trail is still under construction, especially on the far east end; 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 the end of 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.
GRAND RAPIDS TO MCKINLEY
The longest continuous stretch of 78 miles runs from Grand Rapids to CR 20 heading into McKinley. This section includes multiple spurs like the one to the Minnesota Discovery Center and the Redhead Mountain Bike Park and the one from Gilbert to the Mesabi Station Trailhead in Eveleth. 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!
MCKINLEY TO BIWABIK
Check here for updates on the construction of this 5.5-mile segment. Plans are in the design process to be constructed in the next year or two! 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.
BIWABIK TO EMBARRASS
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 and into Embarrass along with 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.
EMBARRASS TO TOWER
One of the newest segments of trail opened in 2021 from Embarrass to Benson Road. This section leaves you about 6.8 miles short of Tower. You can continue up Hwy 135 to reach Tower where the trail can be found again at the D&IR Passenger Station, but this stretch of highway is busy and there is little shoulder available to ride on. Again, using this route would be at your risk. The layout of this section is currently in progress. Check back in for updates!
TOWER TO EAGLES NEST
When you pick up the trail in Tower, the next 17-mile stretch will take you through 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 Townhall where the route turns east following an absolutely gorgeous 5-mile-long stretch passing several lakes, streams, and ponds. NOTE: This section currently is a dead-end, but only until the middle of the summer! Another section to watch for updates.
There are several miles of trail around Miner’s Lake in Ely that pass by the Grand Ely Lodge and Pioneer Mine Museum among other sites. Reward yourself with a stay at any of the area’s accommodations, enjoy exploring Ely’s downtown, and if you want to do some more biking, the Mesabi Trail will take you to the road that leads to the Hidden Valley Mountain Biking area!
Four segments of trail are planned for the 2022 construction season:
By the end of 2022, the Mesabi Trail will be short just 2 connections, one from McKinley to Biwabik and one from Benson Road (north of Embarrass) into Tower.
The Mesabi Trail™ has been funded in part by the LCCMR and the Minnesota Environmental and Natural Resources Trust Fund.