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 150 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.
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.
GRAND RAPIDS TO MCKINLEY
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!
MCKINLEY TO BIWABIK
Plans are to finish this section in 2023 – 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.
BIWABIK THRU EMBARRASS TO KUGLER TOWNSHIP
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.
KUGLER TOWNSHIP TO TOWER
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 2023 with possible completion in 2024. Check back in for updates.
TOWER THRU EAGLES NEST TO ELY
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. NOTE: Tower to Soudan will be re-surfaced in 2023 and will be shut down for an extended period for bridge construction.
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.
2023 CONSTRUCTION PLANS (Only two more sections remaining!)
By the end of 2023, the Mesabi Trail should be short just a few miles leading into Tower.
The Mesabi Trail™ has been funded in part by the LCCMR and the Minnesota Environmental and Natural Resources Trust Fund.