The understated coolness of the Mesabi Trail

There was a time I had a close relationship with my bike. When I lived in town I rode it to work, to interviews, to the Rotary meetings. My last night at the paper before I went to grad school, I rode the bike round and round over the thread bare carpet of the Hibbing Daily Tribune until the sports guy finished his pages.

That year I rode the Mesabi Trail’s big annual summer ride and did this sort of Dukes of Hazard move on the bike, bending the front wheel. I wobbled past the finish line but never got it fixed. We moved to the country. I got a fat tire dirt bike for getting the mail and I never did fix my cross bike, which was fantastic on both pavement and some gravel.

This might be the year. Get your bikes tuned. I like to bring mine to Bikes on Howard in Hibbing. That’s not an ad; that’s an earned mention. I just have to remember to bring it along when I go in for work one of these days.

As you can see from the below Iron Range Tourism article, the Range’s premier recreational trail beckons.

Ridership on the Mesabi Trail is on the rise.

Mesabi Trail use up in 2012

Last year was a record year for the Mesabi Trail. The number of trail users, calculated by electronic counters along the route, was up 10% in 2012 over 2011. In the last 5 years, the number of trail users has increased by more than 30 percent, from 117,785 in 2007 to 174,554 in 2012.

And some would say that’s a conservative number.

“Depending on which part of the trail a person uses, they may not even be counted at all,” said Doug Schmitz, Manager of Trail Maintenance. “The counters in most cases are at least 10 miles apart. So on the one hand, you may be missing some users but you’ll also be getting the people who walk their dog on the trail every day counted more than once.”

The Mesabi Trail currently traverses 113 miles through 25 communities in Itasca and St. Louis counties. There are 10 trail counters positioned from Grand Rapids to Soudan. In St. Louis County, the trail section with the greatest usage is at Giants Ridge, with 24,247 users in 2012. More than 5,871 were in the months of January to March, mainly attributable to cross country skiing, according to Schmitz.

After Giants Ridge the most-used section of the St. Louis County trail is in Hibbing, with 22,393 year-round users. The Hibbing section logged the greatest number of summer users (April-October) in St. Louis County, with 17,247. The total number of users, as counted by monitors in Keewatin, Hibbing, Buhl, Virginia, Giants Ridge, Soudan and Fayal, was 103,793. In Itasca County, users are counted at Hwy 61, in Taconite, and at the Itasca County Fairgrounds, totaling 70,435.

“This is great news for the Mesabi Trail, which is one of the longest and best-maintained paved trails in the country,” said Beth Pierce, Iron Range Tourism Bureau director. “We certainly expect those numbers to continue to increase as more and more people around the state and the US learn about the trail.”

The Mesabi Trail is maintained by the St. Louis and Lake Counties Regional Railway Authority.

For visitors who use the trail, the experience can be rewarding. “Several of our guests have come to the Iron Range to experience the Mesabi Trail, and have commented favorable about the trail as well as the service and friendliness in the communities along the route,” said Shawn Callahan, owner/operator of Green Gate Guest House in Biwabik.

“It’s so exciting to see the use of and support of the trail growing year after year, with visitors from all over the USA and the world”, said Ardy Nurmi-Wilberg, Executive Director of Club Mesabi, Inc. “A greatly appreciated way for users to show their support is to purchase a Mesabi Trail wheel pass, which are $5 for three days and $15 for the season”. They’re available at locations across the Range, including the new Mesabi Station building in Eveleth, also home to the Iron Range Tourism Bureau, and on the Mesabi Trail website,


  1. I really enjoyed being able to commute to work on the MT between Coleraine and GR.

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