The Mesabi Iron Range in northeastern Minnesota has all of the winter outdoor recreation anyone could want, from alpine and Nordic skiing to fat biking and snowmobiling. But what makes this destination different from any other in the state, or even the Midwest, is its historic and ever-changing landscape.
A hub of cold-weather activities, Giants Ridge in Biwabik sits atop the ancient “Misaabe Wajiw” or “big man mountain” in the Ojibwe language. Legend tells of his purpose: to protect the land and its great treasures, many of which he hid, disguising some and burying others. In time, he grew tired and lay down, covering his great treasures until “the winter of no snow.” When that winter arrived, the people of the land found water in abundance, forests, land, game, and iron. Today, the contours of the land, shaped by time and mining, form an alpine ski area that overlooks the Superior National Forest, while cross-country ski trails and fat bike routes wind through pine and birch stands and past natural and mine lakes at the base of the mountain. Tubing and even ice-fishing are also possible here!
Onsite lodging at Giants Ridge includes an all-suites hotel, villas overlooking Wynne Lake, and the unique and utterly stunning guest cottages of GreenGate. In Biwabik, stop for pizza at Vi’s or head to the warm and welcoming Caribbean-themed restaurant, the Whistling Bird, in Gilbert. Friday fish fry at the nearby Wandering Pines is not to be missed.
Just a 15-minute drive from Giants Ridge, the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Museum is open weekends and is a must-visit for any fan. Head to Virginia (view active iron mining along the way) and cross over the state’s tallest bridge, spanning a water-filled mine pit. On the city’s Chestnut Street, be sure to pick up homemade chocolates at the venerable Canelakes Candy. A few doors down, peruse local art at the First Stage Gallery, open Thursday-Saturday. Pick up groceries and delicious deli items at Natural Harvest Food Co-op, and get your coffee kick at Kunnari’s Kitchen.
Continue another 20 minutes westward and you’ll be in Chisholm, home of Minnesota Discovery Center. Here, you’ll find epic views and museum exhibits that illuminate the region’s history. You can even take a guided hike on snowshoes—bring your own or use theirs. Trails wind through the RedHead Mountain Bike Park, a world-class trail system that warrants a warm-weather trip!
If it’s craft beer you crave (who doesn’t?), zip into Hibbing and BoomTown Brewery for dinner and a flight. The charming cross-country ski trails of Hibbing’s Carey Lake are great for families looking for a safe, close-to-town space for winter fun. Not far away, the Sax-Zim Bog is a world-renown birders’ paradise in winter.
Businesses across the Mesabi Iron Range have taken the Open for Business pledge, a promise to uphold the highest standards of cleanliness and safety. If help is needed in planning a wonderful winter adventure, contact the Iron Range Tourism Bureau: 218-749-8161 or email@example.com.