As the only region of the state where active iron mining still exists, the mesabi has long drawn those interested in state and national history to its mine overlooks and museums. But woven into these rugged minelands are lakes, forests and trails that set the stage for experiences you won't find anywhere else in the country. Plan a fall adventure to this legendary neck of the woods, and you'll see why.

Paul Pluskwik Photography


With two new purpose-built, lift-served gravity trails at Giant Ridge in Biwabik, the region is poised to become a destination for mountain bikers, with its very own vibe and feel. Both trails are free-ride trails - Leapfrog is an intermediate, flowy ride and a good introduction to gravity trails, white Sector 12 is an advanced thrill ride for even the most experienced bikers. Leave the ground if you want, or really push yourself on the challenging, B-lines, with rock drops and a gas jump. These trails (with 20+ miles of cross country trails on the way at Giants Ridge in the next two-three years) join existing Iron Range Off Road Cyclists' trails at the Laurentian Divide north of Virginia and Maple Hill Park in Hibbing.


From Hoyt Lakes in the east to Hibbing in the west, there are plenty of places to soak up fall color, but the very best views - in no particular order - are: Skibo Vista. You'll look northwest over the Superior National Forest at this rustic rest stop along a scenic byway with the same name, just outside of Hoyt Lakes. Bring a picnic and plan to explore the nearby Bird Lake and Colby Lake trails.

Heading west, there's a whole new way to see the sights at Giants Ridge. Sure, you can hike up the mountain the old-fashioned way, wind through the woods and emerge atop a 360-degree view of the surrounding woods, or you can ride the new high-speed chairlift to the summit and take it all in. When you're back at base, grab a seasonal brew and a bite at the Burnt Onion Kitchen & Brews in the Giants Ridge Chalet.

Another favorite option is just north of Virginia on Highway 53, where multi-use trails intersect the Laurentian Divide, the continent's north/south watershed and a geological point of interest in the Superior National Forest. A fitness trail studded with picnic areas is perfect for little feet to explore, or take the full hike out to the top of Lookout Mountain for a serene and sweeping view of the forest.

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