Find Minnesota’s best mountain bike trails on the Iron Chain
If you haven’t heard a lot about Redhead Mountain Bike Park yet, you will soon. In the past five months of last year – in the midst of a global pandemic, no less – more than 15,000 people have visited Chisholm to ride the region’s newest mountain biking trails. Downtown storefronts that had been vacant for years suddenly attracted interested shoppers. In October, the Minnesota High School Cycling League will host a race in Redhead, bringing up to 3,000 people and $ 500,000 in potential expenses to this small town in Iron Range.
“These communities haven’t seen a lot of meaningful change in decades,” says Jordan Metsa, fund development and marketing coordinator for the Minnesota Discovery Center, which runs Redhead with the Town of Chisholm and the Iron Range Off volunteers. Road Cyclists (IROC) mountain bike club.
Citing another Minnesota mining town that has been transformed by mountain biking, “Cuyuna led the way and showed the rest of northern Minnesota that the risk was worth it,” Metsa said. “They took full advantage of the arrival of companies as a result. “
In Chisholm, one of these companies is 30West. Two young couples transformed a former antique store into a fitness center in 2018 and will run Redhead’s on-site bike shop, offering gear, tune-ups and bike rentals. The city hopes more new businesses will follow and existing businesses will expand, attracting more visitors and new residents for years to come.
Redhead has 25 miles of purpose built trails so far, which circle an old mining shaft and descend to the sparkling blue water below. Dogs on a leash, hikers, trail runners and electric cyclists are also welcome. Kayaks, canoes and paddleboards can be rented at the water’s edge.
At the adjacent Discovery Center (one of the largest museums north of the Twin Cities), a food truck, food court, and full-service restaurant, the Rustic Pig, are open multiple days of the week, with live music playing live on Thursday evening and fine dining on Friday.
Forty-five minutes east, Giants Ridge in Biwabik continues to raise its standard of mountain biking. The famous ski and golf resort opened its first mountain bike trails served by ski lifts (a chairlift takes you and your bike to the top) in 2018, and it just added almost 10 miles of unique cross-country ski trail. Riding rentals and riding clinics are available, making the resort accessible to beginners as well as double black diamond dominants.
“The build quality of our trails is as good as you would find in Winter Park or any mountain bike park serviced by ski lifts; they are truly world class, ”says Benji Neff, Director of Mountain Sports at Giants Ridge and a member of the IROC.
It would be easy for the two parks to see each other as competition. But that’s not the way in northern Minnesota. Metsa and Neff see themselves as part of a larger mountain biking destination, combining with the Tioga Recreation Area near Grand Rapids and Cuyuna near Crosby for over 112 miles of top-notch riding. A new four-way partnership between these places is aptly named Ride the Range.
“We challenge rural America to take a second look at their land and judge it for its merits,” Metsa said. “People thought this land was useless and wrote it off. We see a really bright future for the Iron range.
If paved pedaling is more your speed, the Mesabi Trail offers 130 miles, with an additional 16 miles expected to be completed this summer. The longest segment (75 miles) stretches east from Grand Rapids to McKinley, past Hill Annex Mine State Park, over Minnesota’s highest bridge in Virginia, and through several towns in the Iron Range. A three-day pass costs only $ 5; buy one online or at dozens of businesses along the trail, including Giants Ridge.
The annual Mesabi Trail tour has been split into three separate and smaller tours this year. The first, July 31, begins and ends in Redhead.