Trail: Mesabi Trail (Virginia to Gilbert segment)

Description: The Mesabi Trail is a rather ambitious plan to connect a number of cities in the Iron Range, ranging from Grand Rapids, Hibbing, Chisolm, Virginia, Eveleth, Biwabik, and Tower. There are several completed segments, but the entire trail system has not yet been built. This review covers the trail segment from Virginia to Gilbert.

The trail segment starts just east of downtown Virginia and follows an old DM&IR Railroad grade for most of its distance out of town. It passes by an old mine (now partially filled with water and very scenic) and climbs rather steeply until it reaches the Laurentian Divide, and then it flattens out and heads into Gilbert. I was actually biking this trail with two friends instead of skating, and one of them got rather tired and decided she didn't want to continue after the long uphill stretch. There is also a section of the trail that proceeds west through Virginia to Mountain Iron, but this trail can be hard to find -- it winds along city streets and through a city park. The junction at the north end of the park is very easy to miss. Look for the white diamonds painted along the streets to find the trail.

Note that there is a Wheel Pass required to use this trail. The cost is $3 for two days or $12 for a season pass.

Getting there: Take Highway 53 north to Virginia, then exit on Second Avenue West. Continue north for about a mile until you reach 3rd Street, then turn right. The access point and parking lot are at the end of the street.

Length: The trail from Virginia to Gilbert is just over 6 miles.

Difficulty: This would probably count as a difficult trail due to the elevation change. There is a rather steep 4% grade heading south out of town toward the mine overlook park (the hill with two giant dump trucks on top).

Popularity/number of other users: There are a fair number of bicyclists and pedestrians on the trail. I don't think there were too many inline skaters out there.

Surface conditions: The trail is relatively smooth, although there are some areas where rock can get kicked up from intersecting ATV trails.

Scenery: Very scenic -- bring a camera. The old mines are interesting to look at, and supposedly the Pike River cut is one of the most photographed areas along the trail.

Nearby restaurants: There are restaurants in Virginia, and presumably there should be some places to eat in Gilbert as well.

Water: Not available at the trailhead, but there are some city parks in Virginia where water can be found. There is also a Festival Foods in the middle of town just off the trail.

Other nearby trails: There are other sections of the trail in the area. Check out the official web site at www.mesabitrail.com for more information.

Comments: This segment of the trail is very scenic, but the long uphill section south of Virginia makes this trail a challenge for most skaters.

Maps: Elevation profile south of Virginia (21KB)
Virginia to Gilbert (102KB)
Virginia detail (268KB)

Official web site: http://www.mesabitrail.com

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