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