There’s no denying Minnesotans’ love of toys. From boats and snowmobiles to ATVs, motorcycles and pedal bikes, residents of this state know their gear. On Minnesota’s Iron Range the opportunities to make use of all these toys and more abound, as evidenced at the many golf courses, smaller lakes, scenic rides, multi-use trails and, perhaps especially, at the Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation Area.
Located in Gilbert and run by the state, the OHV park, as it’s commonly called, makes use of former minelands to produce a unique and unforgettable riding experience for ATVs, Jeeps and “dirt bikes.”
Access the park free with a licensed machine, and ride to your heart’s content. Specially-designed climbing, crawling and scramble areas are great for more daring and experienced riders. Thirty-six miles of wooded trails on more than 1,200 acres are a blast to explore. Sweeping views of Range communities, the Superior National Forest, and mining operations are enough to make you stop and stare.
Sherwood Forest Campground and Trails Edge Lodging in Gilbert have trail access to the park, as does the Eveleth Super 8 and Veteran’s Park Campground, just outside Eveleth proper. Just park your trailer and ride on in. Or, find space to sleep at any of the region’s franchise hotels, mom-and-pop motels, resort condos and villas, B&Bs, guest houses or other campgrounds. In Gilbert, catch a meal at the Caribbean-inspired and never-a-dull-menu Whistling Bird, the homestyle café Memory Lane, or the family-style Wandering Pines Eatery & Pub.
Rent one- or two-up ATVs at Rapid Rentals in Virginia, and, tip to those who like to keep their toys pristine: the Park has a six-bay wash station. Coat your machine’s plastic in cooking spray prior to riding to ease the iron ore dust off in the wash.
If not everyone in your party feels like playing in the Park, or if you have time to explore, golf the top-rated courses at nearby Giants Ridge Recreation Area, The Legend and The Quarry. Bicycles, fishing boats, canoes, in-line skates and more are available to rent at Giants Ridge as well. Hop on the paved Mesabi Trail and bicycle or hike east to Hoyt Lakes or as far west as Grand Rapids. Nearby museums that adults and kids will enjoy include the US Hockey Hall of Fame Museum in Eveleth and Minnesota Discovery Center in Chisholm. Hibbing’s free Historical Society Museum is open year-round with limited daily hours but offers a well-done look at the city’s past. Stop by the world’s biggest hockey stick, also in Eveleth, and gaze out at mining operations surrounded by forestlands at Mineview in the Sky in Virginia.
For hard core riders, a 25-miles ATV trail connects nearby Biwabik, Aurora and Hoyt Lakes, with plenty of places to stay, eat and explore along the way. The Traxx ATV Club in Chisholm recently opened an 11-mile trail from in-town to Highway 5 Bar and Grill, and the Big Aspen Trail north of Virginia traverses logging roads and forests.