Riding and Relaxing in the Iron Range

Bring a bike for the thrills. Bring a book for the chills. 

A bike for the thrills. A book for the chills. This is exactly the motto we lived by during our recent visit to the Iron Range in Northern Minnesota. With fall colors at their very peakest of peaks, we had a lot of beauty to take in – and that’s exactly what we did.

While the vibe feels much slower than the Minneapolis metro we’re used to, we still found plenty of activities and places to enjoy a family weekend together.

The Lodge at Giant’s Ridge was our northwoods home away from home and the suite we had for our family was more than enough to hold us, make meals, and watch TV alongside the fireplace. The pool and hot tub were spacious and comfortable. There was a small arcade, a gift shop, and a couple on-site restaurants including Neighbor’s Barbecue which serves “Minnesota-style barbecue” (does that mean it’s nice? Or says “ope”? I still don’t know.) A pleasant bonus was the room to store your bikes just off the hotel lobby, which was great for most visitors this time of year!

What’s unique about the Lodge at Giant’s Ridge is their mountain biking experience. While the lodge is a ski resort in the winter, during the rest of the year the chairlift carries people – and their mountain bikes – to the top of the ridge and you bike down on the trails of your choice. Pretty amazing, right? Keep in mind the chairlift only runs Friday-Sunday this time of year for mountain biking and you will need to purchase a wristband to ride ($30-40/person). Bike rentals are also available on-site but reservations for rentals should definitely be made ahead of time and will set you back about $50/kid. During normal peak months, the chairlift runs every day.

As non-adrenaline junkies, our family stuck to the green level trails here and there was basically no peddling involved. While the curves were sharp and rocks jutted out from certain spots, our youngest fell twice and still said it was “easy.” Just make sure your brakes work.

Not into mountain biking? The lodge has tons of surrounding land with hiking trails as well. Maybe you won’t get the beautiful views as you would on the chairlift, but it’s a nice alternative for a more relaxed vibe and some exercise. Another option is to simply bike along the Mesabi Trail, which is long, paved, and you can hop on right at the lodge grounds. But that’s not all – the Lodge at Giant’s Ridge also offers disc golf, golf, a climbing wall, and a playground.

To get a fuller feel of the Range area, we were sure to get out of the Lodge at Giant’s Ridge and explored some of the smaller towns in the surrounding area. We shopped Main Street and ate at Sammy’s Pizza in Hibbing, appeased our sugar cravings at Canelake’s Candies and saw the worlds largest floating loon in Virginia, ate a fantastic breakfast at The Hive in Aurora, and grabbed donuts and Black Bear Bakery and explored the Minnesota Discovery Center in Chisholm.

The Minnesota Discovery Center was a cool surprise – with both indoor and outdoor sections, it was such a well done display of the history of the land and mining and emigration and so much more. My kids don’t jump up and down about history and learning outside of school hours, but this was an interactive and visually appealing museum. We stayed more than an hour and would’ve been longer in warmer weather (maybe we would’ve even done the mini golf). Plus, the gift shop had some awesome stuff (I bought earrings – raise your hand if you’re surprised).

Admission to the Discovery Center is $12/adults and $7/kids ages 3-17. Mini golf and trolley rides are an additional cost. Keep in mind, if you go during non-summer season, be sure to take a peek at the hours of the museum, the trolley rides, and mini golf because availability varies by season.

Speaking of Chisholm, this city is home to the Redhead Mountain Biking trails, another spot worth checking out if you have your bikes along. We did this one too and it was far more challenging with steeper hills and obstacles. The main path we took looped around a gorgeous lake and the boys did the full 8-9 mile journey on the Rim Trail (blue) while me and the two littles cut off after a few miles on High Road (green) and took the paved Mesabi Trail back to the parking lot near the trailhead. Here’s a pretty good map of the trails at Redhead.

The views overlooking the lake were breathtaking. Part of me wished I were a more avid and in-shape biker so I could’ve looped the entire thing, but that’s just wishful thinking. We could have hiked a few of the walkable trails too (Spell Bound, Red Hop, North Star, or Fracture Falls). With lots of trails to choose from, Redhead was worth the journey and I’m sure we will be back as the kids get older.

While still in Chisholm, we grabbed a yummy dinner at Valentini’s Supper Club where they make their noodles from scratch. The prices were good, the space was warm and inviting, and they had a full bar.

After dinner, we headed back to the Discovery Center for a unique adventure – Clueseum – basically a real-life Clue game with flashlights and headlamps, complex riddles, and a whole dark museum to explore. If you’re ever here near Halloween season, THIS was an awesome way to spend a night! Each kid found a clue or two (we may have done some eavesdropping on other teams) and felt pretty proud of their accomplishments. The event was very well put on and just scary enough.

Chisholm is about 40 minutes south of Giant’s Ridge, so we crashed that night at the Chisholm Inn & Suites and enjoyed a comfortable adjoined room, a warm shower, and a good night of sleep before heading home the next day. The Inn & Suites is located directly across the highway from Redhead Trails, so is convenient for those avid bikers who like to just get up and go.

We need to go back during the warmer months because I was dying to get a kayak out on all the gorgeous waters and get some longer hikes in. Plus, Gordy’s Hi-Hat on the drive up is closed for the season which was a major bummer (because, burgers…).

We had to get up and head home after a couple days of fresh air, exercise, and relaxation, but not before we called ahead to order another Sammy’s Pizza to devour on the drive home. AND, because sampling lattes is my dream job, I made my family stop for a tasty french toast latte from Bearaboo Coffee in Cloquet. It passed with flying colors (plus, they had more sugar free syrup options than any coffee shop I’ve ever visited).

What did we miss? Do you have a favorite stop on the way up north? What’s your favorite activity, restaurant, entertainment, trail, anything that we need to visit when we revisit?

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