Restless on the Range

Photo by Matt Herberg
Photo by Matt Herberg

Photo by Matt Herberg

As the dark, snowy days of winter are looming over us, it can be easy, habitual even, to find solace under the bright city lights and bustling nightlife that revive the chilly Minnesota tundra. However, the city isn’t necessarily the most exciting place to spend the everlasting days of winter.

Snowmobiling the Taconite Trail
Photo courtesy of Iron Range Tourism Bureau

The Iron Range allows visitors to take full advantage of the snowy winter weather with endless outdoor activities in a way that the city just isn’t able to. According to Iron Range Tourism Bureau Director Beth Pierce, “There’s no shortage of outdoor activities, from Nordic and alpine skiing and snowboarding to winter hiking, fat tire cycling and even curling, birding or ice skating. Don’t forget motorized adventure, either! Snowmobiling is big up here, with access to more than 2,000 miles of trails right from every lodging property in the area.”

Fatbiking at Giants Ridge
Photo by Paul Pluskwik

With all of these winter activities and sports, there’s nearly no reason not to take a winter trip to the Iron Range. Yet, there’s a number of other reasons why people find themselves escaping the busy city streets for a winter vacation on the Iron Range. “You will find less traffic, easier access to trails, and more tranquility than a trip to, say, the North Shore. If you stay at some place like Green Gate Guest Houses, you will find unique and handcrafted spaces (a log cabin, farmhouse or barn) close to Giants Ridge ski resort and Nordic or hiking trails, but super serene and beautiful. Have a fire under the stars and sip hot-mulled wine just a few feet from your one-of-a-kind guest house,” says Pierce. “At Northern Comfort B&B, you’re not far from trails, and there’s an authentic Finnish sauna right onsite. This property is a Finnish farmhouse whose barn now houses antiques and recycled pieces.”

Snowboarding at Giants Ridge
Credit Explore Minnesota & Alyssa Hei

Pierce says that there are also several indoor activities that allow visitors to escape the cold weather. From the Minnesota Discovery Center or the Heritage Museum, to the Hibbing Historical Society Museum or the Bob Dylan tours, the Iron Range has fun activities for all visitors, whether they’re looking to get out and play in the snow or stay inside and learn about the history of the area.

“The Sax-Zim Bog borders Minnesota’s Mesabi Iron Range and is a popular migratory route and winter hunting grounds for northern hawk owls, great gray owls, black-backed woodpeckers, boreal chickadees, pine grosbeak, and many other birds and mammals. The land is laced with many dirt and paved roads, allowing you to look for birds right from the road. A winter Welcome Center is the site of meet-ups hosted by Bog Naturalist Clinton Niehaus, including snowshoe hikes, winter tree ID, campfire talks, and more,” Pierce says.

Photo courtesy of Iron Range Tourism Bureau

Another bonus of traveling to the Iron Range during the wintertime is that it’s a slower time of year, so tourist sites are less busy and likely have good deals for visitors. “Summer and fall are the most popular times of the year. The 100-plus-mile paved Mesabi Trail winds through the Mesabi Iron Range communities and offers a shuttle service so you can explore sections of the trail and always have a ride back to your home base. Also popular during these times are general sight-seeing and fall color tours, golf, swimming/camping, and hiking,” Pierce says. “The most overlooked time of year is late-May to mid-June. Warm enough to want to be outside, but not so hot you will melt on the trails. There are many lodging specials to be had this time of year, and plenty to see and do.”

Northern Comfort B&B is a local establishment that is owned and operated by a couple, Kathy Johnson and Pam Zahn. Offering home-cooked country breakfasts, 17 peaceful acres with nothing but the sound of the soft breeze rustling the numerous pine trees, a wood burning sauna, relaxation spaces, comfortable beds, an antique store in the barn, and a great location near the Boundary Waters and Giants Ridge Ski and Golf Resort, Northern Comfort B&B is exactly what we’re all dreaming of on a cold winter day in the city.

According to Zahn, several GLBT visitors come stay at Northern Comfort B&B, especially during popular events including the Northern Lights Music Festival in Aurora, Blueberry Festival in Ely in June or July, and Harvest Moon in September. “We offer a warm and welcoming space that is open to all,” says Zahn.

With all of the places to visit and all of the sights to see, Northern Comfort B&B is a great choice for a comfortable, home-away-from-home style vacation that offers a great escape from the busy city streets. Also, as a bed and breakfast, Northern Comfort B&B offers the opportunity to mingle with other guests and find new people to explore the area with, something that is typically missing from our busy city-living lifestyles.

Don’t be afraid to leave the city lights and lively nightlife behind for a winter vacation to the Iron Range. From snowmobiling, Nordic skiing, and winter fat tire biking to birding, curling, and snowshoeing, there is an abundance of activities that will give you the chance to get outside and have some fun, despite the frigid temperatures.

Check out Pierce’s suggested places to shop, dine, and be entertained:

Burnt Onion Restaurant, Giants Ridge
Vi’s Pizza, Biwabik
The Whistling Bird, Gilbert
BoomTown Woodfire Grill, Eveleth
BoomTown Brewery, Hibbing
The Shop Coffeehouse with pastries, live music, woodfire pizza, Virginia,
Valentini’s old-fashioned Italian supper club, Chisholm
CaneLakes Candy, Virginia
Natural Harvest Food Co-op, Virginia
Pine Grove Gallery, Biwabik
Irma’s Finland House, Virginia
Silver Birch gift store, Hibbing
Smith’s Infusion, Virginia
Knitting Knight yarn shop, Hibbing
Material Girl fabric store, Virginia

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