Taconite State Trail turns 30; communities celebrate with a weekend of events

When the Taconite State Trail opened in 1986, communities along the 165-mile route from Grand Rapids to Ely celebrated the Herculean effort to create a snowmobile corridor that would become one of the most popular trails in northern Minnesota. Thirty years later, the communities of Grand Rapids, Side Lake and Ely are celebrating the 30th anniversary of the trail to affirm its importance to the winter tourism economy.

Taconite Trail 5_govdeliveryThree simultaneous ribbon-cuttings are planned for 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 20, at the following trailside locations:

  • Itasca County Fairgrounds, 1336 Fairgrounds Road, Grand Rapids.
  • Bimbo’s Octagon, 7626 Hwy. 5, Side Lake.
  • Behind the softball fields on Old Airport Road, off 17th Ave. E., Ely.

An open house celebrating the 125th Anniversary of Minnesota state parks and trails will include coffee and refreshments from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 20 and Sunday, Feb. 21, at the Trail Center at Bear Head Lake State Park in Ely. Visitors are encouraged to take a selfie in front of a special “snowmobile checkpoint” sign and share it with their social media networks to commemorate the event.

Local businesses and snowmobile clubs may host additional trailside events at some of the eight shelters along the trail.

“The Taconite State Trail took years to plan and develop, and it wouldn’t be possible without public and private landowners who permitted the trail to cross their property, and the support from the local snowmobile clubs and tourism industry who shared a vision for the trail system,” said Scott Kelling, northeast regional manager for the Parks and Trails Division at the Department of Natural Resources. “It’s an exciting time to celebrate what the trail has meant to snowmobilers in the state.”

The Taconite State Trail was legislatively authorized in 1974 and opened in 1986. The trail runs from Grand Rapids to Ely through Minnesota’s Iron Range, serves as a connecting route to thousands of miles of locally maintained grant-in-aid trails, and intersects the Arrowhead State Trail just west of Lake Vermilion.

Minnesota’s vast snowmobile trail network offers 22,000 miles of groomed snowmobile trails. Over 21,000 miles are maintained by local snowmobile club volunteers with grant-in-aid support from the DNR.

Open houses for snowmobilers are taking place every weekend in February in conjunction with the 125th anniversary of Minnesota state parks and trails. In addition to the event at Bear Head Lake State Park on Feb. 20-21, upcoming open houses will take place Feb. 13-14 at Mille Lacs Kathio State Park and Feb. 27-28 at Maplewood State Park.

For more information, visit the parks’ anniversary page or contact the DNR Information Center at info.dnr@state.mn.us or 651-296-6157 (Twin Cities) or 888-646-6367 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.