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Anyone familiar with Ely, MN area roads?

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Anyone familiar with Ely, MN area roads?

Old 08-04-11, 10:44 AM
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lennon_68
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Anyone familiar with Ely, MN area roads?

I'm planning a small group ride with my brother and some friends at the end of August that will take us up to Ely, MN. We're trying to determine whether the roads on the route I've mapped out will be "bike friendly" or not (wide/shoulder, etc). If anyone's familiar with these roads any input would be greatly appreciated

The specific roads I'm looking at are Hwy 1 South out of Ely, MN to Hwy 2 (aka US Forest Service Hwy 15). Then West on Lake County Rd 15 aka Townline rd aka US Forest Service Hwy 11.


We'll be riding from Grand Rapids, MN to Ely via the Mesabi Trail so that part's figured out anyway
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Old 08-04-11, 12:22 PM
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With only about 3000 people in Ely, I don't think traffic will be a real concern. I would be more worried about whether or not they are paved.
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Old 08-04-11, 04:55 PM
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I've seen ONE roadie up in Ely over the years.
Anywho, HWY 1 from ELY to US 61 is bloody magnificent and remarkably curvaceous.

At any rate, understand if it's during the week, you'll have logging trucks and the weekend will be touristy. Neither traffic is bike friendly. Resources for rest stops are scant. I'll also suggest biking the Gunflint Trail.
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Old 08-04-11, 05:32 PM
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Originally Posted by CastIron View Post
I've seen ONE roadie up in Ely over the years.
Anywho, HWY 1 from ELY to US 61 is bloody magnificent and remarkably curvaceous.

At any rate, understand if it's during the week, you'll have logging trucks and the weekend will be touristy. Neither traffic is bike friendly. Resources for rest stops are scant. I'll also suggest biking the Gunflint Trail.
Thanks Mike! I was thinking there might not be too much traffic on those roads but wasn't sure how "touristy" it gets (hadn't considered logging trucks..). I'm going to have to do some research on spots to get groceries, etc along the way (any info would be cool ). We considered the Gunflint Trail but would have had to drive ~200 miles just to get to it. This trip will start in my driveway I think we'll end up in Ely on Saturday so we'll probably get mostly tourist traffic. Any chance we'll have wide shoulders? Also as long as I've got your attention any recommendations on dispersed/back country campsites we might be able to find our way to from the road?

Are you in Ely or just frequent there? I see your location says St Paul but it sounds like you've spent a lot of time there.
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Old 08-04-11, 06:44 PM
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I've driven on both of those roads. They don't have wide shoulders - or much of a shoulder at all IIRC.
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Old 08-05-11, 06:03 PM
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Shoulder width is indeed hit & miss. Food? Try Zupps for groceries. I haven't been up that way in about 2 years, so the memory is fuzzy on some particulars particularly since I was piloting (in my Wife's words) the Vomit Comet (M/C). With camping, understand you'll be in Superior Natl Forest for a good deal of time, so backwoods camping opportunities abound.
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Old 08-07-11, 03:59 PM
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Thanks for the input guys. My brother's apprehensive not knowing about the roads so he's contacting the DOT. I did some Google satellite view investigation and it looks like hwy 2 will be the worst for shoulder but is relatively straight at least so no big surprises for the traffic. Hwy 1 is - as you said - curvaceous but it looks like there's a good chance it has a shoulder. We're also considering doing a north shore trip out of Duluth and possibly up the Gunflint trail. That's not as attractive of a trip for me though as it'll basically be an out and back instead of a loop. Of course that scenery is worth seeing twice but still
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Old 08-07-11, 06:07 PM
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If you are not stuck on going out of Ely, there are a lot of other alternatives. There are relatively few paved roads in northern St. Louis County, and while some are OK for cycling, some aren't. The lakes and the remoteness of the area means that more traffic is funneled on fewer roads.

Highway 61 out of Duluth is not what I'd do. The old highway between Duluth and Two Harbors makes for good bicycling, but there are some pretty hairy stretches on 61 northeast of Two Harbors. Although there are some delightful stretches, 61 is *not* a lightly traveled highway; there's very heavy traffic at times and some stretches have inadequate shoulders. I wouldn't do it even though it's a gorgeous route.
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Old 08-07-11, 06:16 PM
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I see that you're thinking of using the Mesabi Trail to get to Ely.

I don't think the Trail is remotely close to finished. It will get you from Grand Rapids to Aurora, but then it's MN 135 and County Highway 21 to Ely. MN 135 has a good shoulder, except for a relatively short stretch near the Embarrass River, and you can cut off some of that by going east and then north on County Road 558 to hook up with Hwy 21. Hwy 21 is kind of boring west of Babbitt, but it has a modest shoulder. The stretch to Ely from Babbitt has a good surface and is beautiful and hilly. It has a modest shoulder. There's more traffic west of Babbitt on Hwy 21.

Our son rode those roads last year to Ely from Duluth and they were adequate.
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Old 08-07-11, 06:23 PM
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Thanks for the tips, that was my thought on 61 as well, it would be beautiful but not a very quiet ride...

I guess we're really not dead set on anything so I'll give you the situation. I'm in Grand Rapids, brother is flying to the cities from Oregon. He'll be taking a bus from the cities to somewhere closer to me though and I'll be picking him up. Our first thought (the one the initial question is about) is to ride out of Grand Rapids on the Mesabi Trail and following it nearly all the way to Ely - at least until it's not paved any more (we'll probably end up on some highways to get to Tower then to Ely). The rest of the route is in the OP - south out of Ely on 1 then 2 then across on 15/16 back to Keewatin where we'll pick up the Mesabi Trail again for the last 30 miles.

Thing is I'll probably have to drive to either Walker or Duluth to pick him up from the bus so we can just as easily ride out of either of these locations. We're from the Walker area which is beautiful but most of the roads that would make for an efficient tour will also be high traffic. We're open to suggestions though I'm most intrigued by/excited about the Ely route though.

Edit: Oh, we're looking for around a 6 day tour, the Ely route would be 280 miles for reference.

Originally Posted by OldZephyr View Post
If you are not stuck on going out of Ely, there are a lot of other alternatives. There are relatively few paved roads in northern St. Louis County, and while some are OK for cycling, some aren't. The lakes and the remoteness of the area means that more traffic is funneled on fewer roads.

Highway 61 out of Duluth is not what I'd do. The old highway between Duluth and Two Harbors makes for good bicycling, but there are some pretty hairy stretches on 61 northeast of Two Harbors. Although there are some delightful stretches, 61 is *not* a lightly traveled highway; there's very heavy traffic at times and some stretches have inadequate shoulders. I wouldn't do it even though it's a gorgeous route.

Last edited by lennon_68; 08-07-11 at 06:31 PM.
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Old 08-07-11, 08:06 PM
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Originally Posted by lennon_68 View Post

I guess we're really not dead set on anything so I'll give you the situation. I'm in Grand Rapids, brother is flying to the cities from Oregon. He'll be taking a bus from the cities to somewhere closer to me though and I'll be picking him up. Our first thought (the one the initial question is about) is to ride out of Grand Rapids on the Mesabi Trail and following it nearly all the way to Ely - at least until it's not paved any more (we'll probably end up on some highways to get to Tower then to Ely).
See my post above regarding the route to Ely on roads after the Mesabi Trail peters out. 169 has a lot more traffic than County Hwy 21. I'd go on 21 over 169.

If you're going out of Grand Rapids because that's where you live, there are a lot of advantages to that. You can do the last minute tune ups and then leave out the door and return to home on your own power, which is kind of fun.

I'll think about alternatives and get back to you.
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Old 08-07-11, 08:10 PM
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Regarding food, Britton's Cafe in Ely has good breakfasts. Zups is the better grocery store in town, but the Northland Market on the east side of Ely has pretty decent fried chicken in its deli. The A & W in Aurora is kind of a classic small town drive in.

There is very little on Highways 1, 2 and 15, so make sure you have sufficient provisions for that stretch.
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Old 08-07-11, 08:13 PM
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Awesome, thanks for bumping the thread I had missed the response above. We were looking at some of those alternate routes once we get close to Ely - great information! I know my brother is watching along, maybe he'll jump in here too. It sounds like it should be a decent route but do let me know if you have other good suggestions. I think I said it earlier but yes we would be riding out of my driveway south of Grand Rapids - it's ~15 miles to the Mesabi Trail trailhead but much better than driving and leaving the car somewhere for a week


Originally Posted by OldZephyr View Post
See my post above regarding the route to Ely on roads after the Mesabi Trail peters out. 169 has a lot more traffic than County Hwy 21. I'd go on 21 over 169.

If you're going out of Grand Rapids because that's where you live, there are a lot of advantages to that. You can do the last minute tune ups and then leave out the door and return to home on your own power, which is kind of fun.

I'll think about alternatives and get back to you.
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Old 08-07-11, 08:16 PM
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Again valuable information I think we'll mostly be preparing our own food but trying to pick it up each day along the road. I was wondering if we'd find anything at all during the 1, 2, and 15 part of the trip - I was thinking we'd at least come across gas stations but we'll have t o plan ahead and maybe pickup a couple days worth in Ely before departing.

So what part of northern MN are you located? I'm wishing we could PM now lol. I guess if we keep this up we'll both be to 50 posts in no time. Any interest in jumping in for part of the trip? We're looking at leaving 8/25 and returning 8/30.

Originally Posted by OldZephyr View Post
Regarding food, Britton's Cafe in Ely has good breakfasts. Zups is the better grocery store in town, but the Northland Market on the east side of Ely has pretty decent fried chicken in its deli. The A & W in Aurora is kind of a classic small town drive in.

There is very little on Highways 1, 2 and 15, so make sure you have sufficient provisions for that stretch.
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Old 08-08-11, 05:19 PM
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Originally Posted by lennon_68 View Post
Again valuable information I think we'll mostly be preparing our own food but trying to pick it up each day along the road. I was wondering if we'd find anything at all during the 1, 2, and 15 part of the trip - I was thinking we'd at least come across gas stations but we'll have t o plan ahead and maybe pickup a couple days worth in Ely before departing.

So what part of northern MN are you located? I'm wishing we could PM now lol. I guess if we keep this up we'll both be to 50 posts in no time. Any interest in jumping in for part of the trip? We're looking at leaving 8/25 and returning 8/30.
I'm in Duluth, not sure if I could join you, but it's an intriguing idea and sounds like fun. You'll be up to 50 posts before long so you can PM me then!
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Old 08-08-11, 05:36 PM
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Originally Posted by OldZephyr View Post
I'm in Duluth, not sure if I could join you, but it's an intriguing idea and sounds like fun. You'll be up to 50 posts before long so you can PM me then!
I'm practically racing there... not sure if you'll be able to PM me back or not though?
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Old 08-08-11, 09:13 PM
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Originally Posted by lennon_68 View Post
I'm practically racing there... not sure if you'll be able to PM me back or not though?
I don't know if that will work, so how about just e-mailing me at [edit] "at" yahoo dot com?

Last edited by OldZephyr; 08-12-11 at 11:45 PM.
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Old 08-09-11, 05:36 AM
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Originally Posted by OldZephyr View Post
I don't know if that will work, so how about just e-mailing me at <EMAIL>?
Got it, sending something now - not sure but you may want to edit that out
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Old 08-14-11, 03:41 PM
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I was up there about 5 years ago (travelling by car) and only noticed 1 bike when we were in Ely. It was a mountain bike with a threadbare rear tire. I didn't talk with the owner, but it did make me wonder if he hadn't been able to find a replacement up there. I'd plan on bringing tires, tubes etc... or finding out about replacements before I left if I was going to ride there. Other than that, the only helpful comment I could make is the Mesabi trail looked great for the short distance I could see it.
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