Ely and Minnesota North Woods Trip Guide | Midwest Living

Ely and Minnesota North Woods Trip Guide

The yodel of loons, splash of paddle strokes and creak of swaying pines create the soundtrack to the heart of the North Woods. In the million-acre Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness surrounding Ely, terrain and water merge in one vast adventureland. Check out our guide for what to do, where to eat and where to stay.


Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness A wilderness of several thousand lakes and streams creates almost endless canoeing, kayaking and hiking opportunities. You have to reserve overnight camping permits in the summer, but day use permits make short explorations easy. Choose from several entry points on lakes around Ely; we especially like easily accessible Fall Lake. fs.usda.go

Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

Brandenburg Gallery See National Geographic photographer Jim Brandenburg’s prints and films of Boundary Waters scenery and North Woods wildlife. jimbrandenburg.com

Dorothy Molter Museum This cabin celebrates the last legal nonindigenous resident of the Boundary Waters; she sold root beer for 33 years. rootbeerlady.com

International Wolf Center An interpretive center lets visitors see a wolf pack through observation windows. New pups arrive in May. wolf.org

International Wolf Center

International Wolf Center

North American Bear Center See the center’s bears while learning myths surrounding them. Skip it in winter—the bears are hibernating. bear.org

Soudan Underground Mine State Park Travel 2,341 feet below the surface in a cage, then hop into a mine car that journeys through narrow passages inside Minnesota’s oldest iron ore mine, 20 miles southwest of Ely. mndnr.gov/soudan

Voyageurs National Park Travel by canoe, kayak or houseboat through this 340-square-mile park (95 miles northwest of Ely and near International Falls). The scalloped shorelines of the hundreds of islands are perfect for fishing, picnicking and camping. nps.gov/voya

Voyageurs National Park

Voyageurs National Park


Boathouse Brewpub Vintage logging and fishing photographs surround diners as they enjoy burgers and house brews, such as Entry Point Ale. boathousebrewpub.com

The Chocolate Moose Walleye sandwiches and satisfying old-fashioned malts draw visitors to this no-frills cabin-cafe. The Chocolate Moose on Facebook

Ely Steak House This casual spot serves more than 50 kinds of beer, a solid bloody mary and a bacon-cheese monster called a Bucky Burger. elysteakhouse.com

Stony Ridge Cafe Build your own masterpiece of a burger with a huge selection of toppings, plus the option of having the patty blackened or glazed. Homemade potato chips make tasty sides. stonyridgeresort.com

Where to stay

Blue Heron Bed and Breakfast Explore the Boundary Waters by day, then settle down to a wood-burning sauna and king-size bed at night. The distant howl of wolves may serenade you.  blueheronbnb.com

Burntside Lodge A white-tablecloth restaurant and well-kept cabins with knotty pine walls and comfortable furniture are the hallmarks of this former hunting camp. burntside.com

Grand Ely Lodge On Shagawa Lake, this year-round lodge supplies free fishing equipment, kayaks, canoes and pedal boats. Rooms contain timber-frame beds and plush mattresses. grandelylodge.com

For more information: ely.org


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