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.
Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness
Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness
| Credit: Per Breiehagen

Journey to one of the most remote parts of Minnesota when you head north to Ely and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Only 19 of the 1,175 lakes in the Boundary Waters are motorized, making it easy to avoid congestion and the clamor of boat engines. On early mornings, when the mist rises in spirals off the water and it's just you and your paddle, nature remains undisturbed in its tranquility.

Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Minnesota
Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness
| Credit: Kevin J. Miyazaki


Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

Several thousand lakes and streams spread over more than 1 million acres to create 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.

Dorothy Molter Museum

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

Ely Folk School

Hands-on learning experiences celebrate the natural and cultural heritage of northern Minnesota. Learn chip carving, weave a basket or observe the night sky.

International Wolf Center, Ely
Credit: Per Breiehagen

The International Wolf Center

An interpretive center lets visitors see a wolf pack through observation windows. Exhibits and films explore wolf behavior as well as the challenges of wolf-human coexistence.

Soudan Underground Mine, Ely
Soudan Underground Mine
| Credit: John Noltner

Lake Vermilion-Soudan Underground Mine State Park

At the state's first iron ore mine, in operation from 1884 to 1962, travel 2,341 feet below the surface in a cage, then hop into a mine car to explore. (Underground tours are expected to resume in 2023 after a shaft rehabilitation project; above-ground tours available in 2022.) The park also features new campsites overlooking Lake Vermilion, along with hiking trails and water recreation.

North American Bear Center

See the center's four black bears while learning myths surrounding them.

Voyageurs National Park Minnesota
Voyageurs National Park
| Credit: Per Breiehagen

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.

Eat and Drink

Boathouse Brewpub

Vintage logging and fishing photographs surround diners as they enjoy burgers, walleye sandwiches and house brews.


Dishes like pulled pork wonton tacos and braised lamb shank with vegetable ragout impress diners who want something beyond typical pub fare.

Burntside Lodge Ely Minnesota
Burntside Lodge


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, built in the early 1900s.

Grand Ely Lodge

On Shagawa Lake, this year-round resort supplies free fishing equipment, kayaks, canoes and pedal boats. Rooms contain log furniture and other North Woods-inspired décor.

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