Visit Ely, Minnesota in Any Season
Ely is a quaint, small town deep in the Northwoods of Minnesota. It’s the gateway to the Boundary Water Canoe Area and about a 90-minute drive to Silver Bay and Lake Superior. With miles of snowmobiling trails in winter, and hiking trails and glistening lakes in summer, it’s a beautiful place year-round. Read on for the very best things to do in Ely, Minnesota!
1. Stay at Ely Log Cabin
During our trip to Ely, we stayed at Ely Log Cabin. This beautiful solar-powered house is nestled along 40 remote acres about 15 minutes from downtown Ely. It has two queen beds in the upstairs loft, plus a pullout couch on the main floor. There is also a full bathroom and stove. The home is beautifully decorated and the owners put so much thought into every detail. You’ll find everything you need for grilling, coloring books for children, doggie treats, and more!
2. Get Into Nature
Ely has many incredible parks, lakes, rivers, waterfalls, and endless pines. There are a lot of great places to hike and explore and it can be difficult to know where to start. Here are a few of the more popular spots to check out.
- Bass Lake Trail is a 6.30-mile loop popular for backpacking, hiking, and snowshoeing. You’ll find beautiful overlooks, small waterfalls, and a variety of terrain.
- Bear Head Lake State Park has over 4,000 acres of hiking, biking, snowshoeing, and running trails, along with pristine water for kayaking and paddle boarding.
- Kawishiwi Falls is great for a quick and easy 1-mile loop that leads to a beautiful waterfall. In the warmer months, this is a popular and heavily trafficked trail.
- Lake Vermillion-Soudan Underground Mine State Park, there are plenty of places to hike and paddleboard at this newer (2014) state park, or for something different, take a tour of the underground iron mines.
- Trezona Trail Head (Miners Lake) is a 3.90-mile paved loop that circles Miners Lake on the edge of downtown Ely. This is a nice spot for an easy and flat walk.
3. Visit the Museums
Ely offers a lot of great culture and museums. Be sure to check museum hours ahead of time as some are closed or have limited hours during the off-season.
- Dorothy Molter Museum, learn about Dorothy and her incredible story making the best root beer, which she sold to canoeists in the BWCA. After you finish your tour, sip a delicious glass of root beer.
- Ely Folk School, you’ll find classes, workshops, and events about cooking, foraging, and ceramics. There are options for all ages.
- International Wolf Center, a research and education center that teaches us about wolves and their relationship to the land. You’ll not only learn about these beautiful and fierce creatures, you’ll also get to see them up close.
- North American Bear Center, stop by this center to watch bears forage for hazelnuts and berries, then learn interesting and informative facts about these giant animals.
4. Unwind at the Spa
A visit to Pebble Spa is a really special way to treat yourself. I highly recommend a hot stone massage and blueberry foot scrub from Melissa. She is highly skilled and really made the experience so relaxing for me. The hot stone massage was exactly what I needed in March, I felt like it thawed me out from winter. After my massage, Melissa brought me tea and chocolate to continue the relaxation experience. Pebble Spa also has a gift shop with essential oils, jewelry, and clothing. Their newly opened sister business, Camp Pebble, sells a variety of spa products like bath bombs, candles, and journals, so you can unwind at home.
5. Check Out the Cute Shops
Ely has several cute shops in the downtown area with clothing, shoes, jewelry, mugs, and more. A few you will definitely want to visit are:
- Elywear, for gifts, t-shirts and souvenirs
- Mealey’s Gift Shop, for cute items like soap bars, mugs, cards, and jewelry
- Steger Mukluks, for locally made winter boots, moccasins and outdoor clothing
- Wintergreen Northern Wear, for quality coats, hats, socks, water bottles and other outdoor gear
6. Enjoy Fish, Burgers and Salads
There are a handful of great restaurants in Ely, each offering something delicious! Depending on what you are craving, you’ll want to stop by:
- Boat House, for burgers, salads and of course their famous blueberry beer!
- Chocolate Moose, you’ll find delicious options for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
- Front Porch Coffee & Tea Co., a cute and tiny space to grab sandwiches, smoothies, coffee or tea. Bring it with you on a hike, or sit and relax on their large wraparound porch.
- Insula, for great breakfast options, as well as burgers, sandwiches, fish and vegetarian options.
- Log Cabin Coffee Drive-Thru, grab coffee or tea at the drive-thru and either take it to go or enjoy in the outdoor seating area under the trees.
- Northern Expressions, for ice cream and summertime treats.
- Northern Grounds, a coffee shop by morning, and a wine bar by night.
7. Get Outfitted
A huge part of the Ely culture is embracing the outdoors. There are several great outfitters in town who can help you get set up for your trip into the Boundary Water Canoe Area. Many of them offer a variety of packages at different price points depending on what equipment you need and if you are purchasing food from the outfitter, or bringing your own. A few popular outfitters in Ely are the Ely Outfitting Company, Voyageur North Canoe Outfitters, Canoe Country Outfitters, Spirit of the Wilderness, Piragis Northwoods Company, Boundary Water Outfitters and Canadian Waters Inc.
Go to Ely to Unwind
Ely is a beautiful place in any season. Whether you want to enjoy the cute town or get deep into the quiet woods, this is a beautiful place with friendly people. Looking for more up north ideas? Check out my blog posts on 20 must-see stops along Lake Superior’s North Shore, 10 Reasons to Visit Cook County, Best Things to Do in Grand Marais, and 9 Epic State Parks along Minnesota’s North Shore.