So they closed the Boundary Waters...
It is sad to hear but no worries, your vacation is not ruined - Ely has plenty to offer! There are also plenty of places to paddle, hike, explore and stay within 30 minutes of Ely. Consider staying at a campground or other lodging in a neighboring city such as Tower, Soudan, or Babbitt. Explore Minnesota has a great search engine for you to find a place in the town or region you would like to visit. Airbnb is also a good resource to find rental vacation homes in any area.
Paddling White Iron Lake.
Tower and Soudan are just 21 miles west of Ely and have access to beautiful Lake Vermilion where you can use a motorboat, canoe, paddle board, or go swimming. You can also check out Lake Vermilion State Park and tour the impressive Underground Mine (and escape the heat for a while), access a variety of hiking trails and the paved Mesabi Trail spanning from Grand Rapids to Ely that is perfect for biking and hiking. There are plenty of resorts and other lodging options all along the 290 miles of shoreline on Lake Vermilion as well, including Fortune Bay Resort and Casino.
Lake Vermilion. Image via Google Maps.
Bear Head State Park is located 16 miles west of Ely and offers 23 miles of shoreline that can be explored by canoe or kayak. You can also hike along the 17 miles of trails to go visit the other lakes in the park. Keep an eye out for wildlife as this is a relatively secluded area.
Just 17 miles south of Ely is the town of Babbitt, nestled along Birch Lake. This lake has one of the best beaches in the area as well as a great boat ramp for canoes and motorboats. It’s a little bit of a hidden gem around here. With 90 miles of shoreline and great swimming, fishing, and views, you'll surely be on the water all day - so make sure to pop into one of the local restaurants for a bite to eat before heading off to bed.
Kawishiwi Falls. Image via Ely.org.
Ely itself has quite a few lodging options to choose from and can be found on the Ely.com website. Just plan to make it a day trip? That's fine too, even with the Boundary Waters closed there is still plenty to do in Ely! Take your boat to a public boat landing at Burntside, Shagawa, White Iron, Garden, Farm, Bear Island, or Johnson Lake. There are a few lakes that are partially in the Boundary Waters, so as long as you do not cross the line, you can still go in! Just look for the wooden sign that says “Boundary Waters”. These would be Fall, Moose, and Snowbank Lake.
Want to stretch your legs? There are many hiking trails all varying in skill level. The Bass Lake Trail is one of the most popular hiking trails since it offers a few different routes depending on how far you want to go. The there-and-back route to the Dry Lake Falls is a great 2 mile round trip hike or you can take the loop around Dry Lake to extend your hike. If you want a little longer hike you can stay to the right and loop around Bass Lake. This route is about 6 miles but lets you look out across the whole lake. The Kawishiwi Falls Trail is the easiest and still one of the best views in town. The whole trail is out a mile and gives you amazing views of the falls. Connected to the Fall Lake Campground, the Stub Lake Trail is about 1.7 miles and mostly takes you through the woods and down to a viewing platform at the end of the trail. If you want a little more of a challenging trail head up to Moose Lake where you can find the Secret/Blackstone/Ennis Lake Trails. These trails can be a little less marked and a little more rugged than the ones closer to town so make sure you bring a map and water. There are a few connected trails for shorter or longer hiking options but all trails will bring you to some nice views overlooking small lakes. On the way back into town, go checkout the pullout overlooking Rookie Lake. It will be on your left just past Tofte Lake, but it is very easy to miss!
Wintergreen Northern Wear and Ely Folk School storefronts in downtown Ely.
While in town make sure to make the journey all the way down Sheridan Street and some of East Chapman Street to visit the variety of shops and restaurants. Between the outfitters, art galleries, clothing stores, kitchen shop, movie theater, and fun houseware stores, there's something for everyone! Stop by any of the restaurants for an amazing meal. Eating earlier is better, however - like most towns the restaurants are very busy this summer. You can also visit the new food truck court near Whiteside Park and grab some Thai Food or see what other trucks are there. Some of my favorite places to stop in are Wintergreen Northern Wear, Art and Soul Gallery, Crapola for the smoothies and baked goods, PotLuck Kitchenware, Pebble Spa, and Organic Roots for a quick bite to eat. Many stores start to close up starting around 5pm so get your shopping done early! Some shops are closed Sundays and Mondays so save those days for adventuring outside!
Wherever you venture; stay safe and have fun!
You can follow the U.S Forest Service-Superior National Forest on their website or on Facebook for the most updated information on fires and closures. You can also stop by the Kawishiwi Ranger Districts office for hiking trail maps and more information about the area.
Blog by Kassie Springhoff
Originally from Stevens Point, WI, Kassie is enjoying living in Ely. She loves how abundant and close all of the hiking and paddling spots are - "I could go out on all of my days off and still find plenty of new trails and routes." When she’s not working with us as a Cutting Room Manager or in general production, she’s out exploring the many places Ely and the BWCA have to offer.