Local Attractions & Events
Year Round Local Activities & Attractions
Dorothy Molter Museum
The Dorothy Molter Museum is a memorial to Dorothy Molter, the legendary last resident of the BWCAW, who died in 1986 after living most of her 79 years on Knife Lake near the U.S.-Canada border. Canoeists often stopped at Molter’s home to enjoy her hospitality and famous homemade root beer (she was often referred to as “the Root Beer Lady”). The museum’s two log cabins were transported out of the BWCAW piece-by-piece and reassembled in Ely. The Winter Cabin is now an interpretive center with pictures and documents. There is also a small gift shop and a video telling the story of her life.
International Wolf Center
A multi-million dollar complex that examines one of the most elusive and misunderstood animals in the world, center visitors learn about the natural history of wolves by observing the resident wolf pack and touring the “Wolves and Humans” exhibit. Program participants can track wolves by plane, go on evening howling expeditions or put on snowshoes and follow the predator’s winter tracks. Videos, talks, demonstrations, family day programs, and other adventures round out a visit to the IWC.
Ely-Winton Historical Society
Photographs, maps, and artifacts to present the different phases of 12,000 years of local history.
Ely Arts and Heritage Center
Ely Arts and Heritage Center, formerly known as Ely Greenstone Public Art, is a nonprofit arts and heritage organization in the Ely, Minnesota, area, whose goal is the enhancement of life through art and to recognize the rich heritage of the area. Ely Arts and Heritage Center manage the historic Pioneer mine buildings for the city of Ely.
The word Geocaching refers to GEO for geography, and to CACHING, the process of hiding a cache. A cache in computer terms is information usually stored in memory to make it faster to retrieve, but the term is also used in hiking/camping as a hiding place for concealing and preserving provisions. Geocaching is a worldwide game of hiding and seeking treasure. A geocacher can place a geocache in the world, pinpoint its location using GPS technology and then share the geocache’s existence and location online. Anyone with a GPS unit can then try to locate the geocache. There are quite a few Geocaches in and around Ely. To locate them, enter our zip code (55731) in the first search box on the site.
Bass Lake Trail
Bass Lake Trail goes 5.6 miles around Bass Lake and has backpacking campsites. The trail is historically and ecologically unique, and requires at least 4-6 hours to walk. The trail is located on the Echo Trail six miles north of Ely. Bass and Low Lakes are located in a basin gouged out of pre-Cambrian rock. Prior to 1925, the two lakes were separated by a ridge of glacial gravel which acted as a natural dam. Logging operation led to the construction of a sluiceway to move logs through the gravel ridge — a drop of 60 feet. Seepage soon weakened the sluiceway as water moved through the gravel adjacent to the structure. The sluiceway and glacial ridge washed out in the spring of 1925 leaving a gorge over 250 feet wide. Bass Lake was lowered 55 feet in 10 hours, reduced to half its original size and two small lakes, Dry Lake and Little Dry Lake became isolated in the old lake bed. Approximately 250 acres of land was then exposed and available to the establishment of pioneer plant species.
A 14 mile trail, with 11 miles forming a loop around Angleworm, Home and Whiskey Jack Lakes, Angleworm Trail has nine designated campsites, and is located 14 miles northwest of Ely on the Echo Trail. A rugged trail through stands of red and white pine with many high ridges with scenic overlooks. Moose love to frequent the north end of the trail in the Home Lake area and pink ladyslippers can be seen along the trail in the spring.
This trail has scenic overlooks and assorted terrain, a campsite fire grate, tent area and latrine. The trail is 3 1/2 miles long, so allow 2-3 hours to walk it. Located 20 miles northeast of Ely off the Moose Lake Road (Forest Road 438), this moderate terrain trail with a few steep hills includes a loop around Blackstone Lake. The high vistas provide scenic views to low moist areas. The trail also winds across small waterfalls. Habitat for various species of wildlife are provided by trees and vegetation. The trail destination is a rock cliff overlooking Ennis Lake which is frequently used for rock repelling and climbing. A back country campsite is located on Blackstone Lake.
The Trezona Trail has flat to rolling terrain, and is located just three blocks north of Sheridan Street in Ely. The trail is just over five miles in length and goes around Miners Lake, a former iron ore mining pit. History abounds in the area providing a glimpse into the economic lifeblood of the past. The south side of the trail is flat to gently rolling, following old railroad grades and mine haul roads. The north side of the trail is rolling to hilly, passing through white pine stands, residential areas, and the historic Pioneer Mine buildings and headframe.
Located one mile east of Ely on Hidden Valley Road, the trails pass through rolling hills, paper birch and pine stands and newly planted red and white pine plantations.
Snowbank Lake Trail
Located 23 miles east of Ely with trailheads on the Snowbank Lake Road and on the Fernberg Trail, Snowbank Lake Trail winds about 25 miles along the shorelines of Snowbank and Disappointment Lakes. Side trails spur off to Flash Lake on the west and to the Old Pines Loop on the east. The trails offer some of the most scenic hiking terrain in the area, including ledge rock outcroppings, pine stands, shoreline bluffs, red and white pine stands and abundant wildlife. You’ll also find BWCAW campsites along the trail.
Summer & Fall Activities/Attractions
Ely is surrounded by the Superior National Forest and is the main departure point for the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. Hiking trails encompass hundreds of miles and fishing dreams come true with over 1,900 different lakes and over 300,000 acres of water. Northern Pike, Lake Trout, Walleye and Sunfish are some of the species found in the nearby lakes and streams. Photography opportunities are unlimited as wildlife such as deer, moose and wolves make the Superior National Forest their home. The Blueberry Arts Festival makes a great change of pace with food and crafts galore. Outfitters are available for those who would like a guided adventure. They will help you plan an expedition into the largest wilderness this side of the Rockies. They can outfit you with all you’ll need to enjoy this pristine wilderness.
In the fall, take your family to see Ely’s fall colors lined with fiery maples, birch, aspen, mountain ash, willow and oak displayed in dazzling shades amidst evergreen pine over breathtaking vistas. Surrounding Ely you’ll find colorful forest habitats that are home to upland birds, waterfowl, whitetail deer, black bear, moose and more. Hiking opportunities are at their best with the cooler air and many colors of the fall.
Ely Blueberry/Art Festival - July 29-31, 2022
The Blueberry/Art Festival, Ely’s signature summer event, features more than 260 artists and crafters, 30 food vendors and local musicians. The Ely Chamber of Commerce sponsors this event, and it draws some 40,000 people over a three day period to enjoy fine art, quality crafts, and great ethnic food.
The festival is held in Ely’s beautiful Whiteside Park where you can find wood and leather products, metal art, photography, paintings, jewelry and pottery, and many other unique hand-crafted items. Local artists exhibit their creations and other vendors come from across the upper Midwest to show their handiwork. There are many things for the kids to do as well: a moonwalk, train rides for the youngsters, and trampoline bounce to name a few, which makes this a fun event for the entire family. The stores and restaurants in town join in the festivities offering specials and tasty concoctions featuring a blueberry theme such as blueberry banana smoothies, tea, muffins, lemonade and scones to name a few.
St. Louis County Fair - August 3-7, 2022
The five best days of summer are right around the corner! The 137th Annual St. Louis County Fair is back in town for the summer season. Come out for the rides, the food vendors, or the prizes! Fun for the whole family and a perfect way to end the summer!
Visit the St. Louis County Fair official website for more information regarding location, parking, ticket fees, events, and more!
Harvest Moon Festival - September 9-11, 2022
The Harvest Moon Festival takes place the first weekend after Labor Day in Whiteside Park. This is a three day festival filled with arts and crafts, food, live entertainment, and activities to share with family and friends of all ages. Over 10,000 people come to enjoy the beautiful fall weather and the fun and activities of this event.
Shop a delightful mix of original art and crafts from over 125 local and regional artists and craftsmen. Select from functional and decorative pottery, hand turned wooden bowls, Native American art and bead work, paintings, leather and lots more! Enjoy demonstrations by some of the craftsman, an interactive naturalist program for children and adults alike, book signing by local authors and musical storytelling for children. Listen to the music of local performers as you weave through the booths to find that perfect piece for your home or that unique gift for a loved one.
Ely Farmers Market
The Ely Farmers Market at Ely’s Whiteside Park provides access to fresh, nourishing, locally-produced foods and other products of local labor. The members of the farmers’ market aim to contribute to the community as much as they receive. Their goal is to bring together families, neighbors, and visitors with local food producers to create a sense of community and social gathering and to foster a sustainable local economy.
Soudan Underground Mine Tours
This Minnesota State Park features Minnesota’s first and deepest underground iron mine. One-hour guided tours will take you 2,400 feet down and more than 100 years into our past. Put on a hard hat and venture a half-mile into the earth. You’ll gain a new appreciation for the lives of early miners, and come to understand the impact of mining on the lives of northeastern Minnesota settlers. Tours are available from Memorial Day through September, educational and group tours by special arrangement.
North American Bear Center
It is the mission of the North American Bear Center to be a leader in providing understanding and appreciation of black bears, their role in the ecosystem and their relationship to humans. This will be accomplished through a facility that promotes and provides educational facilities, exhibits, multi-media presentations, and when prudent, live animals, particularly those needing clinical rehabilitation.
Vermilion Interpretive Center
The center offers exhibits dating from 12,000 years ago and focusing on the Ojibwe Indians, fur trading, mining, logging, innovations and a North Pole expedition.
Ely Golf Club
Ely has a 9-hole, 3,245 yard, par 36 course that is open to the public. The course is open (weather permitting) from late April until late October. Rental equipment is available.
Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness
More than one million acres of wilderness and waterways in the heart of the Superior National Forest have been set aside as the federally managed Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW). Located along the Canadian border adjacent to Canada’s Quetico Provincial Park, the BWCAW is the largest wilderness preserve east of the Rocky Mountains.
Canoe Trip Outfitters
There are over 5,000 lakes, streams, and rivers in northeast Minnesota filled with Walleye, Smallmouth and Largemouth Bass, Northern Pike, Trout, Panfish, and more!
For the sportsman, fall is a great time and the Ely area is Minnesota’s best location for small game hunters. Our habitats are home to upland birds and waterfowl including ruffed grouse, Hungarian partridge, wild turkey, pheasant, and almost every species of duck and geese. Rabbit, squirrel, red fox and other small game are abundant as well. The Ely area is also excellent habitat for large game, including whitetail deer, black bear, and moose, with seasons for both bow and rifle hunters.
Winter Local Activities & Attractions
Ely is a great place to experience the winter wonderland! Get out on one of the many nearby cross country ski trails and snowmobiling trails.
Motel Ely offers off-street truck and trailer parking in our overflow parking lot located across the street next to the Holiday Gas Station. We can accommodate most off-highway vehicles, individual snowmobiles, open and enclosed snowmobile trailers, ATVs and other off-road vehicles, and ATV trailers.
Small Town Christmas — November 26, 2022
Ely is the hub for an amazing community of artists, crafters, and makers. Mukluks, outdoor clothing, unique food products, jewelry, art – these are just s few of the treasures you will find on your shopping adventure. Ely has giftware, hardware, kitchenware, and fun products for everyone on your list. While you are out shopping stop in at our local restaurants and enjoy a delicious meal, coffee, or cocktail. Thank you for shopping local – every dollar you spend supports our businesses, their employees, and our way of life.
Ely Winter Festival — February 2-12, 2023
Ely’s annual winter celebration, which highlights the unique culture, history, art and traditions of the area. You might remember it as the Voyageur Winter Festival. Activities held during the festival include professional snow sculptures, amateur snow carving contest, dog sled rides, spaghetti feed, Snow Carvers’ Jam, and more!
Ely Artwalk - February
The city of Ely is transformed into an art gallery, a downtown window-shopping exhibition of more than 400 pieces of art by more than 150 artists with direct ties to the Ely area.
Cross Country Skiing
Ely’s many wooded wilderness paths feature six local groomed trails for all experiences, or you can break your own trails and include any of the hundreds of lakes in the area. Several of the local trails include terrain inside the BWCAW.
North Arm Ski Trail – 42km
North Junction Ski Trail – 13km
South Farm Ski Trail – 8km
Hegman Ski Trail – 3km
The Ely area also offers several groomed ski trail systems offering classic and skate style skiing. The diverse terrain varies from groomed shorelines to winding and rolling trails through towering Birch and Pine trees.
Bear Island 25 – km
Hidden Valley – 15km
Hidden Valley Extension – 8km
Trezona – 6.5km
All cross-country skiers on public ski trails who are aged 16 and above must have a Minnesota Ski Pass. You must sign your ski pass and carry it with you when skiing. Your ski pass fee helps support Minnesota’s cross-country ski trail system.
The Ely area is northern Minnesota’s premier snowmobile hub.
The Taconite State Trail is the main thoroughfare in and out of Ely in the winter. Stretching 170 miles between Ely and Grand Rapids to the southwest, many spur routes will take you just about anywhere you want to go.
Don’t forget about the local Ely snowmobile trails like the Fishing Lake, Stony, Taconite or Little Grassy, and miles and miles of lake trails that create a never-ending ride stretching across three state forests and the Superior National Forest. Smooth rides with on-trail facilities, these famous tree covered routes are loaded with history, many spurs and loops, and make for some quality uninhabited modern day pioneering. You can also check the local trail conditions online.
Are you looking for a new and exciting trail ride? Come to Ely and set off on the new Circle Tour ride! This self-guided, 3-5 day tour encompasses over 400 miles of pristine wilderness and awesome trails! Novice and experienced snowmobilers alike have the freedom to plan their own itinerary and experience friendly communities and quality services along the way. Usually, you can ride for miles and not see another sled! Now, that’s an awesome ride!
Day 1: Ride from Ely to Grand Marias
Day 2: Grand Marais to Atikokan
Day 3: Trip around Atikokan Trails
Day 4: Atikokan to Ely
While the lakes may be covered with ice and snow, plenty of fish are waiting to grab hold of one of you fishing lures. This is the best time of the year to go after trout, as they’re at depths that can be reached with “standard” equipment. Walleye, northern and crappie fishing can be equally as exciting and productive.
Many of the lakes that are too difficult to get into in the summer are now easily reached by snowmobile, showshoes, cross-country skis or dog team. You can break your own trail or travel on any number of well-groomed or packed routes. Your fishing trip can be as comfortable or as rugged as you like. Many people combine winter camping with an extended trip into their favorite lake. Others prefer day trips in the comfort of a heated fish house.
For a breath-taking winter adventure, nothing compares to driving a dog team. Mush from a cozy northwoods lodge or head out on a camping trip. Enjoy the winter scenery of the lakes and trails on the back of a dogsled. Run a team of sled dogs to a remote yurt or cabin, or access remote ice-fishing lakes to experience winter solitude at its best. Enjoy dog mushing for a day or plan a week-long adventure. You don’t need previous experience.
There are many guides in Ely that will teach you everything you need to known from harnessing dogs to maneuvering your sled. They have invested many hours into training their dogs so that you can be assured of a high-quality, enjoyable trip.
It’s true, “If you can walk, you can snowshoe.” Most people do well without any formal training and it doesn’t require a lot of special techniques. You can start today, and have fun immediately!
Snowshoes are highly maneuverable, allowing one to go places where cross-country skiers and snowmobilers cannot go. Comparing hiking in the other three seasons and hiking in the winter snow via snowshoes, is the experience of the quiet and serenity of the snow-covered landscape.
Snowshoeing can accommodate a wide variety of activities–a casual hike in the woods, trekking into your favorite fishing spot in the BWCAW, or an overnight winter camping trip. It’s also a relatively inexpensive way to get the whole family outdoors together.