Photo: Sled dog in snow

Mushers heed the call at Ely's Wintergreen Dogsled Lodge, where overnight runs pass spruce bogs, pine stands, and frozen lakes.

Photograph by Layne Kennedy, Corbis

Pop. 3,473
GPS: 47°54'N, 91°50'W

This North Woods burg, set within three-million-acre (1.2-million-hectare) Superior National Forest, is the gateway to thousands of interconnected lakes within Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, a refuge for wolves, bears, eagles, and moose. It’s no wonder world-renowned naturalists like Will Steger and Lynn Rogers call Ely home.

PLAY

A bit of bait and maybe a handle of whiskey are all it takes to catch trout—and the northern lights—in a heated ice-fishing hut on Snowbank Lake ($60 a day; www.smittys-on-snowbank.com). Mushers heed the call with Wintergreen Dogsled Lodge; overnight runs pass spruce bogs, pine stands, and frozen lakes ($775 for three nights; www.dogsledding.com). When the weather warms, there’s no better place to launch a canoe trip. Ply the quiet coves of nearby Shagwa Lake or strike out into Boundary Waters (rentals from $22 a day; www.wildernessoutfitters.com).

EAT

Many a Boundary Waters expedition begins with homemade cinnamon-raisin bread and stuffed hash browns at Brittons Cafe (+1 218 365 3195).

SLEEP

Timber Trail Lodge and Resort is a cozy base along the Tomahawk snowmobile trail (cabins from $110; www.timbertraillodge.com). In town, A Stay Inn Ely has handcrafted white-pine-paneled rooms with a fieldstone fireplace in the common area (doubles from $60; www.astayinnely.com).

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