Experience the annual fall color show in Ely, Minnesota!
As one of the first places to showcase this stunning display every year, Ely invites you on an unforgettable journey through a kaleidoscope of vivid hues and breathtaking landscapes.
Canoeing, Kayaking, and More
Escape into nature's colorful wonderland on Ely's tranquil waterways. Glide along pristine lakes and meandering rivers, surrounded by the vibrant reflection of crimson, gold, and amber. Whether you prefer canoeing, kayaking, or even a pontoon ride, Ely's lakes and rivers offer the perfect setting for your fall exploration.
Hundreds of Miles of Hiking Trails
Embark on a trek through Ely's scenic trails. Traverse winding paths through towering forests and picturesque landscapes. Breathe in the cool autumn air as you hike to overlooks with panoramic views. Stop and enjoy a picnic next to a waterfall surrounded by an autumn masterpiece.
Biking Options for Every Cyclist
Ely is home to the newly completed Mesabi Trail, a fully paved route that winds through some of Minnesota's most dramatic landscapes. Take a quick trip around the Trezona Trail loop in town. For mountain biking, Hidden Valley Recreation Area offers miles of trails with varying difficulty levels. Set off on your biking expedition among a symphony of fall colors.
Camping in Fall Splendor
Fully immerse yourself in autumn outdoors at one of the many area campgrounds and wilderness areas. Head into the BWCAW for the ultimate peaceful backcountry experience, or bring your camper and stay at a frontcountry campground with convenient amenities. After a warming evening campfire, fall asleep under a canopy of stars to the gentle rustling of falling leaves.
An Enchanting Fall Adventure Awaits in Ely
Prepare to be captivated by the brilliant fall colors that grace Ely each year. Dense forests and shimmering lakes take you deep into a magical world you’ll never forget. Round up your family and friends, pack your bags, grab your camera, and get ready for the experience of a lifetime!
Fall Color Hikes and Drives
Luminous gold-and-yellow appear in the paper birches and aspens. Maples flash bright red and orange, and ash trees bring in sepia undertones. All of this plays out against a backdrop of mottled greens provided by balsam fir, spruce, and red and white pine. On the sandy cliffs, even blueberry bushes put on a display, brightening as nights grow colder. Tamaracks turn saffron gold before dropping their needles.
Here are some of the best places to soak up the show:
New Tomahawk Road Drive
From Babbitt, take Highway 21 east to New Tomahawk Road. An area populated with aspen, birch, balsam fir, and red pine, the New Tomahawk Road drive offers an incredible scenic view of the Northwoods. With Mother Nature’s vibrant display of reds, yellows, and oranges, contrasted with the dramatic greens of the red pines, there is no better way to experience the spirit of the season. This is a lightly traveled road, so keep the camera handy as you are sure to find some wildlife on the move.
Dry Falls Hike
Along this 1.7-mile section of the Bass Lake Trail just six miles north of Ely, hikers who traverse a fairly rugged ridge are rewarded with a beautiful view of the Northwoods all aglow. Along the way, scenic overlooks, waterfalls, and a constantly changing terrain make the trip abundantly worthwhile.
Bass Lake Trail Hike
Wear sturdy shoes and bring a camera; the geology is fascinating and the views are stunning, especially when the water is surrounded by a multicolored forest. Hikers draw close enough to the shoreline to see and photograph colors reflected in the clear, still waters of Bass Lake.
Ed Shave Lake Drive and Paddle
A drive up the Echo Trail north of Ely will take you along the southern edge of 90-acre Ed Shave Lake, with granite cliffs, water scenes, and an autumn forest of pine and hardwoods . This small lake is easy to canoe, and the autumn-color view from the water is even better than a drive by the lake.
Ojibway Lake Picnic
About 14 miles northeast of Ely, Ojibway Lake has an outline so notched and snaggled it creates a “water, water everywhere” effect. County roads will get you close enough to appreciate the waterscape without leaving your vehicle—and a picnic area on the north side of Ojibway offers a spot to relax and enjoy lunch along with the view.
Glacier Pond Drive and Hike
Two Glacier Ponds (conveniently named “1” and “2”) are located along the way to Ojibway Lake, just off the Fernberg Trail. A forest road (557) will take you right past both ponds, but you might want to get out of your vehicle and walk part of the way to take in the smell of pine needles and crisp fall leaves.
Fernberg Road Drive
There are many roads in the Ely area that offer visitors a scenic wilderness experience, but one of the prettiest drives is along the Fernberg Road. This stretch of about 20 miles runs through the Superior National Forest to the literal “end of the road” at Lake One, an entry point of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW). The variety of aspen, birch, maple, ash, spruce, and pine hug the road to create a corridor filled with a symphony of color. Don’t forget to stop at the Fernberg Road Scenic Overlook for a fantastic view of marshy wetland area.
Burntside Lake Paddle/Boat
Any lake in the Ely area has the potential for breathtaking autumn color views from the water level. Burntside just happens to be a bit dramatic; its granite shorelines, islands large and small, and steep, tree covered sides offer sweeping views that tower over a boat or canoe. The view is stunning whether standing on the shore or gliding through the water.
Autumn Aerial Tours
For a truly memorable Northwoods experience, soar above the fall color show for a stunning view of the autumn scenery. Enjoy a bird’s-eye view of blue lakes and rivers surrounded by a vibrant palette of reds, yellows, oranges, and greens. You will see a distinctly wilder appearance in the landscape as you fly over remote areas not accessible by car.
South Kawishiwi River Drive and Hike
This sparkling river runs southwest from the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) down to Birch Lake, about 10 miles out of Ely. A bridge near the U.S. Forest Service campground is a popular spot to take fall color photographs. A small, gravel access road leads down to the river for a closer view and a different angle. The nearby South Kawishiwi River Pavilion is a historic log building built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1933. It accommodates 30 - 40 people for special events in a dramatic, fall-color background.
The Autumn Resort Experience
The fall colors near Ely are a visual gift and an artist’s delight. If you’re staying at one of our charming area resorts, you only need to look out the window to experience Mother Nature’s glorious fall display.
Ely has an endless diversity of sights and sounds, flora and fauna, and indoor and outdoor adventures that make it a unique vacation destination. It’s time to plan your fall adventure!