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Ely revels in the winter. A summertime favorite of nature lovers, it’s also a popular place with cold weather fans. Vast expanses of forest and ice-covered lakes provide the setting for snowmobiling, cross-country (nordic) skiing and sledding. In fact, the area is northern Minnesota’s premier snowmobile hub. The Taconite Trail, which passes through the city, stretches 170 miles between Ely and Grand Rapids to the southwest. The Tomahawk Trail heads east and covers 86 miles of varied terrain. It’s also connected to hundreds of additional miles of groomed paths, including the North Shore and Yukon Trails. The Circle Tour Ride provides a ...

Ely revels in the winter. A summertime favorite of nature lovers, it’s also a popular place with cold weather fans. Vast expanses of forest and ice-covered lakes provide the setting for snowmobiling, cross-country (nordic) skiing and sledding. In fact, the area is northern Minnesota’s premier snowmobile hub. The Taconite Trail, which passes through the city, stretches 170 miles between Ely and Grand Rapids to the southwest. The Tomahawk Trail heads east and covers 86 miles of varied terrain. It’s also connected to hundreds of additional miles of groomed paths, including the North Shore and Yukon Trails. The Circle Tour Ride provides a self-guided three-to-five-day tour that encompasses more than 400 miles of pristine wilderness. The eight Ely area cross-country ski trails range in length from two to 26 miles and are rated as easy, intermediate and advanced. Snowshoe trekking, dogsledding and ice fishing provide additional diversions.

The guides in Ely teach do-it-yourself customers everything they need to know about harnessing dogs and maneuvering their sleds. For those who want to leave the driving to someone else, several dogsled tour companies are open during winter. Ice fisher folk may be as primitive or pampered as they choose (packages complete with heated ice houses and pre-drilled holes are available). And although the area contains an assortment of inns, cabins and motels, outdoor camping is also an option. Each January, the snowmobile Fun Run involves collecting tickets for prize drawings with both cash and prizes awarded. Entry fees to the event benefit snowmobile trails in and around Ely and the two neighboring communities that participate in it. In mid-February the annual Ely Winter Festival offers ten days of winter activities, such as snow sculpting, dogsled races, live entertainment and a crafts fair. Later in February, the WolfTrack Classic Sled Dog Race includes a 30-mile race between mushers and their six-dog teams and, if weather permits, a l30-mile race featuring 10-dog teams.

Connie Emerson
About the Expert

Connie Emerson is the author of more than a dozen books, including The Cheapskate's Guide to Branson, Missouri and Eyewitness Top Ten Travel Guide – Las Vegas.

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Connie Emerson for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    Ely winters are long and cold, usually lasting from November through March. Snowmobile drivers and fishermen must have licenses. All cross-country skiers (16 years and older) must carry Minnesota Ski Passes when skiing on public trails.