North Country Trail Association

Ely Northwoods Chapter


Bear Head Lake State Park to Ely to Kawishiwi Falls in the Superior National Forest

The NCTA Ely Northwoods Chapter formed in 2023, and is dedicated to building and maintaining the North Country National Scenic Trail between Bear Head Lake State Park and Kawishiwi Falls. This includes downtown Ely, one of the primary gateways to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW). The Chapter is building many miles of new Trail as part of the effort to complete the “Arrowhead Reroute.” This is between the Kekekabic Trail to the east and the NCTA Arrowhead Chapter‘s trail segment to the west. Our Chapter is a close partner to both the NCTA Kekekabic Trail Chapter and a trail volunteer group in Tower, Minnesota.

Much of the current NCNST route follows the paved, multi-use Mesabi Trail between Eagle’s Nest Township Hall and the west edge of Ely. From there, the NCNST follows State Highway 169 / 1 and Fernberg Road (Lake County Highway 18) to the Kawishiwi Falls parking area, and beyond to the Kekekabic Trail. The NCTA Kekekabic Trail Chapter will be developing a new 12-mile NCNST segment east of Glipi Road in the next few years.

Connect with us to learn how you can get involved to help build the NCNST in the Ely area and/or participate in local activities!

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Chapter Trail Section

The NCTA Ely Northwoods Chapter is responsible for building and maintaining the North Country National Scenic Trail in Northeastern Minnesota between Bear Head Lake State Park and Kawishiwi Falls.

Ely, Minn. is about silent sports such as hiking, biking, canoeing, and cross-country skiing. In addition, Ely is about the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW). It's well known for several local events including the Blueberry and Harvest Moon Festivals held in July and September respectively, and the WolfTrak Classic Sled Dog race held in February.

Connect and Get Involved

Join the Chapter - become a founding member!


Use the Report Trail Conditions form to alert the NCTA and the Chapter to poor trail conditions. Visit the Trail Alerts page while planning your adventure.

Ely Chamber of Commerce
Hiking in/near Ely
Piragis Northwoods Co.
Ely Area Outfitters and Guides

Suggested Hikes

Kekekabic West End Day Hike: Hike part of the official NCNST by hiking in from the trailhead on Snowbank Lake Road as far as you’d like then turn around. The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness boundary is at 4.2 miles in, which makes for a long day. Hiking (and camping) the Becoosin Loop is fun.

Kawishiwi Falls: Hike in from the trailhead on the Fernberg Road to visit the amazing Kawishiwi Falls on the Kawishiwi River, between Garden and Fall Lakes. The Chapter hopes to incorporate this into the NCNST in the future.

Trezona Trail: Hike four miles around Miner’s Lake. Located within Ely, this paved hike celebrates five active iron mines that operated in the late 1880s through the late 1960s. Learn more about Ely’s historical past: Outdoor Project, Ely Arts and Heritage Center, Ely’s Pioneer Mine.

Bear Head Lake State Park Loop: Hike the 3.5-mile Norberg Lake Loop Trail, which will hopefully be a future part of the NCNST route.

Hidden Valley Trail System: Hike around a robust system of cross-country ski and purpose-built mountain bike/hiking trails just a half-mile outside of town. Be sure to follow the rules about safely sharing the trail.

Chapter Maps and Guidance

View our section of the Trail on the interactive online map to the right or click here.

Additional Local Resources

Ely, Minnesota
Superior National Forest
Mesabi Trail
Ely Nordic Ski and Bike Club