At 18 miles, the easy-to-intermediate Banadad Trail near the end of the Gunflint Trail is the Boundary Waters’ longest ski trail and its only groomed route (use of snowmobiles to groom the trail was grandfathered into the wilderness legislation), though because it is so remote it can be a rugged trip even with grooming.
It also has the distinction of offering yurt-to-yurt skiing through Boundary Country Trekking.
Although the trail is not groomed, cross-country skiers appreciate the wilderness scenery of the South Farm Trail, a generally easy five-mile route eight miles east of Ely on County Highway 16 that crosses its namesake lake and loops through a spruce swamp at the back end.
Skiers are also the primary users of the North Arm Trail 13 miles north of Ely; take County Highway 116 (the Echo Trail) to County Highway 644. Most of the 16 ungroomed loops are intermediate level, though beginners and experts will find appropriate routes along the 26 total miles.
Other popular winter ski destinations are the Herriman Lake, Angleworm, and Sioux Hustler Trails, and the Hegman Lake Pictographs north of Ely, which is one of the finest examples of this style of Native American rock art in North America.
If you’ve never experienced dog sledding before, there is no better place to give it a try. Outfitters in Ely and Grand Marais will let you take the reins across the frozen lakes on trips ranging from a few hours to a week.
© Tim Bewer from Moon Minnesota, 3rd Edition