The magical glow of autumn colors in Northern Minnesota is one of the most beautiful displays of color I have ever seen. Given the fact that we have over 12,000 lakes to choose from in the state, there are plenty of beautiful places to see Minnesota’s fall colors. One of my favorite places to go is about a five-hour drive north of Minneapolis to Ely, one of the launching off points to the Boundary Waters Wilderness and Canoe Area (BWWCA) that borders Canada.

The BWWCA is one of the largest federally protected wilderness areas in the United States with an area of 1.1 million acres of untouched lakes, streams and forests, and is also one of the most pristine wilderness areas I have ever visited. If you are lucky, you may see a bear, wolf or even a moose in the wild and you will always hear the melodic song of the loon, Minnesota’s state bird.

Fall is one of the best times to visit Ely as the light graces the changing colors of the leaves and the deep blue sky is vibrant and pure. The fresh scent of the air or even the smoke of a campfire fills me with warmth and happiness. There is no place I’d rather be than outside hiking in the wilderness taking in the beauty of the changing leaves.

Unfortunately this fall we did not make it up north and instead opted for a visit out east to North Carolina and Virginia. Although we had a fantastic trip with gorgeous weather, we missed the peak colors this year (the leaves peaked about two weeks later than normal given our warm September). It is still beautiful here in Minneapolis yet I am sad to have missed our annual trip up north this fall. To ensure we make it back next fall, we have already reserved our accommodations. In the meantime, I will settle with remembering these lovely photos from our trip last October to Ely.

Ely, Minnesota

Ely, Minnesota

Ely MN

Mitchell Lake, Ely Minnesota

Mitchell Lake, Ely Minnesota

Mitchell Lake, Ely MN

And the autumn sunsets….

Mitchell Lake, Ely MN

Mitchell Lake, Ely MNMitchell Lake, Ely MN

If you go:

Peak color is typically the first week of October but it can be sooner or later depending on the weather. There are plenty of lovely places to stay at in Ely however we prefer to stay at the tiny, family owned Northernair Lodge. We rent our own cabin right on the lake and it is fantastic. There is also the Burnside Lodge which is larger and not far away.

There are tons of great hikes in the area such as Bass and Dry Lakes in the Superior National Forest. Of course many people come to Ely to canoe and camp into the Boundary Waters. You can also take day trips or go kayaking. For kids, we enjoyed visiting the International Wolf Center, the North American Bear Center and the quirky Dorothy Molter Museum. Despite being a tiny town, Ely has some great restaurants too. For more information on visiting Ely, click here.  

This post was inspired by the Weekly Photo Challenge: Glow.


  1. Finally went camping in MN for the first time – Chippewa National Forest. Hiked in the Lost Forty (virgin forest overlooked by the original surveyors) and to the Joyce Estate (remains of a Trout Lake private vacation home of the Roaring Twenties). Absolutely gorgeous and absolutely free – good job, Minnesota!

    1. Wonderful! I have not been there myself but sounds like it is worth the visit. By the way, loved your post on the wedding photos. How exciting!!! Beautiful bride and groom!

  2. I remember your trip last year – such great fall colors, bright waters, and pretty sunsets. I am seeing no fall colors yet down here in Houston and I’m not sure if I will at all! By the time I head northeast for Thanksgiving, I’m sure they’ll all be gone. Like you, I want to guarantee myself a return trip to a place I love to be in autumn, so I’m putting Colorado on my calendar for next October right now!

    1. Yes it was so outrageously gorgeous! I felt sad to have missed such a peak here. The colors had not even started out east in Virginia or NC. Normally they are lovely in the Shenandoah and they had hardly changed. It was still gorgeous though. 🙂

    1. Thanks for sharing. I’d love to check out Georgia. Only driven through or been at the airport in Atlanta. 🙂

  3. Beautiful photos – you captured glow and fall perfectly. I love the addition of your dog on the dock too!

      1. You’re welcome Nicole, and
        I’ll get around to one soon I’m sure. I’m writing mostly on my new insta page as well as keeping up with family and learning the new way of life here. I found it hard to write long posts.
        I may surprise you one day though…
        Di 💐🙋🏻

      2. Oh that is right! What is the new IG account name? I know I followed you but it doesn’t pop up in my feed lately…those silly algorithms! I want to pop over and check it out.

  4. Living on an over populated Island with over 64 million inhabitants, namely England, I find it difficult to comprehend the sheer vastness of your Country. Your writing reminds us that we are all specs of dust in the big scheme of things.
    Thanks for finding these quiet corners for us.

    1. Yes the world is a vast place indeed. I’m amazed too how big even my own state is! Glad you enjoyed the post.

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