2. Ely, Minnesota
Ely is a small town located on the Vermilion Iron Range and at one entry point for the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, a true haven for nature lovers. Originally settled by fur traders, the area didn’t see a significant amount of immigration until the Lake Vermillion gold rush in 1865. While not much gold was mined, iron ore was discovered and became a key part of the economy. Ironically, the town is named in honor of a mining executive who never ended up visiting Ely.
Grab your hiking boots and hit the trails here – there are several wilderness hikes in the area, such as Echo Trail, a former logging road, or Trezona Trail, that takes you out to the old iron ore mining operations. Ely is also the launch point for Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, a destination for canoeing and fishing and is the most popular wilderness in the United States. If you need to restock on supplies before your adventures, there are plenty of shops waiting to supply you with any needed equipment.