Things to do at Bear Head Lake State Park in Ely MN

10 BEST Things to do at Bear Head Lake State Park in Ely MN

Looking for a place to spend a weekend outdoors? Look no further than Bear Head Lake State Park in Ely, Minnesota. This park has it all – camping, hiking, swimming, and more.

On the edge of the BWCA, they have pristine waters and you’d expect and lush forest. There are so many fun things to do at Bear Head Lake Stae Park in Ely.

I’ve been itching to get to Bear Head Lake State Park for a while now. Mostly because I’m a sucker for the BWCA. This summer we were invited up to Ely to check out their downtown.

I had to make a quick detour to Bear Head Lake State Park and see if it was everything I imagined. I was in love immediately.

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Things to do at Bear Head Lake State Park in Ely MN

Hiking Club Trail at Bear Head Lake State Park

Miles: 3 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Total Miles Hiked: 164.8 miles

The hiking club trail at Bear Head Lake State Park is the most popular hike in the park, and for good reason. The trail offers you large white and Norway pines, the quiet beauty of Norberg Lake, and a view of the East Bay of Bear Head Lake. It’s a well-maintained and easy-to-follow trail.

We started off by going to the campground office to get our stamp and asking for all the details. If you are ever wondering about passwords, trail conditions, parking, or anything else, just ask the park rangers.

They know the park so well and if you are short on time, they might even divulge or give hints to where the password is. Then it was off to the trail center for our hike.

Norberg Lake Trail at Bear Head Lake State Park
Bear Head Lake Hiking Club Trail

Love it or hate it?

My youngest decided to join me and we took off. The Norberg Lake trails follow along the east bay, loop around Norberg Lake, and then back to the trail center. The trail is moderately busy for the area.

I’m sued to being the only one on the trail in this part of MN, but because it’s so family-friendly, it was no surprise others wanted to enjoy it too.

Even though the trail was along the lake, we could only catch glimpses of it. I was actually a little disappointed. But the pins made it a shaded journey and relatively bug-free.

Something we were missing at our other campsite. We had a lot of fun exploring and ended up draining our water bottle bottles along the way!

Do you have the correct water bottle for your adventure? We switch between Nalgenes and Hydro Flasks. Find out which one will work best for you!

Bear Head Lake State Park Hiking Club Password


Bear Head Lake State Park has all the same camping you’d expect at State Parks. They have 73 modern sites secluded in the woods.

There are two electric loops with 45 sites, some even open for winter camping. RV length limit is 60 feet but I’d recommend a smaller RV only because of the trees.

The park has a guest house and camper cabins that are open year-round! The guest house is a three-bedroom, two-bath house with a fully equipped kitchen. They have camper cabins that hold up to six people.

They are rustic containing the bare necessities like a table, bench, and bunk beds with mattresses. you also get the comforts like heat and electricity. These are great for people that don’t love tent camping but don’t want to invest in an RV yet.

What I absolutely loved about Bear Head Lake State Park is the paddle-in sites.

They have 5 backpacking sites that are only accessible by canoe, making it perfect for those looking for the Boundary Waters Canoe Area experience, without stressing about permits, and wishing to reserve a campsite. It’s a great way to get a taste of the experience.

Rent a Paddleboard

Bear Head Lake State Park has beautiful water that you should get on if you get the opportunity to get on it! What I found fun about Bear Head Lake State Park is they rent Paddleboard in addition to Kayaks and Canoes.

Stand-up Paddleboards are $10 an hour, which is rare to find in Ely. Most outfitters require a full-day rental.

The lake here is perfect for learning to paddleboard or just exploring. Start out at the beach or paddle around the lake and explore more!

While in the area, make sure to check out the Small Town and the 23 Best Things to do in Ely, Minnesota

Go Fishing

Their lake is stocked with walleye, bass, crappies, or trout. Bring your rod and real and catch dinner that night. The park office also has fishing kits if you want to give them a try without the commitment!

More than one three-pound walleye has been caught from Snapping turtles like to compete against you for panfish. Next to the pier is the boat launch and rental area.

Swim at the Beach

The beach at Bear Head Lake State Park in Ely, Minnesota is a great place to enjoy the beautiful water. The sand beach has plenty of space to spread out and the warm summer waters make it perfect for a dip.

Located right next to the beach is the trail center. It has a playground, a fishing pier, and a couple of picnic areas.

Bear Head Lake
Inside the trail center at Bear Head Lake State Park


Geocache at Bear Head Lake State Park in Ely Minnesota features a variety of challenging, but very fun and interesting puzzles for any age group.

The geocache is hidden in a cool, natural environment that is perfect for a day out with the family. The cache is well-hidden and will require some detective work on your part to find it.

Stop into the park office and pick up a GPS unit to give it a try. Or use your phone. If you are looking for something different and challenging to do in Ely, then this is the geocache for you!

Looking for Wildlife

Bear Head Lake State Park is a great place to see wildlife in Ely, MN. You’ll find white-tailed deer, black bears, moose, wolves, red squirrels, chipmunks, and snowshoe hares here.

During the fall you can watch the colorful leaves change color on the trees and in the bushes. In the winter you can see the animals feeding on the ice.

Snowshoeing in the Winter

Snowshoeing at Bear Head Lake State Park in Ely, Minnesota is a great way to enjoy the natural beauty of the park while getting some exercise.

The park has a variety of trails to choose from, and the snowshoes make navigating them easy. The trails are also well-maintained, so you won’t have to worry about getting lost. Plus, the views are nothing short of spectacular.

Meet up on the Taconite State Trail

The Taconite State Trail at Bear Head Lake State Park in Ely, MN is a great place to ride a snowmobile. The trail is well-maintained and includes several lakes and ponds. There is also plenty of scenery to see including high bluffs, deep ravines, and pristine woods.

Keep an eye out for the Northern Lights

Behind this far north is the perfect excuse to enjoy our skies. If the weather is right, you might even see the Northern Lights.

Passport Stamp at Bear Head Lake State Park in Ely

Questions about Bear Head Lake State Park

Where is Bear Head Lake State Park?

The park sits on the edge of the BWCA. 9301 BEAR HEAD STATE PARK ROAD, ELY, MN 55731

When Is Bear Head Lake State Park open?

The park is officially open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m daily.

Are dogs allowed at Bear Head Lake State Park?

Yes, dogs are allowed at all state parks. They must be leashed on a 6-foot or less leash. They are not allowed in buildings or at the beach. You also must clean up after them.

How big is Bear Head Lake State Park?

Bear Head Lake State Park in Northern MN is more than 4,000 acres. There is plenty of room for you to explore this pristine North Woods.

How much does sit cost?

All Minnesota State Parks are free with an annual permit. You can buy them in person or online for $35. If you are planning to visit for the day, expect to pay around $7.

Throughout the year, there are a few free days and other discounts you can check out too.

Camping costs anywhere from $25-35 a night.

Pro Tip: Visit any State Park during one of their free days. Check out Minnesota State Park Pass Hacks, Tips, and Free Days to find all the days

If you only have an hour

Bear Head Lake takes about 10 minutes after entering the park to get anywhere, so make sure to account for that. But once at your destination, you can easily go for a quick swim, paddle, or do a hiking trail.

My son and I managed to do the entire hiking club trail in just under an hour. We were consistently on the move, but having a great time on this trip.

Bear Head Lake State Park

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