14585 Jack Pine Trail
Ely, MN 55731
About Snowbank Lake
Remote Snowbank Lake in northeastern Minnesota serves as a gateway to popular outdoor adventure destinations. Nestled in the Superior National Forest, there is little private property on the lakeside that includes little more than a few lakeside homes and a few small shops. There is no public access to the land leased by the U.S. Forest Service and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MNDNR).
Although half of the lake is in the border water area, it also serves as an entry point to the border to the wilderness. Most visitors come to Snowbank Lake to go canoeing, kayaking, fishing and other outdoor adventure activities. Many canoeists have agreed to stay in one of these resort lodges to get an early start on the border waters before sunrise.
Snowbank Lake only allows gasoline engines in parts of the Boundary Waters Zone, and this is limited to a section known as the BWCA. To prevent overload and overcrowding, all participants are subject to the quota system. To use the BWCA part of this lake for visitors who want to canoe or camp along this route, a permit from BW CAW is required.
The permit system is managed by the US Forest Service, so it is a good idea to ask the local ranger for information about restrictions and acceptable uses.
The lake is managed by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for lake trout and whales, as lake trout have a good natural reproduction rate. Formed by glacier activity, Snowbank Lake is irregular and dotted with islands, and the coast offers great views of the Great Lakes, Minnesota and Minnesota State Park. The fishing is very productive here, with the usual targets being beaver, whale, bluefish, whitefish, perch, trout, salmon, mackerel, pike and white perch.
In the lake, smaller and larger perches, as well as large whitefish and blue fish can be caught. Fishermen often go on day trips to this lake to look for Valais and lake trout, but many go for perch if the big ones don't bite.
Newcomers often hire an outfitter to provide them with a boat and guide them to more productive fishing grounds. Ice fishing for lake trout is a popular activity here, as is fishing in the lake for whitefish and blue fish.
Although Snowbank Lake has no designated beach, the resort lodge has a sandy swimming area in its parking lot. Two public launch sites are available, and the lake can be reached by boat from the city of St. Paul, Minnesota, about 30 miles south of Minneapolis. The resort also rents a number of private boats as well as a variety of small boats for private use.
To accommodate group sizes, the resort offers a variety of outdoor activities such as hiking, cycling, canoeing and kayaking.
Nature is also nearby for visitors who want to explore the many trails in the country's national forest. There are also a number of hiking trails on the lake in and around Snowbank Lake, all of which require a permit from the BWCA.
Many of the paths leading to the BWCA region are unused and therefore not well maintained. This makes hiking in the wilderness a little difficult, but the scenic views and the view itself are worth the effort.
One of the trails leads to an old, growing pine tree in the center of Snowbank Lake, a popular camping spot. Primitive camping is allowed on scattered campsites, but regulations and permit requirements vary according to jurisdiction. It is recommended to consult with the USFS before planning a hike or a camping trip and to obtain the necessary permits.
Accessible all year round, the trail offers numerous campsites with stunning views of the rocks and connects with the Kekekabic Trail in the south. The Snowbank Trail leads to a beaver dam, a creek and a granite ridge, but is not well marked. Another popular trail is the Snowbank Lake Trail, a 2.5 km trail from the north end of the lake to its south end.
All trails in the BWCA are accessible by snowmobile and off-road vehicles and year-round except the Snowbank Lake Trail and Kekekabic Trail, both at the north end.
Snowbank Lake is the largest lake in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCA), and the nearest settlement is the town of Ely, 23 miles west.
Ely is home to many resorts and equipment suppliers in the area and offers tourist-friendly activities. Ely offers a variety of outdoor activities including hiking, camping, fishing, skiing, snowmobiling, kayaking, canoeing, snowshoeing and fishing.
Ely has a number of attractions that can delight visitors, including the North American Bear Center, which offers a variety of animal exhibits including a large collection of captured bears. The International Wolf Center is also located in Ely and maintains a wolf pack to provide the public with little known facts about wolves in the US. It is primarily a research facility, but can be visited year-round and at weekends. Whiteside Park, Ely is a popular destination for hiking, camping, skiing, kayaking, canoeing, snowshoeing and fishing.
Ely offers a range of restaurants and entertainment options and is a great place to stay even when not on the lake. Private cottages are available in the park and at White Lake Lodge, a popular tourist attraction.
Here the sound of nature accompanies fishing during the day and the campfire at night under towering old pine trees. Beyond the cottages on the lake there are many short-term accommodations, many of which are reserved year after year by repeat offenders.
There are a number of plots in the area waiting to be developed. It is a great place to visit and an even better place to stay even if you are not a tourist or just a regular visitor to the park or a local.