New trail center opens at Bear Head Lake State Park, Ely

Representatives from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Coca-Cola and local partners celebrated the grand opening of the new trail center at Bear Head Lake State Park near Ely with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Tuesday, Sept. 17.

The energy-efficient building was constructed with sustainable forest products, high-efficiency windows and structural insulated panel walls and roof, and a heat recovery system. The surrounding landscaping, with native plantings for erosion control and stormwater management, was designed to complement the natural, restful setting of the park.

“This building is a tremendous addition to an already beautiful state park and demonstrates our commitment to sustainable building and operating practices,” said Courtland Nelson, director of the DNR’s Parks and Trails Division. “We are working hard to encourage families to get outdoors and have fun, and facilities like this new trail center help make our parks more welcoming, especially in the winter.”

The trail center will be open year-round to provide a warming shelter for winter trail users, interpretive programming space, and a contemplative resting and gathering place for park users.

Established in 1961, the 4,523-acre Bear Head Lake State Park has long been a popular fishing and canoeing destination for as many as 100,000 annual visitors. The park offers hiking, skiing and snowmobile trails, as well as year-round naturalist programs, camping, five camper cabins and a guest house.

In 2010 this park was voted America’s Favorite Park in an online contest sponsored by Coca-Cola. The $100,000 prize provided seed money for additional funding for the trail center from the Federal Recreation Trail Grant and the state Legacy Parks and Trails Fund. The state fund was created after Minnesota voters approved the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment in November 2008.

For more information, including a virtual tour, visit the park website. Park information is also available by contacting the DNR Information Center at or 651-296-6157 (888-646-6367 toll-free) between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.