Family-Owned Log Cabins on Placid Crane Lake
The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness comprises the largest network of wilderness waterways in the world, spanning the Minnesota-Canada border with more than a million acres of glacier-carved streams and lakes. Here, more than 1,000 canoe routes wind past steep granite cliffs and ancient forests. The natural setting is so idyllic that National Geographic listed it as one of the world's top 50 destinations to visit in a lifetime. At Nelson's Resort, you can embark on your own canoe ride into the Boundary Waters via Crane Lake, located just steps from the resort's rustic log cabins.
Nelson’s Resort was founded in 1931 by John and Millie Nelson as an elegant retreat in Minnesota’s Northwoods. Today, the third generation of Nelsons runs the resort and maintains the 27 individual log cabins spread across the property. After a day of canoeing, fishing, or hiking, retire to a one- or two-bedroom abode. Most are made from pine logs and equipped with outdoor decks and lake views. Some cabins are outfitted with a kitchen, so you can prepare your daily catch for dinner. The resort will also freeze and wrap your fish on request.
Fuel up at the restaurant, where chefs prepare breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily. On select days, enjoy live piano music in the wood-trimmed dining room lit by tabletop lanterns. Dinner specialties include grilled lavender pork chops ($22) and lemon chicken fettuccine seasoned with fresh herbs and vegetables harvested from the resort's garden ($17).
Minnesota Northwoods: Winding Waterways and Abundant Wildlife
Crane Lake, Minnesota, is just a tiny speck on the map, but it sits in the midst of a massive unspoiled wilderness area near the Canadian border. You can canoe or hike to Vermillion Falls to watch the rushing waters spill over granite bluffs or paddle northward to Namakan Narrows to see Native American pictographs etched into the rocks. The Boundary Waters is also a prime locale for fishing, with countless lakes and rivers filled with walleye, northern pike, and lake trout.
About 60 miles away, you’ll find shelves of ancient bedrock amid towering evergreen forests and colorful wildflowers at Voyageurs National Park. Keep an eye out for resident wildlife, including black bears, timber wolves, and snowshoe hares. Come nightfall, turn your focus skyward to see thousands of brilliant stars and the occasional green glow of the aurora borealis, more commonly known as the northern lights.