Vermilion Outdoor Learning Center



As the crow flies — actually, as the Canadian goose flies — Ely, Minnesota (pop. 3,390) is just 20 miles from the Canadian border. Here, way north in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, the air is crisp much of the year, a boat can be as useful as a car, and hardy locals are quick to lend a helping hand. Three miles from Ely is the Outdoor Learning Center, an outdoor educational retreat built in the 1950s on the shores of Fall Lake. Road Scholar adventurers set out from this center to learn about the local wolf population or to explore idyllic Superior National Forest on foot and by canoe looking for birds, other wildlife and nature’s many gems. When their heads hit the pillow after a day in this natural paradise, the call of Minnesota’s state bird, the loon, sends them off to a peaceful night’s slumber.


Nestled amid the forested acres of the Superior National Forest and along the shore of Fall Lake, the Outdoor Learning Center houses Road Scholars in small, rustic cabins with a living room, a bathroom, and 1-3 single- or double-occupancy bedrooms with lake frontage. The cabins are simply furnished with a stove, sink and refrigerator.


This natural gem is spread over 40 acres of land with over a half-mile of shoreline on Fall Lake. Moose, whitetail deer, otters and other animals are regular visitors to the site. Walleye, northern pike, perch, and bass are found in abundance in Fall Lake. There are plenty of hiking trails and forest to explore, as well as canoeing and kayaking on Fall Lake. Road Scholars enjoy fellowship sitting around a campfire or sitting on the shore looking out at the lakeside panorama.

Good to Know
  • Limited Wi-Fi in the cabins; Wi-Fi available in the classroom building.
  • No daily housekeeping service, but fresh towels and linens available on request.


The Retreat Difference  |  The unique experience at a Road Scholar Retreat includes opportunities for light morning exercise, meeting a community member for insight into local life, an authentic farm-to-table or locally sourced meal, a live performance or event, and a single room to yourself for under $200 more for most programs. 


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