It doesn't get any wilder than
this! Vermillion Gorge on the west end of Crane Lake is
ideal for Minnesota hiking, picnics, and fishing trips. There are
two different routes to choose from, one requires a
boat. Walking from the village of Crane Lake go north
past the Voyageurs National Park office, where the road
Y's stay left, then turn left again into a parking area.
The trail starts on the northwest corner of the
clearing. The three-mile long trail is carpeted in lush
emerald green moss and meanders up to a breathtaking overlook
of a natural river gorge where white water rushes
through. A picnic lunch would be a nice touch or pack a
beverage to enjoy while exploring your surroundings. A
quicker way to the river gorge is by boat. Tie up at the
dock on the south (left) side and walk the trail up to the
Gorge Trail Description:
At a leisurely pace, this 3-mile trail can easily be hiked in
3 hours. The last portion of the trail parallels the
Vermillion River Gorge - a rugged landscape of sheer granite
cliffs and rock outcrops.
From Crane Lake to Vermillion River the hiking trail is
graveled. Boardwalks cross wet areas. Near the
crest of the first hill, the Voyageur's Snowmobile trail
branches to the left. Keep right on the gravel
At the river, the trail takes a sharp turn upstream.
Here the hiking trail narrows and the surface changes from gravel to
native material. This is the steepest part of the trail
and as you climb, notice the change in vegetation. The
aspen/birch forest with its dense understory gives way to an
open, parklike grove of red pine.
From atop the red pine knoll you can see the Vermillion
River entering Crane Lake, completing its 38 mile journey from
As you descend from the red pine knoll, you will approach
the river and the mouth of the gorge. The trail surface
changes to wood chips here.
Warning: This section of the trail has steep cliffs
nearby. Hikers with small children should keep them in
Falls Trail Description:
A 10-minute hike on a
well-maintained trail puts the visitor at Vermillion Falls, at
a cascading torrent of water forced through a 10-foot-wide
opening in the granite. Keep small children in hand.
Smallmouth bass fishing below the
falls can be excellent. Fishing from shore will produce
many snags in this shallow, rocky water. Another option
is to launch a canoe or small car-top boat by the parking area
and paddle up river.
Warning: The current below the
falls is swift and strong in high water and can capsize a
boat. Be careful not to approach too closely.
Cast into and around the current with
lead head jigs tipped with worms, leeches or minnows.
Crappies, walleyes and northern pike can also be caught here.
A trail directly across the road from
the parking lot leads the visitor to "The Chute", a
constriction in the river that produces a Class II or III
rapids. It's a pleasant 5-minute walk and worth the
effort. Part of the trail also serves as the portage
around the rapids. If you have a canoe, you could
portage to the base of the rapids, put in, and then cross the
river to a point of land on the far side. There you can
see one of the 9 maintained campsites on the river.
A final point of interest is a small
wild rice bed. Standing on the bridge looking up river,
the wild rice grows in the small bay to your left. It
will be mid-July before the shoots begin to emerge from the
water, and seed heads won't begin to develop until the first
part of August. Extensive wild rice (it's actually an
aquatic grass, not a rice) beds flourish along the Vermillion
River and are harvested by humans and wildlife alike from late
August through October.
Herriman Lake Trail Description:
From the paking lot, it is .4
mile to the Echo River Picnic Site. This scenic day-use
site is not in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
However, if you hike on to Little
Vermillion, Dovre, or Herriman Lakes, or south along the Echo
River, you will enter the BWCAW.
Pack your swimsuit and a picnic
lunch for the sand beach on Little Vermillion Lake.
Enjoy the scenic views of oxbows
along the Echo River. Take your binoculars, or a
bucket for blue berries in mid-July. If the berry
crop is good, you may find easy picking on the rocky loop
at the end of the trail.
Feel a sense of solitude as you
hike through mature red and white pines among rock
outcroppings on the Dovre Lake Loop.
Take your camera to capture the
blaze of fall colors around Herriman and Knute Lakes at
the end of September. The maples, aspens, and oaks
are also beautiful along the Echo River and Dovre Loop.