Often people ask us about hiking in the area. And while our response is that there aren’t many good hiking options right by us,we do have a couple of very good hikes relatively close. I would like to share some information today on a very good hike about 45 minutes away. Located in Voyageurs National Park, the Vermillion Gorge hike is about 45 minutes away. Driving 45 minutes might turn some people away, but for those who are looking for a day off the lake, keep reading, you’ll like this one. This hike is 3 miles long, 1.5 miles each way, with some mild ups and downs and ends where the Vermillion river has forced it’s way through the granite creating the gorge. Last week Kasey and I headed up there on a slow day and took some photos of our hike. Hope you enjoy!
Drive to Crane Lake (about 45 minutes from here). You’ll be driving on paved roads until you get to Crane Lake. The road becomes dirt for your last quarter mile, and the trail head is by Voyagaire Lodge. Drive until you see a small sign on the left hand side of the road near where the houseboats are parked and serviced. Park over there.
The trail is fairly well maintained. There are a few areas where it may be wet at times, but the path in those places was boarded and we had no problems staying dry. The first half mile is thru the woods-translation: in the summer bring bug spray. We appreciated the steps built wherever the elevation changed so we didn’t have to worry about footing. I have some ankle issues, and I appreciate not having to worry about turning an ankle while hiking. There is one small creek, and we were very pleased to see a well maintained bridge for crossing the creek. As we hiked we enjoyed signs such as the one below explaining the history of the area.
My favorite sign showed a spot that is believed to be near the site of an old trading post. Rene Bourassa, a fur trader in 1736 built this trading post. I’m one of those weirdos who like signs and had to stop and read all of them. If you enjoy trees, you will enjoy this hike. I saw white pines, norway pines, black spruce, balsam firs, aspens, paper birch trees, sugar maples, cedars and a few oak trees. Check out this photo of the sun coming thru a stand of norway pines.
After walking thru dense woods we came out along the Vermillion River. For me this brought back a flood of memories. I spent three summers working as a dock boy on Crane Lake. During that time I regularly visited this area and would fish here in the river where it feeds into the lake. You will notice that when you come out on the river, the trees change. Most of what you see now are cedars and pines. Follow the trail for about another half mile and you will come to a dock. Boaters can use this dock to hike along the gorge. We paused here at the dock for a moment for a quick drink of water and of course I had to tell a story or two. Chase seemed to like my stories…
I believe that one of the most important parts of a good hike is bringing a friend. As you can see, I had two great co adventurers with me! After you take a couple minutes and enjoy the view at the dock continue up into the gorge. You’ll have to ascend up some steps and along the river for about a quarter mile. Then you will come to a place where the river opens up. In the fall it looks like this…
Go ahead, take a minute and enjoy the peaceful wide expanse of river. When you are ready to get back to hiking, continue up the trail. Now you are in the gorge proper. Here the water has forced itself through a fissure of rock and over millions of years created this gorge. The entire Vermillion River is forced between the granite walls which that are only about 20 feet wide in places.
Hikers with issues with heights should stay away from the edge because there are places where you are 80 feet above the water. Bring your camera, the area around the gorge is beautiful.
Hiking always makes me hungry. My favorite two places to eat in this area are Voyagaire Lodge and Trails End. Voyagaire is right by the trail head and Trails End is a few miles outside of Crane Lake. If you are looking for a sandwich go to Trails End. Also, the broasted chicken there is amazing. My two favorite things at Voyagaire is the pizza and the walleye basket.