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Day Trip to Vermilion Falls in Minnesota

Updated on August 22, 2012

It's easy to enjoy the spectacular scenery at Vermilion Falls!

Here are some turn-by-turn directions for a great Day Trip from International Falls to Vermilion Falls about and hour-and-a-half south. The route goes through forestry roads offering maximum opportunity for wildlife watching. Vermilion Falls is in the Superior National Forest just south of Voyageurs National Park. As you can see, there are rails and walkways to provide safe access.

There are also birding trails nearby, and St. Louis county 116, also known as the echo trail, goes past numerous recreation sites in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Going west, you will encounter Voyageurs National Park. The park is one of the few water based National Parks and camping is available by motorboat on the four major lakes.

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Start at the Beginning!

Second Avenue West at Third Street, Int'l Falls, MN

This is where my office is, the Chamber of Commerce and Convention and Visitors Bureau share space in the former BN Depot, which has largely been kept as it was during it's operational years. This is where Highway 53 begins as it winds it's way south to Duluth, where US 2 and I 35 all meet with 53.

US 71 provides access to the Falls from the west.

This is also where the United States meets Canada, the Rainy River seperates International Falls, Minnesota and Fort Frances, Ontario, Canada. Just to the east, Voyageurs National Park starts spreading out over Rainy, Kabetogama, Namakan and Sand Point Lakes. To the west, Lake of the Woods hides the Northwest Angle of Minnesota in a corner of Manitoba, Canada.

All roads lead to.......

All roads lead to.......
All roads lead to.......
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Take 53 south to Ray!

The first leg of the journey will be traveling south on Highway 53 to Ray, Minnesota, about 20 miles down the road. There are some sights to see in International Falls, but that's another lens. I have tossed in a small sample of falls area photos below for your enjoyment.

As you head south, you pass through Ericsburg and over the Rat Root River half-way to Ray. At Ray, take a right onto Minnesota 217 and follow this west to Koochiching County 29 a little over a mile away, and take a left. You are now heading south and after a couple of miles on 29 the road will become the Haney Forestry Road.

International Falls - click to enlarge

Click thumbnail to view full-size
St. Thomas Aquinas Church, 4th St. at 9th Ave. W.Flag Park, 2nd Ave W. at 3rd St.Smokey in a safety vest, celebrating 100 years of papermaking in International FallsVeteran Memorial, east of the Koochiching County Courthouse.Smokey dressed for winterWinter can be BeautifulNational Park Ranger led tour of Little American Island, site of an 1890's gold rush.a pulley on Little American Island, left-over from the mining days.Rainy Lake Visitor Center for Voyageurs National Park.Fun art at Rainy River Community College, Hiway 11/71 West.
St. Thomas Aquinas Church, 4th St. at 9th Ave. W.
St. Thomas Aquinas Church, 4th St. at 9th Ave. W.
Flag Park, 2nd Ave W. at 3rd St.
Flag Park, 2nd Ave W. at 3rd St.
Smokey in a safety vest, celebrating 100 years of papermaking in International Falls
Smokey in a safety vest, celebrating 100 years of papermaking in International Falls
Veteran Memorial, east of the Koochiching County Courthouse.
Veteran Memorial, east of the Koochiching County Courthouse.
Smokey dressed for winter
Smokey dressed for winter
Winter can be Beautiful
Winter can be Beautiful
National Park Ranger led tour of Little American Island, site of an 1890's gold rush.
National Park Ranger led tour of Little American Island, site of an 1890's gold rush.
a pulley on Little American Island, left-over from the mining days.
a pulley on Little American Island, left-over from the mining days.
Rainy Lake Visitor Center for Voyageurs National Park.
Rainy Lake Visitor Center for Voyageurs National Park.
Fun art at Rainy River Community College, Hiway 11/71 West.
Fun art at Rainy River Community College, Hiway 11/71 West.
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Forest Road Intersection

Meanwhile, back to the trip, you will stay with the Haney Road until it meets with the North Ash Lake Forestry Road, and you will go left to follow this forestry road back to Highway 53 South. You meet the Highway just north of Ash Lake, turn right and head south toward Cusson.

Map it Out!

Minnesota DNR Water Access maps for Koochiching and St. Louis Counties have the roads, but they are not labelled by number or name.

DNR Water Access maps are available.

DNR Water Access maps are available.
DNR Water Access maps are available.
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Take a Left!

When you reach Cusson, you will want to go left on County Road 180, which will go north past a couple of other Superior National Forest Roads until you meet #203 where you pass by pilings on the south end of Elephant Lake. You will stay with this forestry road past the aptly named "Bug Creek" walking trail, a prime trail for birders. Head north on 203 until you meet with SNFR 491 near Franklin Lake, where there is another walking trail prized by birders. You will head east, or to the right on SNFR 491 for just a couple miles and you will come to the Vermilion Falls parking area on your right. If you pass by this road, there will be another parking area by the Vermilion River Bridge.

What You Will See! - click to enlarge

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Vermilion River Bridgecalmer waters in the chute, downtream from the bridgehiking trails are easy to navigatefalls colors add to this triplooking upstreamview of the high fallssafety steps and railshiking trail along "the chute"The river spilling into the high falls.A view of the chute, located north of the Vermilion River Bridge on SNFR 491
Vermilion River Bridge
Vermilion River Bridge
calmer waters in the chute, downtream from the bridge
calmer waters in the chute, downtream from the bridge
hiking trails are easy to navigate
hiking trails are easy to navigate
falls colors add to this trip
falls colors add to this trip
looking upstream
looking upstream
view of the high falls
view of the high falls
safety steps and rails
safety steps and rails
hiking trail along "the chute"
hiking trail along "the chute"
The river spilling into the high falls.
The river spilling into the high falls.
A view of the chute, located north of the Vermilion River Bridge on SNFR 491
A view of the chute, located north of the Vermilion River Bridge on SNFR 491

Or, here's a nice video of the High Falls

Don't miss "The Chute"

After you check out the main falls, hike downstream, or on the north side of the bridge. The Chute is a mandatory portage providing more spectacular scenery.

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Return Trip offers options.

You can return to International Falls on highway 53, or by backtracking the route you used to get here. Another option is to go south on highway 53 through Orr and turn right onto St. Louis County 74. Then go to Greaney, take a left and head south until you reach county road 75. Go right on 75 to Rauch then head north on Minnesota 65. That will take you north to Littlefork. It's a pictureasque drive where I think the greatest feature is an ornate Russian Orthodox Church between Rauch and Silverdale.

Add a little more scenic to the drive and take Koochiching County 8 and tour through the farmlands south of Littlefork. County 8 veers off to the right some 20 miles south of Littlefork and will take you into town. Once you get to Littlefork you can head back to highway 65 and go right, that will take you to US 71 and bring you back to International Falls.

St. Peter and Paul Russian Orthodox Church at Bramble, MN,

St. Peter and Paul Russian Orthodox Church at Bramble, MN,
St. Peter and Paul Russian Orthodox Church at Bramble, MN,

Why that looks like me!

Why that looks like me!
Why that looks like me!

It is me.

I was modeling this cool sweatshirt for the Falls Chamber of Commerce, they are selling them as a fundraiser. The heavy weight hockey style hoodies have a laced neck vent, there are stretch inserts to the sides and the artwork tells of our record low -55F. Prices start at $44.00 for S-M-L-XL, and $46 to $48 for anything larger. Want one, email me at cvb@rainylake.org, or call the International Falls Chamber of Commerce at 1-800-325-5766.

The runner's welcome sign is due to the "Freeze Yer Gizzard Blizzard Run, a 5 and 10K race that was staged that weekend. It's the 31st year for the FYGBR, and it gets a fair amount of attention. In all, 300 runners took part in one race or the other, and in several instance, both.

Anyone can comment, so please do!

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    • rob-hemphill profile image

      Rob Hemphill 4 years ago from Ireland

      This sounds to be just the sort of location I could spend days at with my camera. So many lovely places to visit!

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      marsha32 4 years ago

      Minnesota is one of the states I've not had the opportunity to visit.

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      Stoppping back just to smile, would love to make a day trip to Vermillion Falls in the spring again!

    • PromptWriter profile image

      Moe Wood 5 years ago from Eastern Ontario

      With a name like "vermilion" it has to beautiful.

    • agoofyidea profile image

      agoofyidea 5 years ago

      What a cool area. Great lens.

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      Thanks for the virtual tour. Nice photographs. Thanks for sharing this.

    • ForestBear LM profile image

      ForestBear LM 6 years ago

      Looks beautiful! Thank you for sharing

    • sheriangell profile image

      sheriangell 6 years ago

      I've never been to Minnesota unless the airport in Minneapolis counts! Now I want to visit your beautiful state. Blessed by a SquidAngel today.

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      Pete Schultz 6 years ago

      @anonymous: It is the high falls on the Vermilion River, which flows out of Lake Vermiolion, so named because the lake is very long, and very east-west oriented, so sunsets are always reflected. Thus, the lake of the sunset glow, or Vermilion to the French fur traders and trappers that showed up.

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      What a great trip guide to Vermilion Falls. Wondering why the name "Vermilon Falls" was chosen?

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      gravityx9 6 years ago

      nice photos! My in-laws live in Rochester, MN. Some day we will have to stay a while and see the sights - didn't know what I was missing! (of course that would be when the family is sick of us staying with them...3 or 4 days - hehe)

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      Very interesting lens, with beautiful photos. I've never been to Minnesota--this makes me want to visit!

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      Pete Schultz 6 years ago

      @GetSillyProduct: I didn't even walk in the race. I'm more likely to exercise indoors in the winter, with a tough, strenous round of double-in/double-out 301 or cricket. During such a work out, you have to remain hydrated, so I usually play in our local Muni.

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      GetSillyProduct 6 years ago

      did you run in the race?

    • LouisaDembul profile image

      LouisaDembul 6 years ago

      It looks like a wonderful place!

    • LoKackl profile image

      LoKackl 6 years ago

      looks lovely! nice to meet you!

    • TheLittleCardShop profile image

      Malu Couttolenc 6 years ago

      It looks like a wonderful place to visit. Hope I can visit someday :)

    • LisaAuch1 profile image

      Lisa Auch 6 years ago from Scotland

      wow your photos are amazing, and I loved my day visit thanks!

    • Salvatore LM profile image

      Salvatore LM 6 years ago

      What a great place to visit, I love waterfalls!

      Salvatore

    • MargoPArrowsmith profile image

      MargoPArrowsmith 6 years ago

      Waterfalls are one of my most favorite things in the world!

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      Pete Schultz 6 years ago

      @KimGiancaterino: take a trip to International falls at "the squidoo site "things to do RL" and visit the "Lost 40" at the squidoo site "Day trip to the lost 40" you'll find more photos and more fun. I've been browsing your lenses, and I'm impressed, fun, informative and easy to read. Keep up the great work.

    • KimGiancaterino profile image

      KimGiancaterino 6 years ago

      Nice photos ... I really like the one of the church against a blue sky. I've never been to Minnesota and have enjoyed this mini tour.

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      Pete Schultz 6 years ago

      @julieannbrady: The best time of year is in the spring, when the leaves are greening. The insect populations have not yet sprouted out, there still plenty of winter run-off to add to the spectacular rush of water, and the temperature are usually pretty moderate. Lets say Memorial Day weekend through to mid-June. However, the trip is worth it anytime of the summer or fall to see the falls. In the winter, it is inaccessible as the roads are not plowed, and any ice above or below the falls is clearly unsafe.

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      julieannbrady 6 years ago

      Gadzooks, I will bet it is cold up there. I just checked your map. You are nearly in Canada. When is the BEST time of year for that day trip?