Day Trip to Vermilion Falls in Minnesota
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.
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.......
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 enlargeClick thumbnail to view full-size
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.
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 enlargeClick thumbnail to view full-size
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.
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,
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 firstname.lastname@example.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.