Anyone who enjoys boating, fishing, and hiking will love Lake Vermilion in northeastern Minnesota. This freshwater lake is a popular destination for watersports and general outdoor pursuits.
#1. Trout Lake Portage
This short but popular hiking trail can be used by kayakers to access the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) from Lake Vermilion. The portage cuts through a beautiful section of the Superior National Forest, running roughly parallel to Pine Creek, and also provides access to a scenic waterfall. The portage connects the northern shore of Lake Vermilion to Portage Bay, a southern section of Trout Lake.
If you are on a kayaking adventure and wish to transport your kayak from Lake Vermilion to Trout Lake, you have the choice of carrying your boat by yourself or using the motorized portage service, which utilizes an all-terrain vehicle for a fee. Hiking from shore to shore should take no more than 15 minutes, unless you pause to enjoy the waterfall and other sights along the route.
The National Geographic Traveler Magazine included the BWCA Wilderness in its list of 50 places around the world you should visit during your lifetime. These million preserved acres are one of the most visited wilderness areas in the US. If you’re traveling from the south, the Lake Vermilion to Trout Lake portage is the quickest yet least used route to the BWCA.
Trout Lake permits onboard motors sized up to 25 hp. However, be aware a permit is required to enter the BWCA Wilderness. BWCAW Permits may be reserved online and then collected from the La Croix Ranger Station in Cook. While exploring this lakeside wilderness, ensure you’re wearing appropriate clothing, including good-quality waterproof shoes.
#2. Explore Lake Vermilion by Boat
Lake Vermilion boasts 1,200 miles of shoreline and 365 islands all waiting to be explored. The southeastern shore has been set aside as a state park. In the park, you might see timber wolves, black bears, and white-tailed deer. Birders will love the variety of loons, hawks, owls, and songbirds found along the shoreline.
If you want to tour around the lake, you can hire a high-quality boat from Ludlow’s Resort on a daily or weekly basis. Choose what kind of boat you hire based on what activities you love to do on the water. You could hire a simple 16-feet fishing boat with a small 20 hp outboard motor for transporting you to the best fishing spots. Alternatively, you could rent a 23-feet triple pontoon vessel for touring in luxury. And thrill-seekers can select a 19-feet speedboat with a powerful 150 hp outboard motor for a water-skiing adventure on Lake Vermilion.
If you’re staying in one of the comfortable lakeside cabins provided by Ludlow’s Resort, you benefit from the use of canoes, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, paddleboats, and hydro bikes for no extra charge. These are perfect for water adventures and exploring the nearby islands and shorelines. And why not film your adventure using a high-quality GoPro alternative action camera?
#3. Soudan Underground Mine Tour
The Soudan Underground Mine on the southern shore of Lake Vermilion was once the richest, deepest, and oldest iron mine in Minnesota. Today it is a US National Historic Landmark and the main feature of the Soudan Underground Mine State Park, Minnesota’s newest state park.
The mine’s historic surface structures are open to the public. During the summer, the mine operates daily tours of the underground workings. You descend 2,341 feet down a shaft, lowered by an 80-year-old electric mine hoist. Once down in the depths, you can tour the historic mine workings.
A laboratory at Soudan Underground Mine was established in the 1980s by scientists from the University of Minnesota. The layers of dense rock protecting the lab meant it was protected from cosmic rays that could skew the results of complex scientific experiments.
#4. Go fishing with an expert local guide
Lake Vermilion is famous for its abundant fish stocks. Its tranquil waters contain black crappie, bluegill, brown bullhead, largemouth bass, muskellunge, northern pike, rock bass, smallmouth bass, sunfish, tullibee, walleye, white sucker, and yellow perch. But if you want to catch any of these, you should talk to a local about the best fishing spots and techniques to use.
Fortunately for you, Lake Vermilion boasts a not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping you enjoy your fishing vacation on Lake Vermilion. The Lake Vermilion Guides League is a voluntary group of local fishing guides who aim to promote angling and connected activities alongside education about the environment and conservation.
Since 2006, local guides have run activities such as Take a Kid Fishing days and Veteran Appreciation days. To learn more about the events they run and everyday activities, check out the Lake Vermilion Guides League website.
#5. Enjoy a delicious ice cream
Moosebirds on Vermilion Drive in Cook is a local institution. Moosebirds General Store and Bait and Tackle shop overlooks the western end of Lake Vermilion. However, most visitors come to enjoy their tasty ice cream.
The ice cream and coffee shop features different flavors of ice cream every week. When in season, their blueberry ice cream is to die for! Enjoy a bowl of your preferred flavor with gummy worms or rainbow sparkles toppings. The shop also serves vanilla and chocolate malts and shakes.