Navigating Lake Vermilion: Travel Tips for First-Time Visitors

Ludlow's Island Resort

May 17, 2024
May 17, 2024
min read

As a first-time visitor to Lake Vermilion, you’re in for a treat. Nothing quite offers such a beautiful escape and respite than heading up north to explore one of the state’s 10 largest lakes. At 40,557 acres, with 290 miles of shoreline and over 300 islands, Lake Vermilion will quickly become one of your new favorite vacation destinations.

Enjoy the Lake Life

Of course, the main feature attraction is the lake itself. Lake Vermilion is a haven for anglers, boaters, paddlers, sunset watchers, and everyone in between.

For those who love a laid-back, sun-soaked vacation, you’ll find plenty of great beaches (including our very own at Ludlow’s!) where you can relax, enjoy a picnic, or watch the sunset.


Getting out on the water is a must. You can bring your own boat or rent one that suits your outing. Head out on a kayak or canoe to explore at a leisurely pace, or enjoy the lake on a speedboat or pontoon with the whole family.

As one of the largest lakes in the state with hundreds of islands and hidden bays, you’ll feel like you’re the only one out on the water, even during the popular summer season.

And if you’re planning to be out on the water all day, you can stop for a bite on eight Shore Lunch Sites created by the Vermilion Lake Association, where boaters can safely pull up to shore and enjoy a shore lunch or picnic. You can find GPS location and directions to each designated site here.


Lake Vermilion is a top fishing destination. You’ll find the following fish:

  • Walleye
  • Crappies
  • Northern Pike
  • Muskie
  • Smallmouth Bass
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Sunfish
  • Perch
  • Bluegills

The spring and fall are best for catching, walleye, crappies, northern pike. July and August are especially great for bass on Lake Vermilion.

Especially for first-time visitors, we recommend heading out on the water with a fishing guide to show you the best fishing hotspots on the lake.

Great for both novice and seasoned anglers, your guide can take you out for a short two-hour trip or even an all-day trip, using the latest tech, equipment, and local lake expertise to ensure you reel one in.

Hiking & Nature Trails

You won’t find yourself short of options when it comes to beautiful nature hikes, bike trails, and wildlife. Lake Vermilion borders the Boundary Waters and is almost entirely surrounded by the Superior National Forest, offering unmatched beauty.

One of our favorite trails is the Vermilion Gorge Trail. This three-mile trail guides you along the Vermilion River, passing beautiful vistas of sheer granite cliffs and rock outcroppings before arriving at a breathtaking overlook of the gorge. The Vermilion Falls Trail is another picturesque trail great for all ages and levels. A 10-minute hike down a well-maintained trail will then treat you to a cascading torrent of water that falls through a 10-foot opening in the granite.

For bikers, Tower Bike Trail is a great choice. The path leads from the town of Tower through Soudan, bordering the Soudan Underground Mine State Park, which is definitely worth a stop in itself. At the park, you can tour an old mine and learn the fascinating history. The Tower Bike Trail then links to McKinley Park where you can enjoy a public beach and picnic area.

If you go from mid-June to mid-August, be sure to keep an eye out for wild berries along the trails and banks of Lake Vermilion. This is peak time for blueberries, raspberries, pin cherries, June berries, strawberries, and blackberries – a great hiking snack!

Local Highlights


Get up close with wildlife (safely!) at the Vince Shute Bear Sanctuary. Over 80 black bears visit the sanctuary each season, and you’ll be able to see them play and interact from the bear-viewing deck and learn more about their behavior and habitat.

For more wildlife, the International Wolf Center in Ely is another must-see. You can observe the center’s five resident wolves in action, explore their “Wolves and Humans” exhibit, or partake in one of their specialty programs like “What’s for Dinner?” where you can witness wolf feeding behavior up close.


Lake Vermilion also boasts a number of beautiful golf courses, including The Wilderness at Fortune Bay which offers an award-winning 18-hole course and beautiful panoramas of Lake Vermilion.

The Legend at Giants Ridge is another beautiful course. Play the par 72 course amongst bent-grass fairways, white sand bunkers, lakes, giant boulders, and towering trees. 

You can also head to Pier 77, a great mini-golf course on the shore of Lake Vermilion. Each hole is a fun Northwoods theme. Plus, after a game, you’ll want to be sure to stop in their ice cream shop for a Root Beer Float or a Flurry.

Grab a Bite

While Cook, MN is a small town of just over 500 people, they know how to make a great meal. You’ll find something to satisfy everyone’s cravings with great local restaurants serving up everything from classic American fare to authentic Mexican dishes.

You’ll also find tasty local dishes like the chicken wild rice wrap or wild rice soup at the Montana Cafe or fresh walleye tacos at The Landing.

Now, you’re ready for your Lake Vermilion adventure! Just make sure you pack accordingly and bring clothing and gear ready for outdoor fun. (Don’t forget the sunscreen and bug spray!)