Hiking & Wildlife

Hiking & Wildlife Near Lake Vermilion

From getting up close to black bears and wolves to breathtaking waterfalls and nature trails, Lake Vermilion is surrounded by incredible attractions you’ll only find in Northern Minnesota. With so many possibilities, we’ve narrowed down some of our favorite attractions that the whole family can enjoy.

Big Aspen Recreation Area

Twenty-one miles of scenic hiking trails made up of old logging roads and abandoned railroad grades. Opportunities for wildlife viewing such as deer, black bear, fox, raccoon, moose, eagles, hawks, and other birds.

Activities: Hiking, Birding, Wildlife Viewing

7598 Pelton Rd, Britt, MN 55710
Drive Time from Ludlow’s: 45 minutes

Arrowhead State Trail

Used for snowmobiling in the winter, this natural-surface trail extends nearly from Tower to International Falls. In the summer, about 70 miles of the trail is dry and suitable for hiking.

Activities: Hiking, Biking

650 Highway 169, Tower, MN 55790
Drive Time from Ludlow’s: 20 minutes

Ludlow’s Hiking Trail

A one-mile hiking trail located on our north shore and dotted with swings overlooking Lake Vermilion.

Activities: Hiking, Wildlife Viewing
Distance from Ludlow’s: 5-minute ride in our water taxi

Vermilion Falls

The short ¼ mile round trip trail to Vermilion Falls is well worth it. Small but powerful, experience these stunning falls with a deluge of water falling through a 10-foot-wide chasm in the granite rock.

The falls are part of the Vermilion River and empty into Crane Lake through the Vermilion Gorge. Take the entire family to the Vermilion Falls observation deck for a memorable afternoon and stop at one of three picnic sites along the trail for lunch or a quick snack. While campfires aren’t allowed, you are permitted to bring a portable charcoal grill or camp stove.

Activities: Hiking, Wildlife Viewing

Crane Lake, MN 55725
Drive Time from Ludlow’s:
60 minutes

Vermilion Gorge

At a leisurely pace, this 1 ½ mile (one-way) trail can be hiked round trip in around 3 hours. The last portion of the trail parallels the Vermilion River Gorge, a rugged landscape of sheer granite cliffs and rock outcrops.

Activities: Hiking, Wildlife Viewing

Crane Lake Township, MN 55725
Drive Time from Ludlow’s:
65 minutes

Kawishiwi Falls

This lesser-known but no less beautiful waterfall is a secret gem in Ely. The trail to the falls is just under a mile. Most of the trail is unpaved with part of the way covered with a narrow boardwalk through the woods.

Kawishiwi Falls is a spectacular 70-foot cascade over a rocky cliff, falling from Garden Lake into Fall Lake. Walk the trail between the two lakes for more exploration and to climb up above the waterfall to view the drop from above.


444 Fernberg Rd, Ely, MN 55731
Drive Time from Ludlow’s: 1 hour

Bear Head Lake State Park

Secluded in the northwoods, this park contains pristine lakes and is home to a variety of wildlife including nesting eagles, fox, wolves, and moose.

Activities: Hiking, Wildlife Viewing

9301 Bear Head State Park Rd, Ely, MN 55731
Drive Time from Ludlow’s:
55 minutes

Mesabi Trail

Currently 75 miles, the Mesabi trail will span 130 asphalt-paved miles through 28 Iron Range communities when complete.


Activities: Biking, hiking, inline or roller skating
Drive Time from Ludlow’s: 50 minutes

Laurentian Divide Recreation Area

The Laurentian Divide winds through Minnesota, directing the state’s water flow, running from a peak in Glacier National Park all the way to the Labrador Sea in Northern Canada. This beautiful area not only offers stunning scenery but plenty of recreational opportunities, including picnic tables and grills. The Laurentian Divide Recreation Area marks the trailhead for Lookout Mountain hike and also serves as the starting point for numerous nature trails and in the winter groomed cross-country ski trails and more than 2,000 miles of snowmobile trails on the Taconite Trail System.

Activities: Birding & wildlife viewing, hiking


Virginia, MN 55792
Drive Time from Ludlow’s: 45 minutes

Soudan Underground Mine State Park

Near Lake Vermilion, you’ll find the Soudan Underground Mine State Park. Choose between three different fascinating tours: Underground Mine Tour, Walking Tour, and Secrets of the Deep. With the Underground tour, you’ll journey 2,341 feet in a cage below the earth and ride the rails into the mine, learning the history.

Choose the Walking tour to search for geologic clues on the same route that miners used in their search for iron ore. The Secrets of the Deep tour dives into the science of the mine, where you’ll learn about the experiments conducted in the former physics lab.

After a tour, be sure to explore the area on your own, looking out for loons, hawks, owls, and other wildlife like timber wolves and white-tailed deer. Pack a picnic, hike, or go for a boat ride. In the winter, the area is great for snowmobiling.

Activities: Birding & wildlife viewing, parks & forests, mining, history


1302 McKinley Park Rd, Soudan, MN 55782
Drive Time from Ludlow’s: 45 minutes

Lake Vermilion State Park

Lake Vermilion State Park is one of Minnesota’s newest state parks, located just south of the Superior National Forest and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Explore trails, view the scenic overlooks and beautiful shoreline, and learn about Minnesota’s mining history.

Activities: Wildlife viewing, hiking

1302 McKinley Park Rd, Soudan, MN 55782
Drive Time from Ludlow’s:
40 minutes

Giants Ridge Hiking

Giants Ridge offers some of the most secluded, self-guided, hiking trails in the area. With just over 10 miles in three trails, you’re sure to find the hiking experience you desire.

Activities: Hiking, birding, wildlife viewing, golf, disc golf


6329 Wynne Creek Dr, Biwabik, MN 55708
Drive Time From Ludlow’s:
70 minutes

Boundary Waters

Quintessential “Up North” beauty, the Boundary Waters is always a favorite for families and friend groups looking for a little adventure. Plan for a week-long trip or even just a day trip out to an island for lunch and back. Whatever your adventure level, the blue waters and expansive natural wilderness of the Boundary Waters will give you an amazing escape from the busy day-to-day.

Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary

This unique haven offers travelers a rare glimpse into the world of wild black bears. An observation deck keeps viewers a safe distance from the bears, and offers a close-up view of bear behavior. Trained naturalists are on hand to inform visitors about these wonderful creatures

You’ll understand why thousands of visitors come to the Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary every year when you see the black bears that inhabit the area. Black bears of all ages, from large males, females with cubs, yearlings, and sub-adults roam the sanctuary. You’ll get to watch the bears play, feed, and interact with each other all from the safety of their viewing deck. Take pictures and ask their knowledgeable staff any questions about the bears and surrounding wildlife.

Activities:  Wildlife Viewing

12541 Nett Lake Rd, Orr, MN 55771
Drive Time from Ludlow’s: 45 minutes

International Wolf Center

At the International Wolf Center in Ely, a stunning and informative series of exhibits chronicles the history of the wolf as it evolved in nature. It also examines the wolf’s role in cultures which either idolize or demonize the animal.

The Center’s own wolf pack includes 2 Arctic wolves that may be viewed by visitors as an interpreter describes their behavior. Special feeding and tracking sessions are available.

Activities: Wildlife viewing

1396 MN-169, Ely, MN 55731
Drive Time from Ludlow’s: 1 hour

North American Bear Center

The mission of the North American Bear Center is to advance the long-term survival of bears worldwide while also working to conserve bear habitat, stop poaching for bear body parts, rehabilitate injured and orphaned bears back to the wild. The Center’s ambassador bears can be viewed from indoors or outdoors, giving visitors an insight into the behavior of black bears that cannot be found anywhere else.

When you walk in, a huge life-sized replica of an extinct short-faced bear skeleton dominates the main exhibit area. Check out all their exhibits, including their Northwoods Ecology Hall that holds a 660-gallon aquarium, terrariums with local reptiles and amphibians, and a 40-foot wildlife exhibit with over 35 mammals and birds in seasonal habitat settings. After, head out to the overlook to see the 2.5 acre bear enclosure which is home to black bears Lucky, Holly, and Tasha.

The Center also features a Cub Room for kids, a theater, interpretive trails, a gift shop, and daily programs and events.


1926 MN-169, Ely, MN 55731
Drive Time from Ludlow’s: 1 hour

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Lake Vermilion

Lake Vermilion

Lake Vermilion is one of the most scenic lakes in the United States.

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