Just a few miles out of town up the Echo Trail north of Ely, lies the Bass Lake Trail. While most people have heard of it, many do not know that there is another hiking trail located there that is not quite so strenuous. It is a hidden gem! It is a great trail for those who have less time, or are worried about the Bass Lake Trail being too much for them. (It is sixplus miles and takes three hours). The Dry Lake Trail shares the same parking lot, and part of the same trail.
A few weeks ago, my daughter and I hiked the trail to Dry Lake Falls just after our last snowfall of the season. The hike was approximately a mile each way. There is signage that will help you navigate your way. We did not make the full three-mile loop of Dry Lake, but instead just hiked to the falls and back.
The trail—which is located in Superior National Forest—was rocky, and we encountered a lot of inclines and descents. It is steep in spots, and not for those who would have difficulty navigating terrain that has loose rock and is uneven. It was a short hike, but still offered a good workout. The views along the way were amazing as we made our way through the tall pines. I enjoyed the stunning scenic overlooks. You get a nice view of the lake from the trail.
As we hiked, I spotted a lot of wintergreen that lined the trail. Did you know the wintergreen plant was once the source of all wintergreen flavorings until modern science began to produce it synthetically? I have heard that in the summer it is common to spot blueberries also along the trail. If you hike there midsummer you may want to bring a pail along. You will also see signs of wildlife.
When we finally reached our destination, we sat at the top of the rocky bluff and enjoyed the view overlooking Bass Lake and the falls. From the high point you have a good view of Bass Lake and of the falls that spill water from Dry Lake into it. Two otter swam in the pool below us. The water remains open there in the winter in front of the falls. At the time the lake was still mostly frozen.
We watched as the otter swam and played. It was my first time visiting the falls, and I plan to go back this summer. Rumor has it that the best part of the hike is swimming in the natural pool that is at the bottom of the falls. It would make for a good picnic spot also. Next time I plan to take more time and do the whole loop around Dry Lake.
This history of these lakes is interesting. As the story goes, at one time there was a large basin that was like a dam between Bass Lake and Low Lake, which is also nearby. It collapsed in 1925, and Bass Lake dropped over 50 feet in a matter of hours. Dry and Little Dry lakes were formed by this event.
If you decide to make a day trip to Ely to do a little hiking, make sure you have a good pair of shoes or hiking boots. I even wished I had brought along a walking stick. If you visit in the winter, I would suggest ice cleats. You could also use snowshoes if there is enough snow. If you visit in the summer you may want to bring along some bug spray. And stay hydrated!
Once again, I thought about how blessed we are to have these awesome places to visit so close to home. I think sometimes growing up here in the Northland we take them for granted, while others travel many hours just to visit them. The days are warming up and getting longer. If you are looking for a great day trip this summer, this is it! Take a hike! And don’t forget your swimsuit!
The health benefits of hiking include: lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, provides a good cardiovascular workout, helps prevent and control diabetes, burns calories, tones your body, helps with depression, and reduces stress.
DIRECTIONS: The Bass Lake Trail system is six miles north of Ely. Follow Hwy. 169 east of Ely to County Rd. 88. Turn left. Take a right onto the Echo Trail. Go 2.6 miles until you see the Bass Lake parking lot on your right.
Jody Rae lives in Eveleth, MN, but spends most of her time in the woods.