Hike the lovely Dry Lake Trail in Ely

You’ll find Dry Lake a few miles north of Ely, just off the Echo Trail. A Superior National Forest trail circles the lake and the trail shares the same parking lot (and actually some of the same trail) as the popular Bass Lake Trail. The Bass Lake Trail is a six-plus mile circumnavigation of Bass Lake; in comparison, the three-mile Dry Lake Trail packs more scenery per mile and even has the additional bonus of fewer hikers on the trail. Download your Forest Service trail map here.

Dry Lake in Ely, Minnesota

In the last year, the Superior National Forest has significantly improved the signage for the Dry Lake and Bass Lake trails, with accurate new maps at virtually every trail junction. The trail itself is fairly well maintained, with bridges over the creeks. There always seems to be at least one tree down across the trail when I’m there, though.

The hike starts with a short approach to the loop. Watch for signage as the trail turns off a wide snowmobile trail onto a more rugged hiking trail, then climbs to the top of a high bluff. I always hike this trail clockwise, taking the left fork at what is now Junction 2. No particular reason for that, just habit.

The trail soon reaches Little Dry Lake. The most rugged part of the hike is along the north shore of Little Dry Lake, where the glaciers left a big rugged pile of cobblestone. A thick crop of poison ivy grows alongside the trail.

Poison ivy along the Dry Lake Trail.

Poison ivy along the Dry Lake Trail.

One of the scenic highlights is the high rocky bluff above the west shore of Dry Lake. There is no development on Dry Lake, just wild open public land, so stop for a nice long break at the bluff, marked on the maps as a scenic spot.

Another scenic highlight is Dry Falls. This is where the water from Dry Lake empties into Bass Lake.

Dry Falls empty into Bass Lake

From Dry Falls, it’s a dramatic one-mile hike back to the parking area on the Echo Trail, along a pine-studded ridgeline with great views above and small patches of wintergreen below.

If you’re in Ely and looking for an moderate half-day hike, you can’t go wrong with the Dry Lake Trail.


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