Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Dry Lake day hike: Easier in Ely

Dry Lake sits a few miles north of Ely, just off the Echo Trail. A Superior National Forest trail circles the lake. The Dry Lake Trail shares the same parking lot and some of the same trail as the popular Bass Lake Trail, a six-plus mile circumnavigation of Bass Lake. In comparison, the three-mile Dry Lake Trail packs more scenery per mile and yet has fewer hikers.

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 does always seem 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.

One of the scenic highlight 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.

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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