Apr 11, 2021

Hastings, MN Has Much to Explore: Vermillion Falls and Old Mill Park

Explore Love and Mystery at Vermillion Park

People of all ages will find something interesting or even feel the positive effects in the way they carry themselves while kicking around in this nature's playground at Vermillion Falls.  It certainly helped to have a pleasant spring day in April where the waterways have thawed and the snow is (hopefully) a chilly winter memory.

It's pretty cool to see frozen waterfalls in the winter, but the rushing sound of a waterfall in the spring really does something to lift your spirit and soul.  On this day I visited Vermillion Falls in Hastings, MN.  It's located just 30 minutes south of St. Paul off of Hwy 61 and 21st St East.

The 35 foot waterfall was used to power the gristmill back in the 19th century industrial era.  The Ardent Mill facility, just across the river, was built in 1853 by Harrison H. Graham and the first operating mill in Minnesota. Graham flour was invented here. Visit this link to the Hastings Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau for more info on its history. 

Vermillion Park has a picnic area, paved walking trails and observation deck overlooking the falls. For those who'd like to explore and be more adventurous, you can walk further down along the fence line past the waterfall overlook and you'll find the rugged trail that maneuvers down the side of the bluffs to the bottom reaching the riverbank. If you're alright with leaning on cliff boulders, gripping tree saplings for balance and confident in your hiking abilities then you'll love this little adventure. 

It was really fun and a bit challenging exploring my way to the bottom, but I felt like a kid again...it reminded me of those summer days in my hometown walking along the creek, which literally was just steps away from my backyard.  That's why I say this is nature's playground! 

You never know what surprises are discovered along the way. Emerald green gardens of moss and heart-shaped pot holes 😲

Also, the whole reason for getting to the bottom is to get another terrific view of the waterfall.  This made the trek down the most gratifying! Oops on the vertical video. I know now to record on the horizontal next time. If viewing from your phone, it might work okay. 😉

But wait...there's MORE!!!

Less than a quarter mile down the paved trail you can cross over the Vermillion Gorge Bridge, which leads to the Old Mill Ruins.  But first, let's talk about the Love Locks you'll see lined along the fence that overlooks a beautiful view of the river.

The Love Locks have names and dates from couples and loved ones fulfilling a trend that was made popular on the Pont des Arts Bridge in Paris.  More countries around the world have continued this fad, which also found its way to the Vermillion Gorge Bridge right here in Hastings, MN.  More on the eternal love lock story can be found in this Rivertown News article. 

Old Mill Park

After crossing over the bridge, you'll walk a little further down the paved trail with, yet, another surprise! It's like stepping back in time and discovering the ruins from history's past.  The Ramsey Old Mill is on the U.S. Register of Historical Places. It was really cool "milling" around this old structure and being cautious with every step.  Poking around the stone towers and its weaving pathways gave a sense of hidden mystery throughout the ruins. I could even appreciate the graffiti that somehow added a nostalgic artistic flair to the crumbling pillars.

Ramsey Mill was built by Alexander Ramsey and Dr. Thomas Foster in 1856-1857.  Old Mill Park is the site of what once was a 4-story gristmill on the banks of the Vermillion River.  The mill burned in 1894 and it's ruins still remain.

I highly recommend Vermillion Falls and Old Mill Park as a destination if you're looking for an easy view of a waterfall, a casual walk on paved trails, a picnic in the park or a more challenging fun place to explore.  Below is the map and link to the location. 

For me, I ended this beautiful day with a little picnic lunch and a square of chocolate while resting on a cliff above the river.  Afterwards, I headed only 7 miles down the road to Alexis Bailly Vineyard for a nice refreshing glass of wine (that's an adventure story for another time).  

Nature, Chocolate and Wine...Oh My!

I hope this adventure has inspired the sweet spot in you!


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