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There are some locations where magic happens. Vermillion Falls and Old Mill in Hastings have riverside views, waterfalls, overlooks, and even ruins to explore. It only takes an hour and you won’t regret it.
Part of what attracted the first settlers to Hastings and much of what you see today is its natural harbor that formed along the Mississippi River.
When MN entered the union as the 32nd State, it had over 2,000 residents, steamboats, flour and sawmills, a brewery, brick factories, ferries, where houses, schools, churches, government, and even a university. It’s this history that first attracted me to Hastings MN in the first place.
Vermillion Falls waterfall sits between the Ardent Mills facility and Vermillion Falls Park. The Vermillion River is named for the red clay banks. At one time the river powered three mills. The falls are 35ft tall and cascade into a limestone gorge.
The adjacent mill looks old but it’s actually still in operation. Established in 1853, the Ardent Mills was the FIRST operating mill in Minnesota as well as the first all-roller mill facility in the U.S. It was originally powered by the Vermillion River. The purifier, patent barrel, and graham flour were invented here.
To get to the falls, park in the Vermillion Falls Park west parking lot. Follow the sound of rushing water along the paved path. It will lead you to a covered viewing platform. It a great place to feel the force of the falls, the best viewing area is actually downstream, near the bend in the stone.
From there, follow the paved trail downstream. There are a few spurt trails leading you back to the river. I encourage you to check a few out for a different vantage point of the river. Near the falls themselves, there is a fence lining the trail preventing people from going down to the falls.
Vermillion River Trail Bridge
If you keep taking the paved trail, eventually it will lead to the Vermillion River Trail Bridge. The bridge gives a stunning vantage point of the Vermillion River. Below the river is so clear you can see the bedrocks.
What makes this bridge unique in Hastings is that couples have been putting their locks on the bridge. While it’s a fun trend I have mixed feelings about it. They add weight to the bridge, making it unstable, adventurous and will eventually have to be cut off.
Old Mill Park
Downstream of the waterfall is Old Mill Park in Hastings MN. The mill was a victim of arson in 19854 and all that’s left is the frame of the building. Getting to the ruins is pretty simple.
From the parking lot, take the trail left. It’s about a quarter-mile down the hill at the end of the trail.
The trail ends at the mill. While I’m not sure if it was intended, but there are many established ways to get closer and even down to the river from the pavement. Don’t be afraid to take a few and see where it leads.
When I was there, people were being pretty adventurous and scaling the sides of rocks.
Why not see both?
Vermillion Falls and Old Mill both have their own parking areas. All three of these things are all connected along the same trail. If you are planning on seeing the bridge, just continue on a few more feet and see Old Mill Park as well.
The pathway is part of the Vermillion River Greenway. A 4.5-mile trail connecting the two parks at Levee Park on its way to the Mississippi River.
Don’t forget the water
I’m not going to lie, the walk up from the river from the Mill is all uphill and on a hot day, it can get the best of you. I was happy I brought my Hydro Flask Water bottle with me. For the longest time, I was a Nalgene advocate.
I still am, but on hot days, the Hydro Flask TempSheild technology keeps the cold beverages cold. We had the water bottle filled in the hot car all day long and it was still cold when I needed it.
The bottle has a powered-coat paint finish that makes it easy to grip, no matter how sweaty you might be.
Would I go back to Vermillion Falls and Old Mill Park in Hastings?
Vermillion Falls is one that I’ve been to twice now and it’s a lot of fun. Based on past experiences, I recommend going on a dry day as the rocks get slippery and the trails can get muddy at times. It’s close to the parking lot, making it easy for all fitness levels.
Old Mill Park was my son’s favorite stop as he got to explore. I enjoyed the experience as well. It’s ADA accessible and a short walk, but as I said, it was all uphill on the way back.
Next time, I’m in Hastings, I’ll use my bike to hit up all three instead of driving to both parks. While you are in the area, make sure to check out the other fun things to do in Hastings MN.