Voyageurs National Park boasts 218,055 acres of pure wonderland, an incredible hub for year-round outdoor adventure and magic. Part of the National Park Service (NPS), Voyageurs is only accessible by boat or watercraft.
Located near the town of International Falls, this park was named after French-Canadians deep in the fur trade who were the first European settlers to occupy the area. However, it is imperative to call attention to the Native tribes who called this home first.
About Voyageurs National Park
This northern Minnesota park was established in 1975 and is extremely popular with outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers of all kinds. Voyageurs is also one of the best spots in North America to see bald eagles! The park itself is composed of 40% water. It features four large lakes, 26 smaller interior lakes, thick forests, and small dispersed islands to explore.
Located along the Minnesota and Canadian border, this park is a long, five-hour drive from Minneapolis. There are three visitor centers in the park, including the Rainy Lake Visitor Center in International Falls (open year-round), the Kabetogama Visitor Center, and the Ash River Visitor Center (both typically available from May through September). The park's visitor centers are an excellent resource for talking to rangers, purchasing maps and souvenirs, and learning about the specific information in each park region.
Outdoor Activities at the Park
As a remote outdoor center, Voyageurs has an endless array of recreational activities to get involved in. Birding, fishing, stargazing, houseboats, hiking trails, and guided tours serve as the primary forms of entertainment at the park. Guided tours at the park include boat tours, canoeing, kayaking, and trail tours. There are over a hundred miles of trails for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling in the winter months.
Hiking Trails in the Park
This incredible resource offers a comprehensive list of all of the hiking trails available at the park, both accessible by water and car. Easy hikes we love include the Echo Bay, Sullivan Bay, and the Kabetogama Lake Overlook trails. Moderate trails that offer gorgeous glimpses of the park include Blind Ash Bay, Oberholtzer, and Black Bay Beaver Pond trails. More strenuous hikes for those looking to get into the backcountry and challenge themselves include Cruiser Lake, Locater Lake, and Mukooda, separating Sand Point Lake and the glacially carved Mukooda Lake.
The Stars & Skies of Voyageur
With such a northern locale near Canada, Voyageurs presents unmatchable opportunities for fantastic stargazing. You can even see the aurora borealis at certain times of the year! Factors that contribute to the Northern Light's visibility include an active aurora and super dark and clear night skies. The park's favorite stargazing spots include the Beaver Pond Overlook, the Kettle Falls area, and the Voyageurs Forest Overlook.
Camping in Voyageurs National Park
Camping is an option for staying overnight in the park. However, since campsites are only accessible via watercraft, it is crucial to plan ahead of time and ensure you have all the required gear. There are 260 sites between the two campground areas, the Frontcountry and Backcountry.
All sites require a permit. If you are not into camping at the park, you can stay at parks and hotels outside the park's boundaries.
Tour Boat Cruises
If you are short on time or have kiddos that won't last all day on a cruise, take the Grand Tour for a brief taste of the park by the water. A stop by the Little American island sheds light on the remnants of the gold rush days.
At the same time, the park rangers who guide the tours also spot bald eagles and their nests for wildlife viewing of your lifetime. The Amik (from Kabetogama Lake) and Voyageur (from Rainy Lake) tour boats are more attractive options for witnessing the park's beauty.
Reservations fill up, so we suggest making yours in advance online. Last but not least, the Kettle Falls Cruise is an all-day trip that takes you to Kettle Falls Hotel, where you can eat your lunch at the picnic tables (food not included).
Ellsworth Rock Gardens
A must-see if you visit Lake Kabetogama and the Kabetogama Peninsula, the Ellsworth Rock Gardens is a great option if you have day-use access to the park. Dubbed as the "showplace of Lake Kabetogama," the gardens were created by self-taught artist Jack Ellsworth. He made a fusion between the natural environment and his distinctive art.
Important Information for Visiting
Unlike other National Parks, Voyageurs has NO entrance fees. The only things you will have to purchase are ferry rides, campground reservations, renting a houseboat, and things of that nature. As far as pets are concerned, it is probably best to leave them at home. However, they are permitted in select areas like the Frontcountry campsites and the recreational trail near the Rainy Lake visitor center and all visitor center parking lots.
Other Nearby Recreation in the Area
- Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in the Superior National Forest
- Kabetogama State Forest
- Pine Island State Forest
- Isle Royale National Park
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