Your Quick Guide to Voyageurs National Park
One of the most beautiful national parks in the country is Voyageurs National Park in Minnesota. Due to its remote location, it’s not as frequented as other parks, making it an absolute treat for those that love escaping to the great outdoors. Rent an RV in Minneapolis and drive 276 miles to the park entrance.
Tucked away in the northernmost portion of Minnesota, it features four large lakes plus 26 smaller ones all surrounded by forested lands and a few islands scattered about. It’s a wonderful place for hiking, boating, and camping, where you can catch a glimpse of bald eagles in flight or perched high above in the trees.
A Little History…
Voyageurs National Park gets its name thanks to the French word for ‘traveler.’ Back in the 1700s, the French settlers used the waterways in the area for fur trading. The Native American tribe, Ojibwe, was also active in the area in the late 1700s, interacting with many of the European traders.
Despite being a historic place, only the Kettle Falls Hotel in Voyageurs National Park is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Built in 1910, you can check it out through one of the park-operated boat cruises.
Getting There, Admission, and Best Time to Visit
Take the road less traveled and head to Voyageurs National Park. You’ll get there in 3 hours if driving from Duluth, 4 hours from Grand Forks in North Dakota, or 5 hours from Minneapolis-St. Paul. For those driving from Winnipeg, it’s also 4 hours. Since the location of the park isn’t anywhere near major cities, it contributes to why the park is not as frequently visited by enthusiasts. However, it’s well-worth the trip since there is no entrance fee.
However, if you want to reserve a campsite, ride the ferry, rent a boat (including kayaks or a houseboat), or hire a fishing guide, you should count on paying for these services.
Perhaps the best time to visit the park is in the summer from June through August. The temperatures hover in the upper 70s at their highest. However, when the sun sets, you’ll want to pull out your layers since the temperatures can get in the 40s. Rain is also possible, as are mosquitos so pack a rain poncho and plenty of mosquito repellent. You can also camp out in fall and winter. Those that love snow will enjoy it though be prepared that the snowfall can be quite heavy and the temperatures will fall below zero during the night.
What to Do at Voyageurs National Park
Voyageurs National Park has plenty of activities that will help you get closer to nature. This spectacular forested landscape is prime for hiking and camping. With all the lakes, watersports are a wonderful way to enjoy your time here too.
Kayaking and canoeing are great ways to get out on the water, but if you’d prefer a larger vessel, you can hop aboard a boat tour. The Amik tour boat runs from Kabetogama Lake while the Voyageur tour boat can be found on Rainy Lake. You’ll need to book them in advance of your arrival so you can secure a spot.
There’s also the Kettle Falls Cruise which will take you to that historic hotel mentioned above. As it doesn’t run daily, you should see if reservations are available when you plan to visit. It stops for a picnic lunch though you’ll need to bring your own food.
In the mood for a shorter ferry ride? The Grand Tour runs daily from 2pm to 4:30pm and takes you through Little American Island to learn about the gold rush. Knowledgeable rangers take the helm and provide fascinating facts about the area while pointing out the nests of bald eagles.
Fishing guides and private charters are also available, or you can stick to dry land. Depending on the season, you may also be able to reserve a free walking garden tour. In winter, there’s still much to do with ice fishing, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and snowmobiling. The park features 110 miles of trails to discover in the winter and you can even borrow the snowshoes if you don’t have them if you pop into the Rainy Lake Visitor Center.
Hiking can be found on the 7 official hiking trails within the park. The maps are available at any of the visitor centers around the park. Most of them are ideal for a day hike. The Echo Bay Trail is ranked as easy with a 2.5-mile loop and 144 feet elevation. For a bit more of a challenge, take the moderate Blind Ash Bay Trail that’s 2.5 miles out and comes back with a loop at 300 feet elevation. And if you really want to go all out, the most strenuous is the Kab-Ash Trail, a whopping 27.9 miles one way with 1500 feet in elevations. You can aim to tackle part of it or conquer the whole thing! Perhaps the most spectacular feature at the park is the plethora of wildlife. In addition to bald eagles, you may see moose, wolves, and black bears. As with all wild animals, you should be cautious when hiking or camping in the area.
Where to RV at Voyageurs National Park
There are hundreds of campsites within the park, but most of them require boats to access. If you want to rough it outside your RV, you’ll need to make reservations in advance to pitch your tent in the park. Since you need a boat to access many of the campsites, with an RV, you’ll need to stay nearby the park. Just outside the park, there are public campgrounds
at Woodenfrog State Forest Campground in Kabetogama but they don’t offer RV hookups making it less convenient. Instead, you can look for private campgrounds such as Lakeview RV Sites and Cabins. It has full hookups and easy access to the water’s edge. Rainy Lake Group, the Pines of Kabetogama Resort, and Arnold’s Campground and RV Park all offer suitable places to hookup your RV and enjoy Voyageurs National Park from the comforts of your mobile paradise.