Voyageurs: A National Parks Gem in the State of Minnesota

Among the state of Minnesota’s National Parks, Voyageurs is at the top. Located in the heart of the Northwoods in northern Minnesota, this hidden gem spans over 218,000 acres of pure wilderness. 

It features pristine lakes, meandering waterways, lush forests, and abundant wildlife. Named after the French-Canadian fur traders known as voyageurs who once traversed these waters, this region is a unique landscape shaped by glacial activity over thousands of years.

Entrance sign to Voyageurs National Park situated on a rocky ledge near the lakeside
Entrance sign to Voyageurs National Park situated on a rocky ledge near the lakeside.

Voyageurs National Park has endless opportunities for adventure and exploration, making it the place to be if you’re an outdoor enthusiast. The park’s centerpiece is a network of interconnected lakes, including Rainy Lake, Kabetogama Lake, Namakan Lake, and Crane Lake, collectively known as the “Chain of Lakes.” These shimmering waters are ideal for boating, kayaking, and canoeing, allowing you to navigate through the different channels and islands.

Beyond its gorgeous coastal area, the park’s wilderness is made up of other diverse ecosystems. Towering pine and fir forests provide a sanctuary for numerous bird species, including bald eagles, ospreys, and loons. Moose, deer, black bears, and wolves also roam freely in the woodlands.

You’ll enjoy hiking across scenic trails, fishing for walleye or northern pike, camping under starlit skies, or simply finding peace in nature. The park’s rich history is also preserved through various archaeological sites, pictographs, and the remnants of early settlements, providing a glimpse into the past.

How to Get to Voyageurs National Park

boat tour provided by the national park service
A variety of guided boat tours are provided by the NPS in and out of the park. NPS photo

Depending on your starting point and preferences, there are several options for you to reach the park. Here’s a brief overview of the common ways to get there:

  • By Air: The closest major airport to the park is the International Falls Airport (INL) in International Falls, Minnesota. From there, you can rent a car or arrange for transportation to the park, which is approximately a 30-minute drive away.
  • By Car: If you prefer driving, the area is accessible via several highways. The most common route is to take Interstate 35 to Duluth, Minnesota, then head north on Highway 53 to International Falls. From there, follow Highway 11 east until you reach the park. Alternatively, you can take Highway 71 from Bemidji, Minnesota, and head north to the park’s entrance.
  • By Boat: Since Voyageurs is known for its interlinked lakes, arriving by boat is another popular option. If you have your own boat, you can access the park through various public boat ramps located on each lake. Several marinas and boat rental services are also available in the area.
  • Guided Tours: If you favor a more guided experience, tour operators offer excursions and boat tours. These tours provide transportation to and from the park, plus knowledgeable guides who give insights into the park’s history, ecology, and wildlife.

Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit depends on the weather you like and the activities you want to try. Here’s a brief overview of the different seasons and what they offer:

  • Summer (June to August): Summer is the peak season, with warm temperatures and longer daylight hours. It’s an ideal time for boating, canoeing, kayaking, and fishing on the park’s lakes and rivers. The trails are also easily accessible for hiking and wildlife viewing. However, be prepared for potential crowds, especially during weekends and holidays.
  • Fall (September to October): Fall in Voyageurs National Park is a magical time as the forests transform into a vibrant display of autumn colors. The weather is pleasant, with cooler temperatures and fewer visitors than in summer. It’s an excellent time for hiking, photography, and experiencing the park’s beauty before winter sets in.
  • Winter (December to February): This time of year transforms this region into a winter wonderland of frozen landscapes. The lakes freeze over, giving you a chance to do some ice fishing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and even snow camping. Guided snowmobile or ice fishing tours are also available if you’re inexperienced with these activities. 
  • Spring (March to May): Spring brings a sense of new life to the park. As the snow melts, the park’s lakes and rivers start to thaw, marking the start of early-season boating, fishing, and wildlife watching. It’s a quieter time to visit, with milder temperatures and sprouting wildflowers. Keep in mind that the weather can be unpredictable during the transition from winter to spring.

Top Things to Do at Voyageurs NP

voyageurs national parks boating
Boating is a very popular activity inside Voyageurs and serves as an excellent way to explore the park‘s water features.
  • Boating: Grab your boat or rent one and explore the park’s lakes, cruise through scenic channels, navigate around islands, and enjoy the breathtaking beauty of the waterways.
  • Canoeing and Kayaking: Paddle your way through the peaceful waters of Voyageurs. With its vast network of lakes and rivers, the park has limitless chances for canoeing and kayaking. Smaller kayaks and canoes are perfect for exploring tiny hidden coves and channels that are more narrow. 
  • Fishing: Voyageurs National Park is a paradise for fishing enthusiasts. Cast your line into the waters and try your luck at catching walleye, northern pike, smallmouth bass, and other freshwater species. Whether you’re a seasoned angler or a beginner, the park’s lakes contain exceptional fishing experiences.
  • Wildlife Viewing: Keep your eyes peeled for the diverse wildlife that calls Voyageurs home. Spot majestic bald eagles soaring overhead, listen to the serene calls of loons, and watch for moose, deer, and black bears roaming through the forests. 
  • Hiking: From easy strolls to more challenging hikes, Voyageurs offers a range of scenic hiking trails. You’ll cut through towering pine and fir forests, meander along the lakeshore, and pass over rolling hills and rocky outcrops. 
  • Winter Activities: Drilling holes in the frozen lakes for ice fishing is popular during this time of year. You can also explore the park’s snow-covered trails on cross-country skis and snowshoes or take snowmobiling adventures through the wintry landscapes.

Camping Opportunities at Voyageurs National Park

campsite nestled underneath the trees along the park's beautiful shoreline
A lovely campsite nestled underneath the trees along the park’s beautiful shoreline NPS / Kelsey Lynch

Voyageurs National Park has many great campsites to choose from. Here’s a brief description of the camping options available:

Frontcountry Camping

The park has several frontcountry campgrounds accessible by car or boat. They provide basic amenities such as picnic tables, fire rings, and vault toilets. The popular campgrounds include Woodenfrog, Kabetogama Lake, and Rainy Lake. They’re a convenient home base for exploring the park’s lakes and trails. Here is a description for each:

Woodenfrog Campground

  • Number of Campsites: 69
  • Amenities: Picnic tables, fire rings, drinking water, vault toilets, boat ramp, fish cleaning station.
  • Reservation: Reservations are recommended and can be made through Recreation.gov.
  • Accessibility: Accessible by road.
  • Things to Do: Fishing, boating, wildlife viewing, hiking trails nearby.

Kabetogama Lake Campground

  • Number of Campsites: 33 
  • Amenities: Picnic tables, fire rings, drinking water, vault toilets, boat ramp, fish cleaning station.
  • Reservation: Reservations are recommended and can be made through Recreation.gov.
  • Accessibility: Accessible by road.
  • Things to Do: Fishing, boating, wildlife viewing, hiking trails nearby.

Rainy Lake Campground

  • Number of Campsites: 37 
  • Amenities: Picnic tables, fire rings, drinking water, vault toilets, boat ramp, fish cleaning station.
  • Reservation: Reservations are recommended and can be made through Recreation.gov.
  • Accessibility: Accessible by road.
  • Things to Do: Fishing, boating, wildlife viewing, hiking trails nearby.

Ash River Campground:

  • Number of Campsites: 19
  • Amenities: Picnic tables, fire rings, drinking water, vault toilets, boat ramp, fish cleaning station.
  • Reservation: Reservations are recommended and can be made through Recreation.gov.
  • Accessibility: Accessible by road.
  • Things to Do: Fishing, boating, wildlife viewing, hiking trails nearby.

Backcountry Camping

For a more secluded experience, backcountry camping is available within the park. Although there aren’t designated sites, some great options are accessible by boat or canoe and require a free camping permit. You can choose from various scenic locations along the lakeshores or on remote islands. 

Houseboat Camping

A family enjoys a gorgeous day on their houseboat along the waters of Rainy Lake in Voyageurs np
A family enjoys a gorgeous day on their houseboat along the waters of Rainy Lake. NPS / Erik Bjorum

Houseboat camping makes for a truly unique and memorable adventure. Houseboats can be rented from authorized companies within the park, offering a comfortable camping experience on the water.

These houseboats have everything you need for a relaxing stay, including sleeping quarters, kitchens, bathrooms, and outdoor decks. You’ll be free to navigate the park’s waterways at your own pace and create your own floating home-away-from-home.

Reservations are required for houseboat rentals, so planning ahead and securing your spot with an authorized rental company is important. This ensures that your houseboat is ready and waiting for you to set off on your trip through Voyageurs.

There are tons of activities to enjoy while houseboat camping. Explore the winding channels, discover secluded islands, go fishing, take a swim, or just relax on the deck.

Watch for wildlife like bald eagles, loons, and maybe even moose or black bears as you cruise the water. Definitely bring your binoculars.

When evening comes, gaze at the starry night sky undisturbed by city lights. 

Voyageurs National Park Visitors Center

Voyageurs National Park Visitors Center
The Kabetogama Lake Visitor Center contains interactive exhibits, a children’s activity table, a bookstore, a theater for viewing the park film, and a staffed information desk. NPS photo

Voyageurs National Park’s range of visitor facilities, services, and amenities ensure you’ll have a memorable and comfortable experience. The park has visitor centers at Rainy Lake and Ash River, where knowledgeable park rangers provide information, maps, and permits. These visitor centers are valuable resources for learning about the park’s history, geology, and wildlife.

Trails wind through the park and are well-loved by hikers, snowshoers, and cross-country skiers. Trailheads are marked with signage, and maps are available for navigation. Multiple public boat ramps and marinas exist in the park, making launching one easy. 

Picnic areas are perfect for relaxing and enjoying a meal among the beautiful natural surroundings. These areas typically have picnic tables, fire grills, and restrooms. If you love to fish, you will appreciate the fish cleaning stations near the boat ramps and marinas.

Final Thoughts

The Aurora Borealis shimmers overtop of voyageurs park with the stars of the Milkyway hanging above
The Aurora Borealis shimmers overtop of the park with the stars of the Milkyway hanging above.

Voyageurs National Park is a must-visit destination if you’re a fan of the great outdoors. With its interconnected lakes, untouched streams, lush forests, and abundant wildlife, the park offers a fantastic escape into the center of the Northwoods.

Whether you explore the park by boat, canoe, or houseboat, you’ll have the opportunity to navigate through a maze of channels, discover secluded islands, and witness the beauty of Voyageurs from a unique perspective. The park’s fishing is exceptional, attracting anglers in search of walleye, northern pike, and more.

Backcountry camping allows you to choose your own camping location along the lakeshores or on remote islands. The frontcountry campgrounds offer convenient amenities for a more traditional camping experience.

Throughout the park, hiking trails, wildlife viewing areas, and interpretive programs allow you to experience the area’s natural wonders and rich history. 

Whether you visit in the summer to go boating and fishing, witness the vibrant fall colors, enjoy winter ice fishing and snowshoeing, or observe the renewal of spring, Voyageurs National Park offers something for every season and every adventurer!

National Parks List, Map, and Complete Guide (All 63 Parks + Downloadable List & Map)

Want a FREE complete list and recap of all our US National Parks as well as downloadable maps and other great resources? Check out our US National Parks List and Map guide!

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Visit our complete National Parks Guide for FREE Downloadable National Parks List & Map (multiple versions)

FAQs

Why is Voyageurs National Park famous?

The region is famous for its lakes and waterways, providing exceptional boating, fishing, and wildlife viewing experiences.

Is Voyageurs National Park worth visiting?

Yes, this park is definitely worth visiting for its stunning natural beauty, abundant recreational activities, and unique experiences like houseboat camping.

When can you see the northern lights at Voyageurs National Park?

The northern lights can be seen during periods of high solar activity, typically from late fall to early spring.

How many days do you need for Voyageurs National Park?

The number of days you need to fully explore the park depends on your interests and activities. Spend at least 2-3 days to experience the park’s highlights. Longer stays, however, offer more time to fully explore the park and have plenty of time to relax.

How much does it cost to camp at Voyageurs National Park?

The camping fees vary depending on the campsite type and amenities. Frontcountry campsites range from around $20 to $35 per night, while backcountry camping permits are typically $10 per night. Houseboat rentals have separate pricing and should be checked with authorized rental companies.

How do I reserve a campsite in Voyageurs National Park?

You can make a reservation for a campsite through Recreation.gov or contact the park’s visitor centers for more information.

Is there cell service in Voyageurs National Park?

Cell service here is limited and may not be available throughout the entire park. It’s advisable to check with your service provider or the park’s visitor centers for specific coverage areas.

Where can I camp in Voyageurs National Park?

Backcountry camping lets you choose your own camping locations within designated zones. However, frontcountry campsites and houseboat rentals require reservations and are subject to availability.

Can you camp anywhere in Voyageurs National Park?

No, you cannot camp anywhere in the park. Camping is allowed in designated frontcountry campsites, backcountry camping zones, and houseboat rentals within the park.

About Me

My husband and I have three precious daughters and live in the Kansas City, KS area. One of our favorite things to do is travel across the country visiting our extraordinary US National Parks!

Let us know what you think about our content and if you have any questions, suggestions, or have any favorite memories or tips you would like to share. We would love to hear from you!

Happy Travels! Sandy

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