Our next park on the trip was Voyageurs National Park in northern Minnesota. It believe it’s one of the most northern parks in the lower 48, and shamefully, it’s one of the least visited. This park is 40% water and comprised of four main lakes; Rainy, Kabetogama, Namakan, and Sand Point. This park shares some of their waters with Canada, and was a prominent international trade route.
While there is plenty for everyone at this park, most of this park is based on water activities and attractions. In fact, all of the NPS campsites that are available are only accessible by boat! Mike and I visited this park in mid September, which meant that we had the park almost to ourselves. It was after the primary summer season and before the peak leaf peeping season (although it was starting to turn and was beautiful)!
We started near the northern most Visitor Center, Rainy Lake which is only 11 miles from International Falls. This is the only Visitor Center that is open year round, and the only one open when we visited. We grabbed my Junior Ranger booklet and chatted with the ranger about some activities and places to hike and paddle. We then hiked the Recreation Trail and the Oberholtzer Trail, which are both a couple miles and takes you through a variety of landscapes that Voyageurs has to offer. Luca was also allowed on the Rec trail trail so it was extra fun for us all to jump around through the muddy puddles.
After Rainy Park area, we headed down south towards Ash River area. The park has a great list of authorized businesses that can provide services (like fishing guides, boat rentals, and more) as well as local accommodations. Mike and I used this list to find a place that rented out canoes that we were able to use the next day. We used Sunset Resorts which even delivered the boat directly to the park for us and picked it up, which made it a lot easier. We paddled from the Ash River visitor center area for a few hours and then headed back. It was incredibly calm, we saw zero other humans, and got to really enjoy nature as it’s intended.
- Look ahead for ranger led program and boat tours ahead of time, especially if you don’t have a boat or don’t plan on renting one. Summer time is when the most programs and tours are scheduled, but there are offerings all year long.
- If you do plan on renting a boat, definitely make sure you talk to a ranger before you head out so you can get a detailed map and directions. They will make great recommendations based on your experience level.
- Spend a week or so if you can! With 500 little islands, miles of trails, the northern lights, and more, we only saw a teeny tiny fraction of this wonderful park. I can’t wait to come back!