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Voyageurs is Minnesota’s One and Only National Park

Minnesota may be the land of 10,000 lakes, but Voyageurs is its only national park. Add this unique location to your adventure bucket list if you’ve never been.

What’s so great about it and why should you visit it? It’s one of the most incredible spots for those who enjoy exploring and spending time outdoors.

Today, we’re setting sail to share Voyageurs National Park with you. 

Let’s get started!

You have the chance to see the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) at Voyageurs National Park
You have the chance to see the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) at Voyageurs National Park

About Voyageurs National Park

Voyageurs is one of 400+ units managed by the National Park Service (NPS). It’s over 218,000 acres, with one-third of it being water. While portions are accessible by car, a boat is essential to appreciate it fully.

With so much water, it’s no surprise that aquatic activities are popular. Those who like boating, fishing, and swimming will have no trouble enjoying themselves. Additionally, hiking is a great way to view its natural beauty. You can find everything from short strolls to multi-day treks.

If you prefer walking through thick forests or navigating waterways, Voyageurs National Park is a must-visit. Its remote location makes it easy to disconnect from the rest of the world. 

Where Is Voyageurs National Park?

While it may not be easy to access, a visit can be worthwhile. Voyageurs sits just south of the Canadian border in Northern Minnesota. Its 340 square miles are around 150 miles north of Duluth, Minnesota. 

Like the surrounding area, you’ll find lakes, rivers, and rolling hills. As you explore, it’s easy to see why the state has earned a reputation for its numerous lakes. It can seem like there’s a new body of water everywhere you look.

Many of these waterways played a significant role in the park’s history. Not only are the landscapes and natural features remarkable, but the culture is too. You can even get a history lesson while exploring the grounds.

Be sure to put this place on your travel plans, too: The Split Rock Lighthouse Road Trip Guide.

When Can You See the Northern Lights at Voyageurs?

Seeing the Northern Lights is a dream for many people. If you time your visit to Voyageurs right, it’s possible to catch a glimpse of them. Typically, the best chance to see them is between November and April. However, we’ve heard reports of individuals experiencing them during summer.

No matter when you visit, the conditions must be suitable to see them. The aurora has to be active, and you need clear skies. The darker the skies, the better. So consider timing your trip during a new moon.

Within its boundaries, the Rainy Lake Visitor Center lot and Meadowood Road Day Use Area are some of the best places to view them. Be aware of the forecast and keep your eyes on the sky. You never know when they’ll make an appearance.

Best Places to Explore in Voyageurs National Park

While Voyageurs National Park is full of incredible spots to explore, there are a few must-see attractions. Here are some places you’ll want to experience during your visit.

Kettle Falls

Kettle Falls is one of the most important historical spots in the entire area. It served as a central gathering place during the 1800s. Fur traders, explorers, and indigenous people came together to exchange goods, rest, and stock up on supplies. Like them, you’ll need to take a boat to reach Kettle Falls.

While traffic from the fur trade is long gone, the Kettle Falls Hotel remains. This reconstructed building allows guests to view what life was like for travelers in the 1800s. You’ll find trails nearby and plenty of opportunities to learn about its history.

Anderson Bay Overlook

When you float into Anderson Bay, you’ll quickly notice the white granite cliffs that make this location unique. They rise 80 feet above the water and are one of the most photographed spots. Bring your fishing pole because this is a great spot to catch walleye, northern pike, bass, and panfish.

If you want to do some hiking, you’ll have a couple of options. There’s a 1.75-mile looping trail and a 9.5-mile hike on the Cruiser Lake Trail system. Both provide stunning views of the lake and surrounding landscape. You can get an up-close look at how glaciers plowed through to form the area.

Ellsworth Rock Gardens

While glaciers may have created much of what you see, the Ellsworth Rock Garden isn’t natural. It took Jack Ellsworth over 20 years to develop the massive granite rock garden. He had to ferry his tools and building materials to build a cabin, outhouses, and shed.

Ellsworth transformed the area into an incredible masterpiece. He planted more than 13,000 lilies and 32 types of herbaceous plants. Their bright colors perfectly contrast against the stones.

Once word spread, thousands began showing up to see Ellsworth’s creation. NPS took over the property in 1978, a few years after his death. There’s a clean-up day each year to keep the garden in shape. You’ll need a boat to access the grounds, but you may be able to join a ranger-led boat tour.

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Summer Hike in Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota
Hiking is popular in Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota

Best Places to Stay Near Voyageurs National Park

You’ll want to take your time exploring Voyageurs National Park. Here are a few of the best places to stay to make the most of your experience.

Woodenfrog Campground

Woodenfrog Campground is near the Kabetogama Visitor Center. You’ll find 61 campsites with fire rings, picnic tables, and toilets. These are first-come, first-served spots. 

Guests have easy access to the lake for swimming, boating, and fishing. However, keep in mind this is dry camping, so come prepared.

Rainy Lake Inn and Suites at Tara’s Wharf

The Rainy Lake Inn and Suites at Tara’s Wharf is approximately a 40-minute drive from Voyageurs. This is the place to stay for a cozy bed and breakfast. Four units are available, and each has a private bath and kitchen. With cable TV and internet access, you can rest and relax after a day of exploring. 

Village boutiques, hiking trails, and a delightful ice cream shop are within walking distance. You don’t have to spend every day in the wilderness to get refreshed when you stay here.

Arrowhead Lodge

Arrowhead Lodge can boast of being the only original log cabin on Lake Kabetogama. They offer home-cooked meals and an incredible lake view. If you rent one of their boats, they’ll clean and package whatever you catch for free.

They have a variety of accommodations, including large RV sites. Private cabins and rooms in the main building can house just about everyone. It’s the perfect place to make your home away from home while exploring Voyageurs National Park.

Find more fun with the Minnesota Bucket List Adventure Guide: Explore 100 Offbeat Destinations.

Is a Voyageurs National Park Road Trip Worth It?

As we said, Voyageurs National Park is challenging to get to. For those willing to put in the work, it rewards you with some unforgettable experiences.

You can enjoy epic landscapes during the day and the darkest skies at night. With the chance to experience the Northern Lights, this is a trip worth taking!

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