Top 10 Winter Experiences at Voyageurs National Park

Top 10 Winter Experiences at Voyageurs National Park

If Minneapolis-St. Paul is the new ‘Bold North’ Voyageurs National Park is the Wild North. For a truly Minnesota winter experience, embrace the cold and venture to Voyageurs where the crisp air and fresh snow welcomes you. Voyageurs National Park is the ideal place for you to reconnect with yourself, friends and family, and the outdoors, even in colder weather. Here are a handful of the amazing experiences you can have at Voyageurs in the winter months.

Photo by Tom Gable

Cross Country Ski Echo Bay, Black Bay, or Tilson Creek Trails

Immerse yourself in the tranquility of Voyageurs National Park with a day of cross country skiing. The Echo Bay Trail is located three miles from the Kabetogama Visitor Center (closed in winter) off County Road 122. This trail offers a wide path that takes you from aspens to pines as you pass through lowlands and rocky outcrops. Sections of this trail are groomed for skiing in the winter months – perfect for novice skiers – while other parts of the trail are of intermediate difficulty.

The Rainy Lake Visitor Center offers adult and child-sized skis, boots and poles free-of-charge. Call the Rainy Lake Visitor Center at (218) 286-5258 for availability. From the visitor center, you can access the Tilson Creek Ski Trails (just outside of Voyageurs) via a connector trail. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources manages this ten mile network of interconnected ski trails. Several routes are possible, ranging from short loops to longer excursions. Traveling 1 miles north from the visitor center, across frozen Rainy Lake, you can access the Black Bay Ski Trails.

You can also launch your cross country skiing exploration from other gateway communities around the park. Try the Kab-Ash Trail or follow these links for trail information near Crane Lake and Ash River.

Explore the Blind Ash Bay and Oberholtzer Trails by Snowshoe 

If skiing isn’t your thing, you can also explore the trails of Voyageurs National Park on snowshoes! The Blind Ash Bay Trail consists of a 2.5 mile loop of moderate difficulty accessible through the Ash River Visitor Center trailhead. The narrow winding trail will allow you to experience the wonders of the boreal forest and view spectacular scenery.

Rainy Lake Visitor Center has snowshoes in many sizes and shapes available free-of-charge. Call ahead for availability. From there you can access the 1.7-mile Oberholtzer Trail, snowshoeing through forests and wetlands.

There are many other snowshoe trails throughout the park. Find all of your options here! All open trails are available for snowshoeing and cross country skiing during the winter months conditions permitting. It is courteous to not trudge with snowshoes through cross country ski tracks. 

Go Sledding!

Did you know Voyageurs has an official sledding hill? The Sphunge Island Sledding Hill is open and accessible from the Kabetogama Lake Ice Road complete with picnic tables and a fire ring. The sledding hill consists of a small hill for younger children and a larger hill for older children and adults. To access the sledding hill, take the Kabetogama-Ash River Ice Road from the Kabetogama Lake Visitor Center.  The Sphunge Island sledding hill opens annually once there is sufficient snowfall and the ice road gets plowed on Kabetogama Lake.  There’s also a skating rink at the site.              


Embrace the Cold at Icebox Days and other Community Events

Embrace the cold with the communities that surround Voyageurs National Park. Icebox Days, held annually in January, is packed full of fun and zany games for all people, including frozen turkey bowling; the locally invented “smoosh” races; moonlight skiing in Voyageurs National Park; the infamous “Gizzard” runs and much more. Find the full schedule of wacky events here.

The Voyageur National Park gateway communities of Kabetogama, Crane Lake, and Ash River also host a variety events and activities throughout the winter months.

Snowmobile the Chain of Lakes

For those who want to cover more ground when exploring Voyageurs in winter, the park allows snowmobiling on frozen lake surfaces and designated safety portages. There are 110 miles of staked and groomed trails for snowmobiling throughout the park. Be sure to obey all closure signs, speed limits, and familiarize yourself with the park snowmobile map. Areas are closed for your safety and to protect sensitive resources. For up-to-date local area trail conditions visit the following links: International Falls; Ash River/ Kabetogama; Crane Lake and surrounding area; Arrowhead State Trail

Photo by Abdiel Nieves

Dare to Winter Camp 

Spend a night, or two, or three, in the Voyageurs winter wonderland. Camping offers amazing opportunities for night sky and wildlife viewing. Perhaps you’ll even catch the Northern Lights. Campsites are accessible via snowmobile, skiing and snowshoeing. Keep in mind all overnight stays at campsites within the park require a reservation in advance. You can access the reservation page by following this linkIf you need some convincing, check out this compelling argument about why camping in the cold is the way to go!

Fish from Your Ice House in a National Park

Winter quiet, rugged piney shorelines, and outstanding angling make Voyageurs National Park an ice angler’s dream. Place ice houses at least 50-feet from the center of snowmobile trails and the ice road. Check ice conditions before going out. Fishing license and ice house registration is required.                               

Explore Voyageurs by Ice Road 

Discover a new way of getting around the park’s ice highways! The Rainy Lake Ice Road departs from the Rainy Lake Visitor Center boat launch. The Kabetogama Lake Ice Road travels between the boat launches of the Ash River and Kabetogama Lake Visitor Centers. The speed limit is a slow and steady 30 mph. Familiarize yourself with safety on the ice roads. Ice road routes change from year to year depending on ice conditions. Contact the Rainy Lake Visitor Center for the latest ice conditions or check the park’s website before planning a trip to see which ice roads are open for the season.                                    

Warm up at the Rainy Lake Visitor Center 

The Rainy Lake Visitor Center is open year-round. Stop in before you head out to explore the park to chat with park rangers, learn more about the history of Voyageurs National Park, and pick up skis or snowshoes to play in for the day. Come back through after your day of winter activities to warm up and browse the park bookstore! During the winter season, RLVC is open Wednesday – Sunday from 10am to 4:30pm.                                           

Photo by Abdiel Nieves                                                                      

2018 Winter Event Series 

Voyageurs National Park staff have some fun events planned for the coming winter months! From special wildlife speakers, to snowshoe hikes, to a painting workshop, there is sure to be something for everyone to enjoy. Check out the Winter Event Series for the full listing of events and registration information!

Minnesotans are known to be kind and resilient folk, but be sure to be smart when enjoying the outdoors in cold winter conditions. Be sure to layer up, carry food and water, always check conditions before heading out, and bring a friend along for company and safety.

See you out there!

Photo by Tom Gable

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