Voyageurs National Park offers a wealth of recreational activities for everyone to enjoy. Here are a few of the highlights!
Whether your choice of craft is a kayak, canoe, sailboat, tour boat, houseboat, or power boat, with nearly 84,000 acres of water (approximately 40% of the Park’s surface area) Voyageurs National Park is truly a boater’s paradise. The four “big lakes” offer opportunities to explore 655 miles of undeveloped shoreline, including numerous back bays and over 1,000 islands, and plenty of open water. Visitors seeking more solitude can paddle the inland lakes of the Kabetogama Peninsula in one of the park service’s canoes or rowboats. To prevent the spread of invasive species, private craft are not allowed on these lakes. However, park boats are stationed along the lakes and are accessible from Rainy and Kabetogama Lakes by trails and portages. The boating season at Voyageurs typically runs from mid-spring through mid-fall, when the lake ices over until the following spring.
Due to the park’s unique geology, there are submerged rocks that present potential hazards to boaters. Please read the park’s guide to lake navigation before setting out.
Voyageurs National Park is considered to have some of the best sea kayaking and canoeing in the country with opportunities for all skill levels. Although the major lakes are shared with power boats, the area is large enough that paddlers can avoid the traffic and still find plenty of solitude. There are also smaller interior lakes, at which the park service provides canoes or rowboats for a small fee. This prevents the spread of aquatic invasive species into these pristine lakes, and allows visitors to enjoy paddling them without having to undertake a long portage.
Voyageurs National Park provides excellent fishing opportunities throughout the year. The lakes are known to have over 50 different species of fish, including lake sturgeon, walleye, northern pike, black crappie, and smallmouth bass. Many believe these waters have some of the best walleye fishing in the country (if not the world) and some of the best smallmouth bass fishing in Minnesota. A Minnesota fishing license is required (visit the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources for information).
There’s little that is more refreshing than plunging into the crisp, clear waters of Voyageurs National Park, especially on the hottest summer days. The 84,000 acres of water cover in the park offer plenty of swimming opportunities. Due to their smaller size, the inland lakes get a little warmer during the summer than the four big lakes, but a few of the islands on the big lakes do have some great sandy shore beaches.
Voyageurs National Park is a premier site for birding. The Park’s richly varied ecosystem supports some of the greatest diversity of bird life in North America with over 240 species, including bald eagles, loons, cormorants, hummingbirds, woodpeckers, osprey, white pelicans, and a myriad of songbirds. To enjoy bird watching in any season, bring your binoculars and pick up a copy of Birds of Voyageurs National Park, produced by Voyageurs National Park Association and published by the University of Minnesota Press.
The combination of forest, bog, and lake environments at Voyageurs National Park provides a wealth of habitats where a diversity of wildlife flourishes. Listen carefully on a quiet night and you may hear the cry of a loon, the howl of a wolf, or the hoot of an owl. Wander in the forest after a freshly fallen snow and you might discover the tracks of fisher, mink, and possibly even moose and lynx.
Focus your binoculars on the sky to see soaring bald eagles and osprey and on the trees to glimpse colorful and elusive warblers. The park is home to over 240 different species of birds, 42 species of mammals, 10 species of reptiles and amphibians, 53 species of fish, and numerous invertebrates. Voyageurs is one of only two national parks in the continental U.S. that has indigenous populations of wolf.
During your stay at the park it is important to remember that you are the visitor. Please view all wildlife from a distance for safety, and do not disturb them. Using binoculars, a spotting scope, or a telephoto camera lens will help you view animals “close up” without affecting their behavior. And be careful driving on park roads, as you never know who might be around the corner:
Discover the tranquility of the Voyageurs National Park landscape as you meander through rolling hills and rocky cliffs, and around bogs, beaver ponds, swamps, and idyllic lakes. Walking the park offers exceptional solitude, a greater chance for spotting wildlife, and an opportunity to experience the landscape up close.
Backpacking along the 24-mile long Kab-Ash Trail on the mainland or the more remote interior trails of the Kabetogama Peninsula can provide an unforgettable experience. For the day-hiker, Voyageurs has trails both short and long, easy and difficult. The park also periodically offers guided, interpretive hikes. The changing leaves make autumn a particularly enjoyable time to hike the park. Some trails are only accessible by boat (check with area businesses for water taxi service), although many begin a short distance from one of the three visitors centers.
Need a little boost of encouragement to get outside and explore the park on foot? Check out the Hike to Health Trails Passport Program.
Experience expansive vistas while traveling over 110 miles of snowmobile trails maintained by the Park. Voyageurs National Park is one of the only national parks in the lower 48 states that allows snowmobiling. All snowmobile trails travel over lake ice except for the overland safety portages that bypass unsafe ice and the ungroomed Chain of Lakes trail that passes through the heart of the Kabetogama Peninsula. During the winter months (weather permitting) the park also allows visitors to travel by car on a designated ice road. Visit the Voyageurs National Park website at www.nps.gov/voya for the latest trail conditions.
Discover the tranquility of the winter landscape in Voyageurs National Park. Venture across frozen lakes and ponds amid the stillness of snow-covered forests, hills, and rocky cliffs. The park has both groomed and ungroomed trails for all skill levels; most are accessible from either the Ash River or Rainy Lake visitor centers. Cross-country ski rentals and snowshoes for loan are available at the Rainy Lake Visitor Center. It’s a fun activity for the whole family!
Enjoy quiet nights spent under the stars and northern lights at one of over 200 secluded boat-in campsites within the park. 51 of these campsites may be reserved in advance. You may do so by visiting Recreation.gov. Where it says “Search for places and activities” choose Voyageurs National Park, then select “Permits and Wilderness,” and then select the area you are interested in. You may also make a reservation using the National Call Center at 877-444-6777. Just ask for “permits” when you call. Drive-in campsites are available just outside the Park at Woodenfrog State Forest Campground on Kabetogama Lake and at Ash River Campground.
Throughout the year, Voyageurs National Park hosts a number of special events and a variety of ranger and naturalist guided activities. These include guided boat and canoe tours of the park, a Junior Ranger program, interpretive walks and talks, tours of the gold mine on Little American Island, and a chance to paddle back in history aboard a 26-foot North Canoe. Schedules for events and activities are available at the park’s visitor centers or online. For specific kids’ activities, check out Park Fun at Voyageurs!
The distance from city lights and the northern latitude location of Voyageurs National Park provides visitors with excellent stargazing opportunities. Constellations are prominent, the band of the Milky Way is often distinguishable, and sightings of the northern lights are not uncommon.
There are many visitor destinations in the Park, ranging from historic structures with a unique past to extraodinary scenic outlooks. Popular destinations include the Ellsworth Rock Gardens, Kettle Falls Hotel, the I. W. Stevens Pine Cove Resort (PDF), and Casareto Cabin on Crane Lake. You can see these destinations on the park’s day use site map.
To learn more, check out our Frequently Asked Questions page and the National Park Service website. Many upcoming park events and programs are also listed on our event calendar. You can also request a copy of the park newsletter from us or pick one up at a visitor’s center. To request a copy, email firstname.lastname@example.org.