Edited by: Keri Stooksbury
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Voyageurs National Park is located in northern Minnesota and is filled with beauty and wonder. This water-based park has a rich cultural and natural history, incredible wildlife, and 2 distinct ecosystems. It is extremely popular as a destination for boating, fishing, and canoeing, given the numerous lakes. Each year, this park brings in over 200,000 visitors who want to explore, play, and learn about this amazing area of America.
How To Get to Voyageurs National Park
Where Is Voyageurs National Park?
Voyageurs National Park is located in northern Minnesota, just a short distance from Canada. This park stretches over 218,000 acres of rocky ridges, wetlands, streams, lakes, and forests. The closest city to this national park is International Falls, Minnesota.
Nearest Airport to Voyageurs National Park
The closest airport to Voyageurs National Park is Falls International Airport (INL). This airport is approximately 36 miles from the entrance to the park.
This airport is a major connection point to an endless list of destinations around the world. Falls International Airport exclusively services Delta and SkyWest.
Once arriving at Falls International Airport, you can easily select a rental car to help you get through the last leg of your journey. If you want to maximize your travel time, flying can save lots of time. Flying into International Falls is the obvious choice when traveling to Voyageurs National Park.
Driving to Voyageurs National Park
Voyageurs National Park is in a remote location in Minnesota. From the nearest city, International Falls is about 20 minutes from the park. The main road that leads to the park is Highway 53.
Water Taxi and Shuttles to Voyageurs National Park
Voyageurs National Park has a long list of businesses that are happy to help meet your needs when visiting this national park. There are several companies that provide commercial services to Voyageurs National Park. Many guests like using water taxi and shuttle services to easily access different park areas.
Getting Around Voyageurs National Park
There are some drivable areas in Voyageurs National Park, but the best way to explore this park is by boat or on foot. There are some other unique ways to get around this national park, including snowmobiling and skiing, when the weather permits. The National Park Service provides several interactive and printable maps to help you plan your itinerary and time at Voyageurs National Park.
What To See and Do in Voyageurs National Park
There is so much to see and do in Voyageurs National Park. Guided tours, fishing, and hiking are popular activities guests enjoy during their visit. No matter your age or stage in life, you are certain to find an activity or program that is right up your alley.
When visiting Voyageurs National Park, spending a day fishing is one activity that is always a must. There are 30 lakes in the park, making this place a fisherman’s paradise. Over 54 species of fish are in the waterways of Voyageurs National Park. Some species you will likely find include walleye, northern pike, smallmouth bass, and black crappie. Catching one of these beautiful fish will only make your trip to Voyageurs National Park memorable.
If you enjoy hiking, you are in luck when visiting this national park. There are over 50 miles of hiking trails throughout Voyageurs National Park. These trails range in difficulty from easy to strenuous and range from 10 minutes long to multiple days long. Some top hiking trails include:
Kettle Falls Historic District
Over 16 historical sites in Voyageurs National Park have made their way to the prestigious National Register of Historic Places, including the Kettle Falls area. When visiting Voyageurs National Park, it is well worth your time to venture over to this historic area. This is where Native Americans gathered and hunted long ago and where voyageurs paddled through the area to trade their furs and goods.
This area features The Kettle Falls Hotel, the only place for lodging inside this park. It is also the only place for dining in this area. This historic hotel was built in 1910 for dam builders, lumberjacks, trappers, traders, and commercial fishermen to rest up from their hard work. Today, visitors can lodge here and get a glimpse of what life was like back then.
Whether you choose to lodge, dine, or simply visit the Kettle Falls area, you can rest assured that you will learn and discover some of the fantastic features of Voyageurs National Park.
There are several guided programs and tours offered at Voyageurs National Park. Some opportunities are guided boat tours, including a Discovery Cruise, Gold Mine Tour, and a Starwatch Cruise.
These tours range from an hour and a half to over 6 hours long. These guided tours offer an opportunity to learn about the original people of the park and how they used the water to survive and thrive.
One of the most amazing guided tours involves costumed interpreted rangers that offer a living history lesson to visitors as they paddle, sing, and show the ways of the original people of the park. Participating in one of the many guided tours in Voyageurs National Park allows for a one-of-a-kind experience filled with learning about the history and culture of the park.
As an International Dark Sky Park, Voyageurs National Park is an exceptional place to take in the cosmic sights of the night sky. This park has impressive dark skies, which creates the perfect stage for viewing constellations, planets, galaxies, and the biggest showstopper of all: the Northern Lights.
This area of America has practically no light pollution, making this park an incredible place to stargaze. Taking in the cosmic sights in Voyageurs National Park is an experience of a lifetime that will create lasting memories.
The visitor centers in Voyageurs National Park are excellent starting points for your visit. There are 3 visitor centers throughout this national park.
Rainy Lake Visitor Center
Rainy Lake Visitor Center is located on the Black Bay shore. This stopping point offers excellent views of the Kabetogama Peninsula. This visitor center features exhibits and displays, a bookstore, a children’s activity area, a theater for watching the park film, and an information desk with park staff stationed to answer any questions you may have. This visitor center is open year-round, with hours of operation varying by season.
Kabetogama Lake Visitor Center
The Kabetogama Lake Visitor Center is open during the summer season. This visitor center is located on the southwest shore of the lake. It features informational displays, an excellent area for enjoying the views and taking photos, exhibits, and park staff who are happy to chat with you about the park.
Ash River Visitor Center
The Ash River Visitor Center is open from late May to late September. This visitor center is located in the historic Meadwood Lodge. It allows guests the unique opportunity to explore this historic building. The Ash River Visitor Center features a children’s activity area, a bookstore, exhibits, and a small theater.
Winter in Voyageurs National Park is an enchanting time. The park receives several inches of snow, which makes it a perfect place for winter sports and activities. Some of the popular winter activities include ice-fishing, skiing, snowshoeing, sledding, and snowmobiling.
There are guided snowshoe hikes, stargazing events, and other winter activity events. These special winter programs pair winter adventures with opportunities to learn from park rangers and other special guest speakers.
Another great winter activity offered in Voyageurs National Park is the ice roads. These roads are open to cars and trucks under 7,000 pounds. These roads stretch over frozen lakes and allow for an exciting way to experience the lakes of Voyageurs National Park.
While the park may be frigid, visiting and participating in the variety of winter activities available can lead to incredible memories that will last a lifetime. Pack your warm winter gear and head out to Voyageurs National Park for an experience you won’t forget.
Best Times To Visit Voyageurs National Park
Voyageurs National Park is open year-round and has so much to offer at any point of the year. If there is a specific event or activity you would like to see during your visit, there may be a better time than others to plan your visit.
Best Time To Visit Voyageurs National Park in Winter
Winter is an exciting time at Voyageurs National Park. There are many options for winter fun, including snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, and ice fishing. If you are hoping to experience the winter wonderland of Voyageurs National Park, a visit in January is ideal.
January is the coldest, snowiest time in the park, with average low temperatures reaching -8 degrees and high temperatures in the mid-teens. January receives 0.84 inches of snow on average, making it the best time for enjoying winter activities.
Best Time To Visit Voyageurs National Park To Avoid the Crowds
A solitary visit to a national park is an excellent way to explore at your own pace. Visiting Voyageurs National Park in the spring is the best way to experience the park with fewer crowds. The best month to visit to avoid crowds is in April. The weather has started to warm up, there aren’t many guests, and you can see the park come alive with blooming flowers and waking wildlife.
Best Time To Visit Voyageurs National Park for Fall Foliage
Fall is the best overall time to visit Voyageurs National Park. The temperatures are comfortable, the pesky mosquitoes are fewer, and the crowds have thinned out due to school returning to session. The fall brings vibrant bursts of colors and gorgeous views of the landscapes and waters.
The best month to visit to enjoy the fall foliage is in early October. Not only can you see the bright colors of the changing leaves, but this is also an incredible time for canoeing, wildlife watching, and fishing.
Cheapest Time To Visit Voyageurs National Park
Planning a trip to Voyageurs National Park in the winter is an excellent idea for those looking to travel and go easy on their budget. Visiting this park after the winter holidays can save you a lot of money.
January is an excellent time to visit Voyageurs National Park to enjoy the park without overspending. While it is the cheapest time, it is also the coldest time. Visiting Voyageurs National Park during this time of year can also save you money on flight and accommodation rates since this is the off-season.
Annual Events in Voyageurs National Park
Voyageurs National Park hosts a variety of programs on a regular schedule throughout each month. There are also several major events that take place on an annual basis.
Boreal Stargazing Week
Every February brings an exciting event called Boreal Stargazing Week. This event brings visitors from all around the U.S. with a goal of inspiring learning and good stewardship of the boreal skies of Minnesota. This week features hikes in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and other areas of the park. There are abundant opportunities for telescope sessions, guided snowshoe hikes, and evening sky programs.Hot Tip:
Boreal Stargazing Week offers free virtual programming for schools across the nation, which is an exceptional opportunity to explore Voyageurs National Park from the comfort of home.
Paddle Picnic Play on Public Lands Day
Paddle Picnic Play on Public Lands Day takes place each year in September. This event is encouraged for families, and participants can bring a picnic to enjoy in the park. Visitors can join in on many activities, including a floating classroom experience on Rainy Lake and ethnobotanical garden tools. This event has several programs to enjoy, including a solar system program and a Wolves of Voyageurs Program.
Voyageurs Star Party
Each year in August, Voyageurs National Park hosts a 3-day astronomy festival called the Voyageurs Star Party. This event celebrates the incredibly dark skies and the cosmic sights that can be seen in them.
Some of the sights that can be seen include planets, stars, galaxies, and even the northern lights. Voyageurs Star Party is a free event that features guided constellation tours, guest speakers, telescope viewing sessions, arts and crafts, and workshops.
Attending Voyageurs Star Party is an excellent way for visitors of all ages to learn about night skies and the objects that are found in them at Voyageurs National Park.
Where To Stay in Voyageurs National Park
When visiting Voyageurs National Park, there are excellent options for lodging inside the park boundaries and in towns nearby. Take a look at the abundant opportunities for accommodations.
Inside the Park
There are several options for lodging inside Voyageurs National Park. Guests can choose from camping, staying in a houseboat, or lodging in a historic hotel if they choose to lodge inside the park boundaries.
Camping is a fantastic option for lodging while visiting Voyageurs National Park, but since this park is a water-based park, it can be tricky to plan all the logistics. If you can plan in advance, you can experience an opportunity like no other. There are 3 types of camping available in Voyageurs National Park: backcountry, front-country, and primitive camping.
Backcountry camping allows for a rugged experience. There are several backcountry sites throughout the park that are accessible only by boat. Once guests arrive by boat, they must then hike a backcountry trail to their campsites. Reservations for backcountry camping must be made in advance.
There are front-country campsites on Kabetogama, Namakan, Rainy, and Sand Point Lakes. These campsites are also only accessible by boat and require a permit that can be purchased in advance online.
Finally, there are 2 primitive campsites in Voyageurs National Park. These campsites combine hiking and backpacking and do not require a boat. The primitive campsites are located on the mainland in the remote area along the Kab-Ash Trail. These campsites feature storage for food, fire rings, and trash receptacles.
Camping under the stars is a great way to experience Voyageurs National Park. While it may take extra planning and preparedness, it is undoubtedly worth it to have the opportunity to experience the raw beauty of the park.
If you are interested in a unique lodging option while visiting Voyageurs National Park, houseboating in the waters of the park boundaries is an exciting experience that won’t easily be forgotten. Several companies offer houseboat rentals for Voyageurs National Park. Houseboating is a beautiful way to enjoy the park’s remoteness on the gorgeous waters.
Another advantage of setting up a base camp on the water is that it is easier to access different areas of the park, like the craggy shorelines, abundant wildlife, and the history of the park. The park has designated and undesignated areas where houseboats are able to anchor during their stay. Those who stay in a houseboat are required to obtain a permit and pay a nightly fee while visiting.
Lodging in a houseboat at Voyageurs National Park is a wonderful way to enjoy the park. With increased mobility, modern conveniences, and being surrounded by the beauty of nature, this makes an excellent option for staying inside the park boundaries.
Kettle Falls Hotel
Kettle Falls Hotel is the only option for traditional lodging at Voyageurs National Park. This hotel is located in a remote area on the eastern side of the Kabetogama Peninsula. The hotel is only accessible by boat and is 15 miles from the nearest road.
Kettle Falls Hotel has villas and standard hotel rooms for guests to choose from.
The options for a villa include a suite, kitchen, or non-kitchen. These villas are excellent for families, groups, or individuals seeking a secluded stay. The villas have everything you would need while visiting, including a comfortable bed and linens, a coffee maker, air conditioning, and a refrigerator. Pets are welcome in the villas, and there is a 3-night minimum requirement.
There are 12 historic rooms at Kettle Falls Hotel. Each room is beautifully decorated with antique furniture and fixtures. In order to preserve the historic setting of this hotel, the rooms do not have modern-day amenities like televisions, air conditioning, refrigerators, or wifi.
Kettle Falls Hotel is open seasonally from May to September. The facility has an onsite restaurant where you can enjoy a sit-down meal with friends and family for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Towns Near Voyageurs National Park
There are several towns near Voyageurs National Park that make amazing places for a home away from home during your park vacation. These nearby towns range from just a few minutes from the park up to an hour.
International Falls, Minnesota
International Falls is 39 miles from Voyageurs National Park. This town has several popular attractions as well as an excellent selection of restaurants and lodging options. There’s a diverse variety of options for lodging, from budget-friendly motels and luxury hotels to private rentals to charming bed and breakfasts.
When it comes to dining, there are several locally-owned restaurants and a few chain restaurants in this town. Some favorite restaurants include specialty coffee shops and old-fashioned country markets and delis.
The town has so much to offer when it comes to recreation. Many visitors enjoy participating in bass fishing tournaments, riding bikes on the beautiful trails, and touring the nearby gold mines and lakes. Some major points of attractions in International Falls include Smokey Bear Park, history museums, and shopping in the local antique and souvenir shops.
International Falls is a popular place for setting up a home base during a trip to Voyageurs National Park, and it is clear to see why.
Kabetogama is the closest town to Voyageurs National Park and is only 17 miles away. This beautiful town has a multitude of accommodations, restaurants, and activities available for travelers who want to stay near the park.
The town is centered around Kabetogama Lake and has a spectacular array of over 17 resorts that are nestled in the forests near the shoreline. The resorts are all independently owned and operated and take pride in providing supreme hospitality and an authentic cabin experience. Whether you desire a primitive 1-room cabin or a luxury cottage for a larger crowd, you will find precisely what you are looking for in Kabetogama.
For dining, the resorts are some of the only options. These resorts have incredible restaurants and dining rooms serving various specialties and classics.
The opportunities for recreation seem endless in this area, including fishing, boating, snowmobiling, hiking, ice skating, and wildlife watching. This town also has hundreds of miles of open country for those who enjoy hunting.
Rainy Lake, Minnesota
Rainy Lake is 49 miles from Voyageurs National Park. This town offers year-round recreation and makes a great place to set up a home base close to the park. This town has many options for lodging, dining, and outdoor adventure for everyone. Rainy Lake has a beautiful variety of accommodations. There’s something for every traveler, from luxury resorts and chain hotels to private residences to houseboat rentals.
Plenty of restaurants near Rainy Lake range from fine gourmet dining to family-owned diners and grills. Some of the most popular places to eat in Rainy Lake are the restaurants in the lodges which serve a variety of cuisine, including fresh seafood and hearty American classics.
The opportunity for outdoor adventure is one of the biggest draws to Rainy Lake. This town has so much to offer for every season of the year, providing terrific opportunities for world-class fishing, canoeing, kayaking, hiking, golfing, hunting, and snowmobiling. As you can see, there is something that appeals to everyone when it comes to recreation at Rainy Lake.
While Rainy Lake is a bit further from Voyageurs National Park than some of the other towns, it is well worth the extra traveling time. This town has everything covered when it comes to lodging, dining, and recreation.
Where To Eat In and Near Voyageurs National Park
Whether you are in the mood for a quick bite or a gourmet meal, you can find just what your tastebuds crave in and near the park. There is only 1 restaurant in Voyageurs National Park, but there are several others to choose from near the park should hunger strike you during your stay.
Border Bar and Pizza
Border Bar and Pizza is a favorite pizza joint of travelers visiting Voyageurs National Park. This restaurant is located 38 miles from the park in International Falls. Open daily for lunch, dinner, and drinks, Border Bar and Pizza makes an excellent option to refuel after a day of park adventures.
This restaurant serves a fantastic menu of specialty and classic pizzas, juicy burgers, salads, sandwiches, appetizers, and beer. Some of the favorite menu items include Ethel’s Meat Lover’s Pizza, the mushroom and Swiss cheeseburger, and the mozzarella cheese sticks.
Border Bar and Pizza is well-loved by tourists and locals alike. This restaurant also has a regular event schedule that adds to the dining experience. These events include dart competitions, gathering to watch a big game, and holiday parties. For a great time and an exceptional meal, you won’t want to miss stopping by Border Bar and Pizza while visiting Voyageurs National Park.
Chocolate Moose Restaurant Company
Chocolate Moose Restaurant Company is located in International Falls, just 37 miles from Voyageurs National Park. This restaurant is an excellent place to dine before, during, or after your park adventures.
It serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily with a menu that features American classics to specialty dishes. Some of the favorite menu items include pancakes, omelets, and the famous Monte Cristo sandwich.
Kettle Falls Hotel is home to the only dining establishment in Voyageurs National Park. This hotel features a restaurant called the Lumberjack Saloon that offers sit-down meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
The Lumberjack Saloon is known for its sloping floor and is a fun place to enjoy a great meal with friends or family. Not only does this restaurant serve a variety of favorite dishes, but it also has billiards and lovely places for dining outside.
When visiting Voyageurs National Park, it is well worth your time to take the journey to Kettle Falls Hotel and enjoy a delicious meal and an exciting time at Lumberjack Saloon.
Voyageurs National Park Facts
1. A Newly Established Park
In April 1891, the first proposal to make this area a national park was created. President Richard Nixon authorized this area to become a national park in 1971, but it wasn’t officially established as a national park until April 8, 1975. At that time, it was Minnesota’s only national park and America’s 36th national park.
2. What’s in a Name?
Voyageurs National Park was named after the late 18th- and early 19th-century French Canadian voyageurs who paddled canoes made of birchbark to fur trading companies. These voyageurs were well known for their stamina and ability to paddle for extended periods, sometimes up to 16 hours a day. The word voyageur means traveler in French.
3. Oldest Exposed Rock
Some of Earth’s oldest exposed rock formations are found in Voyageurs National Park. These exposed formations are believed to be 2.8 billion years old. Igneous and metamorphic rocks are both exposed in this park. Igneous rocks like granite have been discovered on the east end at Namakan Lake and Sand Point Lake. Schists and gneisses, which are metamorphic rocks, have been found in the west and central portions of the park, including Rainy Lake and Kabetogama Lake.
4. Clues From the Past
Evidence of human life in Voyageurs National Park dates back over 10,000 years ago. Scientists have found clues showing that there were Native Americans, fur traders, and homesteaders who made this area their home. This park also has signs of logging, mining, and commercial fishing.
5. International Dark Sky Park
Voyageurs National Park was certified as an International Dark Sky because of its incredible dark skies and the park’s commitment to preserving the darkness and educating others about this resource. Because of the phenomenal dark skies of this park, there are many cosmic sights that can be enjoyed from this park.
The park also hosts dozens of stargazing and astronomy-related events for guests to enjoy throughout the year. Meteors, the northern lights, and constellations can all be sighted from Voyageurs National Park.
6. A Massive Park
Voyageurs National Park covers an area of over 218,000 acres. Since this is a water-based park, over a third of that property is water. The rest of that acreage includes cliffs, forests, rock ridges, wetlands, and over 500 islands.
7. Land of Many Lakes
Voyageurs National Park has 4 large and 26 small lakes within its boundaries. These lakes make exceptional places for boating, fishing, and houseboating.
8. Original Inhabitants
The Paleo-Indians were the first group to live in the Voyageurs National Park area. This group hunted and gathered in this area. One of the most significant resources to these native people was water. Fish was a primary food source. Today, visitors can learn about the original inhabitants of Voyageurs National Park and see the archeological sites that have been preserved in order to tell the story of their culture and history.
9. National Register of Historic Places
Voyageurs National Park has 16 sites within its boundaries that are featured on the National Register of Historic Places. This prestigious honor means that the park is committed to managing and preserving these areas and properties to continue representing the cultural resources. Some of these historic properties include the Kettle Halls Historic District, Ellsworth Rock Gardens, the Gold Mine Historic District, the Harry Oveson Fish Camp, and Levi Cabin.
10. An Abundance of Animals
Animals are everywhere in Voyageurs National Park. With over 50 mammal species, 100 types of birds, 54 fish species, 10 kinds of amphibians, and several reptile species, you can expect to see some incredible wildlife while visiting the park. Some of the animals found in Voyageurs National Park include moose, wolves, black bears, bald eagles, and beavers.
Lynx, which are a threatened species in Minnesota, can be spotted prowling around the park. There are even several invasive species that are trying to make their home in the park, like the spiny water flea, rusty crayfish, and zebra mussels.
Voyageurs National Park is an incredible place for a national park vacation. With its amazing history and incredible sites and activities, there’s something for every visitor to enjoy when exploring this national park. Book your trip today to see what brings in so many visitors each year and discover the exceptional beauty and wonder of Voyageurs National Park.
Featured Image Credit: Tim Umphreys via Unsplash
Frequently Asked Questions
Voyageurs National Park is a free-entry park. Visitors will not be charged an entrance fee but may encounter fees for activities such as camping and renting equipment.
A 3-day trip to Voyageurs National Park is recommended for visitors who want to experience the most they can during their trip. This length of time allows for exploring the park, participating in a ranger-led activity, and taking in the beautiful sights throughout the park.
Voyageurs National Park has 4 unmistakable seasons with varying temperatures and weather conditions. The lowest temperatures are typically in January, with an average of -8 degrees. The highest temperatures generally are in July, when they reach 79 degrees on average. Each season brings unique opportunities for recreation.
Pets are permitted at Voyageurs National Park as long as pet owners follow the park’s regulations. Pets are allowed at the front-country campsites, on the 1.7-mile Recreational Trail, and in the visitor center areas and parking lots. Pet owners are expected to supervise their pets at all times, keep them on a 6-foot leash, and clean up after all pet waste.
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