Anything But Basic: The Top 5 Experiences in Voyageurs National Park
One of Minnesota's best-kept secrets is waiting for you to explore it.
A wonderland of water and evergreen trees where canoeists, kayakers, boaters, campers, and fishermen go to recharge and watch the northern lights is the quickest way to describe Voyageurs National Park.
The Park is open year-round and there is no fee to enter! With three visitor centers with maps, videos, exhibits, and other information, you can learn about the geology of the region, wildlife, plants, and its rich history.
This water-lover's paradise is ripe for anyone looking to get away from it all and experience the pure joy of what it feels like to have been one of the first inhabitants in this region, nearly 10,000 years ago! The nomadic people who lived here during the Paleo-Indian Period roamed the waters and land, following the animals they hunted and wild rice seasons. The main lakes you can explore in Voyageurs National Park are:
- Rainy Lake - 60 miles
- Kabetogama Lake - 15 miles
- Namakan Lake - 16 miles
- Sand Point Lake - 8 miles
A Little History
Established near the city of International Falls, Minnesota, near the Canadian border in 1975, the Park is only accessible by watercraft in the summer, and by skis, snowshoes, dogsled, or snow machines in the winter. This means exploring the park takes an adventurer's spirit—keeping drive-by, sightseeing-only tourists at bay.
Voyageurs National Park is named after the first European explorers who came upon these wildlands that were originally home to the Cree, Monsoni, Ojibwe, and Assiniboine tribes who played a key role in the fur trade. Of course, the fur trade was followed by logging, the Rainy Lake gold rush, and finally, its current state today, a designated outdoor recreation area for all to enjoy. There is no entrance fee to get into the park so it’s ready and waiting for you to explore it.
Let’s take a look at the top 5 experiences people have in Voyageurs National Park.
1. Explore the Park like a True Voyageur
The best way to experience Voyageurs National Park is in a canoe or kayak. This mode of transportation was the original vehicle to transport yourself across the vast waters of the area and is still the preferred choice of adventurers today. If you’re paddling, you can either explore for a day or make a reservation at one of the many water-accessible-only campsites in the park. You can make your reservation here.
However, there are also many houseboat rentals you can try if camping and paddling aren’t your style. You can learn more about houseboat rentals here and make sure you get your houseboat permit with the park beforehand.
If you want a fully guided experience, you can do that by booking a Ranger-led boat tour from June through September. Click here to learn more about this experience.
2. See the Northern Lights
One of the most awe-inspiring sights can be seen in Voyageurs National Park amongst the evergreen treetops and reflective waters: the Aurora Borealis, otherwise known as the Northern Lights.
These radiant colors that light up the night sky are rare, however, and are truly a wonder to behold. While they can be seen any time of year if the conditions are right, the long dark nights of winter provide ample opportunities to see this spectacular natural occurrence.
Your best chances of seeing them depend on current weather conditions, the aurora itself, and make sure you book your trip when there’s a new moon—aka no moon in the sky. Learn more about upping your chances of seeing the Northern Lights here.
Photo from National Park Service / Johnson-Bice
3. Go Fishing
Voyageurs National Park is known for its world-class fishing experiences. There are over 50 species of fish in their collective waters, featuring walleye, northern pike, crappies, smallmouth bass, lake sturgeon, and more! You can even fish on every lake within the park except Beast Lake.
Also, make sure to follow the fishing regulations of the park. There are a few lakes that when traveling, you cannot be in possession of filleted fish—due to state regulations of specific bodies of water. Learn more about that here.
If you plan on fishing in Voyageurs National Park, you’re going to need a sturdy tackle box. Luckily for you, Frost River offers a made-in-the-USA option that’s easy to carry and functional for every fishing need. This soft-sided tackle box offers flexibility and adaptability crafted in water-resistant waxed canvas. The design offers options to organize contents. The main compartment is open with a removable waxed canvas divider.
The divider works great to use the tackle box as a fishing gear bag. Reels, small boxes, a camera, can all get an individual spot. Alternatively, the divider can be taken out and replaced with several plastic containers. The Plano Boxes we carry work great.
4. Experience the Gold Portage
The Gold Portage is a half-mile trail that connects Rainy Lake with Kabetogama Lake. This spectacular portage route, historically used by voyageurs and nomadic people alike, offers opportunities to spot the wildlife of the park which include black bear, fox, beavers, moose, and even the elusive grey wolf.
However, getting your gear and your canoe across this trail requires a tried-and-true pack: the Frost River Utility Pack. While simple and rugged in nature, this carry-all portage pack sits low on your shoulders, allowing you to carry literally everything on your back while portaging your canoe!
Utility packs offer some of the best value in the Canoe Pack line. Simple and classically designed, the envelope-style packs are the originals. Single bottom construction and cotton web backstraps work to keep weight and price to a minimum. The Utility Packs aren't as "overbuilt" as many of the heavier canoe packs. Streamlined to the basics... if you will only be using your canoe pack for a week or two a year, you may want to check out the Utility packs. They're tough, trustworthy, reliable and we stand by 'em.
We’re pretty passionate about gear at Frost River--as this is what we do best. We create reliable softgoods using sustainable solar power right here in America, made by real humans and quality materials so our packs can take you wherever you want to go. In fact, our packs are built so toughly that we’re pretty sure they’ll outlast all of your adventures, and if they don’t we offer a lifetime guarantee and even repair services.
Our packs are what motivate us to seek our someday because if there’s one thing that shouldn’t hold you back from finding adventure in the everyday, it’s the pack that gets you to where you’re going.
5. Take a Hike
With so many beautiful sights to see and places to explore, Voyageurs National Park is a great place to get out for a day or overnight trip. There are nine designated hiking trails within the park and they range from ‘easy’ to ‘strenuous’ so whether you are an experienced hiker or a novice, there’s a trail here for you. To see a list of trails, click here and find the one that’s right for your visit.
When exploring the park by trail, you might want to think about taking a daypack with you. The Frost River High Falls Short Day Pack is a perfect go-to on a quick hike. An inside sleeve works great for a water bladder, the hose can poke out the top (thanks to twin zipper pulls) and get clipped to the handy loops on the shoulder straps. Our waxed canvas is tough, quiet, and water-resistant. The pack’s shape fits a back great, you’ll forget you’re wearing it until you want what’s inside. Made at Frost River in Duluth, Minnesota.
The High Falls is available in our traditional Field Tan, high visibility Hunter Orange, and our subtle and distinctive Heritage Black with antiqued hardware. All are made from the same core materials of hard-wearing waxed canvas, premium leather, sturdy cotton web, and solid brass hardware.
We hope you enjoy your adventures in Voyageurs National Park and look forward to seeing your trip photos. Make sure you tag us in your posts so we can spot you in the wild!