We’ve listed all the best things to do in Voyageurs National Park based on our extensive experience filming and photographing the park.
Voyageurs National Park is one of the most unique national parks in the country in that it can only be accessed by boat. But there’s no need to be a seasoned captain to navigate the lakes of the park – check out our guide for the breakdown of how to easily rent a boat and navigate the park. Once aboard your chosen watercraft there is SO much to see and do in Voyageurs National Park.
We’re breaking down the top eight things to do in the park right here. Let’s get started!
About Our Travels to Voyageurs National Park
We visited Voyageurs National Park for the first time back in 2016 and were blown away by it’s jaw-dropping northwoods beauty. The park is truly an unspoiled canoeists paradise with giant pristine lakes, islands, and boreal forests beckoning to be explored.
Bald eagles soar overhead, moose trek through the forests and interior lakes, and native wolves roam the park freely.
We spent several weeks in the park plying its waters and filming its beauty to bring you the best things to do and see in the park. This watery wonderland has so much to offer and we’re excited to share some of it with you here.
If you’re visiting the park be sure to check out our full Voyageurs National Park Guide!
Things to Know Before You Visit Voyageurs
Entrance Fees: There are no entrance fees to Voyageurs National Park.
Cell Service is hit or miss throughout the park. The visitors centers have service and most places with roads do. Rainy Lake has some coverage, but as you go east on the other lakes coverage is rare.
Best Guide Book is this one which we used extensively on our visit.
Map: The best map for Voyageurs is this one which we carried with us everywhere.
Dry Bag: Dry bags are an essential Voyageurs item keeping wallets, phones, etc nice and dry in a very wet park. We used / loved this dry bag.
Getting to Voyageurs National Park is as easy as flying in to Minneapolis and renting a car from there. The park is 4 and a half hours from the MSP airport. You can also fly directly in to International Falls which is serviced by a few of the major domestic carriers. Once there you can rent a car and you’re already practically in the park.
The entire park is accessible only by boat! Rentals are easy and our Voyageurs National Park Guide provides a comprehensive guide to renting boats in the park.
Best Time to Visit Voyageurs National Park is in the Fall. The bustle of summer fishing and house boating is long gone and the park’s shores and trails are ablaze with magnificent autumn reds, yellows, and oranges. Fall is a feast for the eyes at Voyageurs, but be quick as it’s also very short in this coldest area of the continental U.S.
Watch Our Voyageurs Video
We created this short film based on our travels through Voyageurs National Park that happened to win an award or two and now has been seen over a million times around the world. We’re pretty excited about it. Enjoy!
Best Things to Do in Voyageurs National Park
1. See The Northern Lights
On clear nights in Voyageurs you can see the most spectacular light show in the world, the northern lights. They start as a faint glow on the horizon before working their way up the sky, dancing in real time right before your eyes. Here in the remote northwoods there is almost no light pollution whatsoever and the night sky is truly a wonder to behold.
There’s no need to go to Iceland or Norway or even Alaska if it’s the northern lights you seek, you’ll find them here in all of their glory. Fall and winter give you your best chances of seeing the northern lights, but you may be lucky enough any time of year if the conditions are right.
2. Ellsworth Rock Garden
On the quiet shores of Lake Kabetogama lies this incredibly unique garden featuring countless works of art made entirely out of stone. Some of the stones are massive monoliths balanced delicately upon other stones. This fascinating attraction is entirely the work of one man, a humble carpenter from Chicago named Jack Ellsworth, who built these amazing works of art over the course of 20 years starting in the 1940’s.
After a period of falling into disrepair, the National Park Service acquired and restored this beautiful rock garden to its former glory and now you can visit it and look with wonder at the artistic expressions of one determined man. The Ellsworth Rock Garden is accessed via boat and is a short ride across the lake from the Lake Kabetogama Visitor Center.
To learn more check out our Ellsworth Rock Garden post.
3. Grassy Bay Cliffs
Located in the southeastern part of the park on Sand Point Lake, these sheer granite cliffs rise 125 above the lake making for a striking contrast with the surrounding area. The cliffs are particularly beautiful in the fall when they are crowned by brilliant autumn reds and yellows. Learning about how these lakes and rock formations were formed over some 2.5 billion years ago and seeing these natural wonders up close can make your visit all the more enjoyable.
As with most everything in the park, Grassy Bay Cliffs can only be reached by water. Head over to our Voyageurs National Park Guide to learn all about renting boats in the park. To learn more about the geological history of the park visit a park visitors center or check out the park website.
To learn more check out our Grassy Bay Cliffs post.
4. Gold Portage
The Gold Portage area is a terrific place to spot some of the park’s more elusive and iconic wildlife such as moose, bears, foxes, and maybe even wolves. Here you’ll find a half-mile trail that connects Rainy Lake with Kabetogama Lake. Hikers, canoeists, and kayakers can make their way between the lakes using this scenic portage route.
Distance: 0.5 miles
Note: This is a trail and canoe portage route that can only be accessed by boat. There is an area to tie-off your boat and access the trail.
To learn more check out our Gold Portage post.
5. Kettle Falls
Kettle Falls is located in the heart of the park and is, of course, accessible only by water. Here you’ll find a quirky red-roofed historic hotel with an old slanted dance floor and plenty of northwoods charm. The Kettle Falls Hotel has been welcoming visitors from lumbermen to fishermen to tourists since 1913 and is sort of an unofficial symbol of the park.
Stop in as you’re touring the lakes and islands of the park for some refreshments and relaxation or book a stay at the only hotel inside the park. It’ll definitely be an experience you won’t forget!
To learn more check out our Kettle Falls post.
6. Go Fishing!
The waters of Voyageurs National Park and the surrounding areas are teeming with native fish that are great for eating or just for sport. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of catching your own meal and cooking it over an open fire on an island all to yourself.
Kettle Falls is a great spot in the middle of the park to refuel your boat and/or grab a bite to eat if you weren’t so lucky with the fish.
Be sure to follow National Park Service and Minnesota DNR rules governing fishing in the area and fish responsibly.
7. Junction Bay Falls
Located in the southwestern corner of Namakan Lake is Junction Bay. Following the bay inward you’ll find where the Johnson River flows into Namakan Lake in a series of waterfalls known as Junction Bay Falls. In autumn these falls are ablaze with red maples and golden aspens.
8. Kabetogama Sunset
At over 25,000 acres of watery wonderland, Kabetogama Lake features some of the most spectacular waterways in the world. During the Fall this lake is especially stunning with kaleidoscopic autumn foliage on display. Sunsets on World renowned for it’s magic hour, a sunset in Voyageurs National Park’s Kabetogama is a bucket list item for many.
9. Anderson Bay Overlook
Anderson Bay Overlook provides a spectacular view of the park’s famous watery landscape. From here you can see what makes Voyageurs National Park so special. Pristine lakes, islands, and boreal forest stretching into the vast north woods horizon.
Listen for the call of a loon or see if you can spy a passing fisherman wrapping up a day on the lake at sunset.
The overlook is accessed via a day use area which also provides a dock, picnic tables, and barbecues, perfect for cooking up the day’s catch. From there you can hike the 1.75-mile loop trail to the overlook.
You might also want to check out Kabetogama Lake Overlook, which can be accessed by car from the mainland.
Top Ten Things to do in Voyageurs National Park
- See The Northern Lights
- Ellsworth Rock Garden
- Grassy Bay Cliffs
- Gold Portage
- Kettle Falls
- Go Fishing
- Junction Bay Falls
- Kabetogama Lake Sunset
- Anderson Bay Overlook
Map of Things to Do Voyageurs
Planning a trip to Voyageurs National Park? Learn how to do it right with our comprehensive Voyageurs National Park Guide that covers what to see, campgrounds, lodging, dining, seasons & weather, and so much more.
>> Voyageurs National Park Guide <<
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