Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota
Everything the RV Renter Needs to Know
Everything the RV Renter Needs to Know
Named for the French fur traders who once wandered these lands, Voyageurs National Park in northern Minnesota showcases the ruggedness of the American north. Near and encompassing several bodies of water, the park also sits particularly close to the famous Boundary Waters. Inside Voyageurs, the forests are thick and lush. The lakes inside it are bold and expansive. Animals are everywhere. It’s a place to really get reconnected with nature.
You can go as rugged as you want, or not at all. There are plenty of family and kid-friendly activities in the area. It’s quite near the Canadian border, and what’s most incredible: the park charges no fee to enter and enjoy. It’s all yours for the taking.
There are four major lakes inside Voyageur National Park, and they play a big role in almost anything you can do here. These four lakes, Rainy, Kabetogama, Namakan, and Sand Point, are all massive bodies of water that straddle the US/Canada border. They were once major commercial fishing bodies, but that has since died down.
Without commercial fishing, residential fishing has gotten even better in these lakes. They hold walleye, smallmouth bass, muskellunge, Northern pike, and crappie. The other, smaller lakes that you’ll find in the area are also great for fishing, where you can catch largemouth bass, bluegill, and lake trout.
Voyageur National Park is largely undisturbed. And because of the four major lakes acting as a water source, there are hundreds of species of animals that call the area home. And if you’re hiking or boating through it, there’s a good likelihood that you’ll come across a few. Enough so that you’ll need to bear-proof your campsite before you leave and when you go to bed at night.
While you may not spot all of these, Voyageurs is home to animals like timber wolves, black bears, and moose. Whitetail deer are exceptionally common. Beaver, otter, fox, and other small mammals are commonly seen during the winter. If you’re a birder, you may also come across several types of owls or even bald eagle.
Voyageurs National Park is prime hiking. There are 11 trails accessible by car, and they vary in length from a short .2 miles to a very extensive 27-mile trail system. Most of these trails are very easy, including some that are ADA-accessible and paved. The Kab-Ash Trail, however, is very long and strenuous. You can hike sections of it thanks to four separate trailheads, or do a through-hike if you’re feeling zealous.
By boat, there are another six trails divided up by a major lake. While there’s one short trail that’s paved, the remainder of these are considered moderate and strenuous. They range from just over a mile, round-trip, to upwards of 18 miles. As with other activities in the area, it’s important to remember that the weather can change quickly here, so being prepared when going on long hikes is especially important.
With the four massive lakes, boating is immensely popular. Canoes, kayaks, and motorboats alike take trips around these lakes, and they’re the easiest way to get to the various islands that exist inside each body of water. Not bringing your own boats with you? That’s ok. There are plenty of services available where you can rent boats, or hire a fishing charter to take you out, or simply take you out for a cruise.
You’ll love boating here, but you’ll also want to stay aware of the rules and guidelines to make sure you have an absolutely safe experience. Keep flotation devices on the boat—no matter what kind of craft. And consider carrying navigational guides with you. These lakes are quite large, and cell phone service doesn’t isn’t always reliable.
Hey, who says all of your travels have to happen during the summer? Voyageurs National Park is probably one of the best cases for taking a little vacation during the winter months. There are as many things to do and enjoy in the area during the cold months as there are the warm ones (and let’s be honest: Minnesota has plenty of cold months).
Once the snow starts falling in Voyageurs, strap on some snowshoes or cross country skis and start exploring the trails. You can snowmobile on designated trails, or even take your personal vehicle out on an ice road for a unique experience. And if you’re an ice fisher—or want to be—there’s plenty of opportunities to do that in the park too. It’s a veritable wonderland, so consider taking your vacation during the winter.
Pines of Kabetogama is regularly ranked as one of the best RV resorts in Minnesota. They offer several tiers of sites, from standard to premium, differing mostly in space provided and views. You can also get a golf cart as part of your reservation to make getting around easier. All of the sites have full utility hookups, and also include free wifi. You’re literally right on Lake Kabetogama, so you can fish to your heart’s content, or take a kayak or paddleboat (available to resort guests) out on the water.
There are several campgrounds managed by the Minnesota DNR. Woodenfrog Campground is one of them and located inside Kabetogama State Forest. Camping here is primitive, and if you come in the offseason, water will definitely be shut off. During the summer, you’ll have access to drinking water—but that’s it. You’ll be roughing it, but that’s part of the joy of traveling in an RV to a place like Voyageurs National Park.
Another campground managed by the Minnesota DNR, Ash River Campground is also primitive. There are vault toilets, but you’re in an RV, so using them is your discretion. There’s access to hiking all around you, as well as the Ash River public landing for fishing and taking out any boats you have. Ash River has whitewater rapids, so there’s plenty of excitement to be had when you camp here.
Pine Aire Resort is a beautiful blend of several different types of camping. They have cabins for rent for those not traveling in their own RV, campsites with full utility hookups, and a lodge where everyone can come together. There’s a bathhouse with modern restrooms and hot showers—something you’ll appreciate in the cool Minnesota weather. The resort sits on Lake Kabetogama and is an absolute fisher’s haven.
One of the newer RV resorts in the area, and one that’s very close to International Falls, Minnesota, is Rainy Lake RV. These are spacious sites with full utility hookups. There’s a private dock slip that juts into a private bay on Rainy Lake, so you can enjoy fishing and boating in solitude. The campground is located near a customs checkpoint, allowing campers to move back and forth between the two countries for fishing and recreation with ease. The campground is still adding new amenities every year, so it’s only bound to get better.
You won’t find any restaurants or dining opportunities inside Voyageurs National Park, but that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying big meals while you’re in the area. After a long day or hiking or paddling, come back to your RV and cook up something delicious. Whether over an open fire or in your RV’s kitchen, something warm and filling will keep you going and have you ready for another adventure the next day.
Things in northern Minnesota can be pretty few and far between, but that doesn’t mean you won’t find delicious meals all around you. There are several lodges and resorts near Voyageurs, and you’ll find good eats in them.
Everything from home-style cooking to cocktails and they cater to people with big appetites thanks to loads of hiking and recreation. The nearest town is International Falls, which is about a 40-minute trip. There, though, you’ll find many more food options, like family-friendly pizza places and grills, Mexican restaurants, and even some delicious chocolate shops.
Between the many resorts on the four major lakes and the small town of International Falls, you won’t go hungry when you visit Voyageurs National Park. Keep food packed on you for hiking meals, and take advantage of the bear-proof food containers that many of the campgrounds provide. And be ready to take in all the beauty of this amazing national park.