Hiking in the Voyageurs National Park can be a fun and rewarding experience as in other national parks. It is a great way to both see and experience the park.
Water dominates the landscape of Voyageurs National Park; within its boundaries, more than 30 lakes fill glacier-carved rock basins. Four large lakes - Rainy, Kabetogama, Namakan and Sand Point - cover almost 40 percent of the 218,054 acres of Voyageurs, making it one of the few water-dominated parks in the National Park Service system and the only park unit draining northward to Hudson Bay. Hundreds of rocky islands and a myriad of coves and bays are scattered throughout these large lakes. In the midst of all this water lies the Kabetogama Peninsula, a 75,000 acre roadless land mass. The topography of the peninsula and much of the rest of the park is rugged; rolling hills are interspersed between bogs, beaver ponds, swamps and smaller lakes.
The Cruiser Lake Trail (9 miles) and the Locator Lake Trail (2 miles)
These trails offer hiking and camping opportunities on the Kabetogama Peninsula. Both trails provide access to interior lakes, where watercraft are available for visitor use through reservationsand a fee of $10.00 per party per day made at the Ash River, Kabetogama Lake or Rainy Lake Visitor Center.
The Blind Ash Bay Trail (2 miles) provides beautiful vistas of Kabetogama Lake. This trail is accessible from the Ash River Visitor Center. On Rainy Lake, the Oberholtzer Interpretive trail is accessible from the Rainy Lake Visitor Center, and the Little American Island Gold Mine Trail is accessible from the waters of Rainy Lake. Additional information on these trails can be obtained at any of the visitor centers.
|Anderson Bay Overlook||2.0 loop||Leads to the top of the cliffs overlooking Rainy Lake where the breathtaking view seems to stretch forever. Access by water from Anderson Bay, Rainy Lake|
|Beaver Pond Overlook||Located on the Ash River Visitor Center road, it is fully accessible to the first overlook of the beaver pond. The trail then climbs a large granite ridge for a high overlook of the beaver pond|
|Black Bay Beaver Pond||0.66||Walk to a rocky overlook of an active beaver pond. Access by water across from Sha-Sha Resort on Rainy Lake|
|Blind Ash Bay||2.5||Climbs up the rocky ridge from the upper parking lot of the Ash River VC. The trail follows the pine-covered ridge that forms the southern shore of Kabetogama Lake. Great views of undeveloped shoreline|
|Bog Walk||Varies||Access from Highway 53 in Orr, Minnesota. Walk through a bog without getting your feet wet|
|Cruiser Lake||9.5||Hike over ridges, past beaver ponds, and lakes. Clear waters offer lake trout fishing. Trail system starts from Anderson Bay on Rainy Lake or Lost Bay on Kabetogama Lake|
|Echo Bay||2.3||Wanders through aspen forests, rocky pine-covered ridges and past beaver ponds. A trail guide provides a new view on plant life. Access from Northern Lights road in Kabetogama Community|
|Jorgens Lake||1.0||Start from Ek Bay on Lost Lake of Kabetogama Lake into Quarter Line and Jorgens Lake|
|Kabetogama Lake Overlook||Short||Pull-off from Ash River VC Road offers a short, level accessible trail through a pine forest with a spectacular of Kabetogama Lake|
|Kab/Ash Trail||24.0||4 entry points, connecting the Ash River with the Kabetogama Lake Communities|
|Locator Lake||2.0||Goes into the "Chain of Lakes". A trail guide offers insights into the plant communities encounter along this trail that crosses ridges and valleys of the Kabetogama peninsula|
|Oberholtzer||2.0||Follows the edge of a cattail marsh to scenic views of Black Bay. Begins near the Rainy Lake VC and is fully accessible for the first 0.25 mile|
|Vermiliom Gorge||Varies||US Forest Service trail in the Crane Lake area that lead to spectacular geologic features. Trail is road accessible|
|Vermiliom Gorge River||Varies||US Forest Service trail in the Crane Lake area that lead to spectacular geologic features. Trail is road accessible|
Portages offer short hikes into Mukooda, Ek, Little Trout, Net, O'Leary Brown, Peary and Ryan lakes. Longer portages at Gold Portage and Grassy Bay offer another place to stretch your legs.
One of the best ways to experience the moods and faces of Voyageurs National Park is to hike the Cruiser Lake Trail which traverses the backcountry of the Kabetogama Peninsula. First you must get to the one of the two trailheads.
Once you arrive at the Lost Bay trailhead on Kabetogama Lake, you set foot onto the pink granite of the Vermilion batholith. These rocks are the roots of an ancient mountain range which formed about 2.5 billion years ago when the North American Continent was being born. At the top of the outcrop, there is a heavy, steel ring anchored into the rock, once used for securing log booms in the bay. Logging barons used the bowels of the earth to contain their fortunes.
The trailhead is located near a former log landing. The first part of the trail was the pathway over which millions of board feet of timber were moved to the water highway. Most of the park's forest have been logged and burned, leaving a young, developing forest. Horses, sleds and motorized trucks no longer labor over the rocky terrain.
The trail system consists of a series of short loops and a longer, cross-peninsula route designed to offer a number of alternatives to the hiker. Hike the smaller loops in two or three hours. Plan an all day hike to Cruiser Lake and back, or a twenty mile, round trip to Rainy Lake which may last several days. After hiking across the peninsula, rendezvous with a Rainy Lake guide who can return you along the historic, international waterway to International Falls.
Agnes Lake to Rainy Lake
Suppose you choose the Agnes Lake Route to Rainy Lake. What might you find? The trail passes through a southern boreal forest. Where ancient granite and gneiss bedrock is present and the lay of the land is irregular. When schists are present, ridges trend in a northeast to southwest direction and give the landscape a washboard effect.
These ridges contain abundant supplies of blueberries free for the picking, but watch out for that four-legged gentleman dressed up in a black tuxedo. He'll be sharing the berries with you. Overturning rocks and torn up anthills indicate hungry black bears.
Bears visit campsites like the one at Agnes Lake in search of food. You might sit down on the rocky shoreline and cast out your daredevil into the coffee brown waters. Smack! A five pound northern pike is on the line! If the entrails end up on the shore, you'll surely have a visit from a bear.
As you walk on, crossing low spots or beaver flowages can make your hike a muddy affair. Occasionally wooden foot bridges help keep your feet dry and protect park resources.
Beaver dams are marvelous sights and awesome engineering feats! At the first pond north of Agnes Lake you cross a one hundred foot walkway below a beaver dam and hear the water flow through the dam and under your feet. If you approach the area quietly and look down the pond you might observe beaver at work. Slap goes the tail! You were discovered first! Better luck next pond.
What's that hugh pike of sticks? An active beaver lodge, thirty feet around at the base pile with fresh cuttings and mud. Where the trail skirts the pond and goes back into the woods, birch and aspen appear to have been moved into the pond from one hundred feet away. Who said the loggers are gone from these parts?
Soon glimpses of another pond flicker through the trees. A beaver carcass is strewn around the beaver dam site. Droppings filled with fine brown hair and bone chips lie on the outcrop the dam is lodged against. Wolf scats! Apparently a wolf ambushed a beaver repairing its dam. You are sharing the trails with timber wolves!
Cruiser is the highest park lake at 1,246 feet. You'll have to cross open rock outcrops to get there. Along the way, lichens, mosses and blueberries are found trying to clothe the rocks laid naked when glacial ice ruled -- only 10,000 years ago. Ridges lift you up to vistas of distant lakes and ponds. Huge, rounded boulders, some ten by thirty feet, are scattered on exposed ridges. They are glacial remains called erratics, rocks left by the continental ice sheets that scraped, gouged, polished and lowered the landscape.
The views from the trail near Cruiser make you feel like you are on top of mountain ridges. As you approach the lake, the ridges drop sharply to the water's edge. Lake trout may be seen swimming deep in the clear, spring-fed waters which reaches depths of ninety feet. A camping experience here is unique. From Cruiser Lake, the trail follows logging roads to Rainy Lake.
The highest ridges you encounter between Cruiser Lake and Anderson Bay on Rainy Lake provide the best vistas and blueberry picking anywhere in the park. Bear, whitetail deer and moose commonly follow these ridge tops. On the trail south of Brown Lake, you see Rainy Lake for the first time. Canada is visible ten miles away. Stop on one of these ridges for a lunch break. Dangle your legs over a cliff edge and marvel at the beauty of Peary Lake below.
The trail reaches Rainy Lake at Anderson Bay, which is embraced by the highest granitic outcrops on Rainy Lake. Imagine a clear, summer evening sitting at the edge of a seventy foot cliff over the water. The night sky is twinkling like you've never seen it before. The full moon rises over the Canadian horizon. The loon calls echo and the beaver carry branches below you toward their bank lodges. What a Rainy Lake high!
Hiking the Cruiser Lake trail will open Voyageurs to you. Hike it for an hour, a day or a summer.
Voyageurs provides, free of charge, watercraft on the following interior lakes of the Kabetogama Peninsula: Locator, Quill, Ek, Cruiser, Little Shoepack and Shoepack. Boats are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Reservations to use these boats can be made one week in advance at the visitor centers. The cost is $10.00 per party per day. The trails leading to these interior lake boats are accessible only by water; water taxi service can be arranged for visitors without transportation to these trail heads.
Even though waters are shared with powerboats, the lakes of Voyageurs National Park are large enough to provide for some solitude. A range of canoe and kayak trips are available, from day-trips to journeys lasting over a week; the Kabetogama Peninsula can be circumnavigated in approximately one week. Inquire at the visitor centers for recommended routes.
Over 16 miles of groomed cross-country ski trails are accessible from near the Rainy Lake Visitor Center. Join a park naturalist for a candle-light ski followed by a cup of hot cider.
Black Bay Ski Trail - 6.0 miles of groomed cross-country ski trails are accessible from the ice road from Rainy Lake Visitor Center.
The Echo Bay Ski Trail - 7.0 miles of groomed cross-country ski trails. The trailhead is on Northern Lights road in the Kabetogama community.
Tilson Bay Ski Trail - 10.0 miles of groomed cross-country ski trails are accessible from the Rainy Lake Visitor Center upper parking lot.
Snowshoe trails - Marked and Tracked
Blind Ash Bay Trailhead is at Kabetogama Lake Overlook, Ash River Visitor Center Road.
Sullivan Bay Trailhead is on the east side of the Ash River Visitor Center Road .25 miles north of the Beaver Pond Overlook.
Oberholtzer Trail Trailhead is at Rainy Lake Visitor Center.
Fishing and Boating
Boating and fishing are the most common recreational uses of the park. Known as some of the best walleye water in the nation, the lakes have attracted sport fisherman long before the park was established. A Minnesota fishing license is required.
At this time, personal watercrafts such as jet skis are not permitted in the park. A personal watercraft is a small vessel; usually less than 16 feet in length (measured from end to end over the deck excluding sheer), designed for high-speed performance and maneuverability, which uses an inboard motor powering a water jet as its primary source of power. They are designed to be operated by persons sitting, standing or kneeling on the vessel, rather than within the confines of the hull. The term "personal watercraft" was coined by the Personal Watercraft Industry Association, and the watercraft is commonly called: jet ski, wave runner, wave jammer, wetjet, sea-doo, wet bike or surf jet.
A chainsaw can be used to cut ice holes for ice fishing.
Snowmobiling is allowed on frozen lake surfaces (except those areas closed to protect wildlife species), safety portage trails on land, and the Chain of Lakes Scenic Trail.
Be adequately prepared. Travel in groups; tell someone your destination, planned route, and time of return. Take matches, first aid supplies, and food. Avoid slush and unsafe ice. Check on current conditions.
Over 110 miles of snowmobile trails cross the frozen surfaces of the principal lakes. These trails have portages around areas of unstable ice and connect with trails outside the park. In addition to these trails, the minimally-maintained Chain of Lakes Snowmobile Trail twists and turns through the back country of the Kabetogama Peninsula.
Many of the resorts and lodging facilities in the four gateway communities offer watercraft rental, water taxi service and guide services. Three resorts in the Crane Lake community offer concession boat rentals on Mukooda Lake. Houseboat rental is available at Ash River, Crane Lake and International Falls.
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