We spent 6 days and 5 nights at Voyageurs National Park. My sister Natalie and her son, along with a friend and her son, joined us at The Pines of Kabetogama Resort. This resort is located on Kabetogama Lake which is part of the National Park.
Voyageurs NP is located in the very northern part of Minnesota, and part of the park goes into Canada (in particular the water ways). Technically we were in Canada briefly on this trip via the water, simply by going over the invisible divide on the waterways, while boating on the Voyageurs lakes between the Minnesota and Canada border.
If you are familiar with the Boundary Waters, a series of waterways between Canada and Minnesota, Voyageurs is slightly west of this region.
Our time at Voyageurs NP was low key and relaxing. There are very few resorts or RV parks in the National Park, thus very few people. All Individually owned properties were bought out by the National Park years ago. Now just a few resorts are available for vacationers to stay within the park vicinity. Most people who visit the area come to tent camp. There are over 200 campsites in the National Park, all of which are only available by water.
Most of Voyageurs NP is made up of water. The lakes that make up the National Park are vast. In total the are 650 miles of shoreline in the NP, made up of 4 large lakes, the Ash River, and 26 smaller lakes.
We chose the Pines of Kabetogama Resort for our stay. I highly recommend this location if you have an RV and are looking to bring it to this National Park area. It is not a huge resort, so I recommend making reservations 6-12 months in advance. They have water, electric, and sewer hookups with both 30 and 50 amps. They easily accommodated our 41 foot Jayco Fifth Wheel. I recommend the lakeside spots, since the cliff side is a steep drive. There were big campers up there, but just driving our truck up the steep road to the cliff side spots made me nervous. We chose the lakeside so we could easily walk to the lake for swimming and fishing everyday. We rented a golf cart from the resort which made it even easier to to take our gear to and from the docks. Here is the resort website in case you are interested in checking it out for your own stay (I have no affiliation or compensation from them): https://thepineskab.com/
Below are some of the photos from our stay at the resort. They have docks for your boat if you have one. They have a fun water trampoline anchored offshore for the kids to enjoy. We also took advantage of the free canoe and kayak usage available to resort guests. Camping at this resort was enjoyable, relaxing, and fun.
Three Must Do Activities
There are three things that we did during our visit that I highly recommend if you are visiting Voyageurs National Park. These recommendations are hiking, visit the bear sanctuary, and go on a guided boat tour.
Tip #1 Hiking:
There are plenty of great hiking trails in Voyageurs National Park. There are many that require a boat trip to access the trails, but not all. There are some trails that you can get to by car. We did the Echo trail, which I don’t really recommend because it is in a deeply wooded area, with no views, and the horseflies are plentiful. It was a pretty hike, but the trade off with the bugs made it just an okay experience. There are other trails with less bugs and more plentiful views. One trail that we hiked that I recommend was the Oberholtzer Trail located just outside the Rainy Lake visitor’s center. This is located in the International Falls, MN area. While you are there for a hike be sure to check out their cute downtown. Ronning’s is a good store to stop into as well. They have great clothes, souvenirs, and lots of hiking/outdoorsy shoes.
Below are some photos from our hikes. Another trail that was highly recommmended that we didn’t get a chance to take was the Ash trails.
Tip #2 Visit the Bears
I didn’t even know this bear sanctuary existed until we arrived at Voyageurs NP. We stopped into the Kab Outdoors store for our fishing licenses and the owner of the store told us we had to check out the Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary and handed us the brochure. I am thankful for the recommendation as this was a highlight of our trip! We saw dozens upon dozens of bears, all in the wild.
It is hard to explain how it works, but basically you go to their parking lot, they load you onto buses and you then they guide you into a protected boardwalk to view the bears. It’s like we were the ones being caged instead of the bears and it worked quite well! The bears were not fenced in whatsoever. What brought them to this property every evening was the feedings. Yes, they feed the bears. There is good reasoning behind why is began and why it is still happening, and it all began long before I was born. I took a photo of their display that explains the “why and how” of feeding the bears. Something that, in any other natural circumstance is not permitted. It is a great sanctuary that is very well run and creates wonderful education about bears for many visitors every year. I highly recommend visiting this sanctuary to see the bears! Check out my photos from our visit there below.
Tip #3 Take a Guided Boat Tour
As I mentioned previously, Voyagers NP is a series of 4 large lakes, 26 small likes, and the Ash river. It has over 650 miles of shoreline in the National Park. It is very easy to get lost if you go out on the water on your own. I was following on a map as we went on a five hour boat tour and I still got disoriented more than once. I wouldn’t recommend renting a boat to navigate this area on your own. Unless, you are really great at using boat navigation maps and are experienced in identifying and following water markers.
We thoroughly enjoyed our five hour tour. We got a recommendation from Deborah at our campground to use Bill and his Guide Services. Coincidentally, we had met Deborah and her husband Len last year while we were visiting Yellowstone. They were camp hosts at the Yellowstone Holiday RV Park and Resort where we had stayed. Deborah had talked to us at length last year and gave us the recommendation to visit the conservation center outside of Yellowstone West. It was such an amazing experience and wonderful recommendation. The same is true of this second recommendation that she provided for our guided boat tour. It was so great seeing Deborah and Len. We invited them to our campsite to visit over a campfire and drinks one evening after they finished their work at the resort. It was amazing that we came to another resort they were hosting/ working for a summer! What are the odds?
Bill Roden was our guide for our National Park boat tour. He is actually a park ranger for Voyageurs National Park. The National Park offices are closed for the season due to Covid. That made him available to provide us with a boat tour! He has been coming up to spend summers at Voyagers since he was a kid. He was a wealth of information about the park history. I don’t think there could have been anyone with more knowledge about the history or this area than what he provided. I highly recommend his guide services. It was a fun boating adventure for the kids too. We stopped at two of the park highlights- Kettle Falls and the Ellsworth Rock Gardens.
Bill knew where all the bald eagles nests were located and we saw many. We saw eaglets, adult bald eagles, many giant eagle nests (which are called aeries), white pelicans, and loons! Our kids also did some cliff jumping on the lake. They are fearless, as always. Below are photos from our boat tour of Voyageurs National Park. I am also sharing Bill’s business card in case you are looking for a tour or need a water taxi out to a campsite at Voyagers. He is the guy to call!