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National Parks In Minnesota

  • By Kate Moore
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Minnesota is known as the state with 10,000 lakes. It has drastic seasons with frigid winters, warm summers, and stunning fall colors. It’s also one of the few states where you can see the Northern Lights. They are especially prominent in September and March on a dark, cloudless nights.

If you love paddling, hiking, ice climbing, and all sorts of outdoor recreation, Minnesota is a can’t-miss destination. There is one National Park in Minnesota, two National Monuments, and two National Riverways.

Minnesota National Parks

  • Voyageurs National Park
cabin on rainy lake at voyageurs national park in minnesota
Rainy Lake

Voyageurs National Park

Situated within the northern region Minnesota near the city of Independence Falls, Voyageurs National Park awaits adventurers seeking a multi-faceted experience with nature.

Water comprises a third of this breathtaking 218,000 acre park, and access to Voyageurs is primarily via boats, kayaks, canoes and guided tours.

The park boasts numerous waterways and lakes hailed for world-class fishing. Naturally, water brings boating enthusiasts of all types, and house-boating is popular with vacationers.

On land, the forests are lush and rich with greenery, wildlife and birds. Activities and sites of interest abound throughout Voyageurs National Park, making it a haven for outdoor enthusiasts.

boating on a lake in voyageurs national park in minnesota

Things To Do At Voyageurs National Park

  • Spend some time on a houseboat tour or rent one for a week with the family on one of the larger lakes in the park.
  • Fish in the main lakes for Walleye, Crappie, Large and Smallmouth bass, Trout, Northern Pike, and Bluegill.
  • Explore the abstract sculptures by Jack Ellsworth on the terraced outcrop at Ellsworth Rock Gardens.
  • Hike to Kettle Falls to view the impressive dam waterfall and the red-roofed historic Kettle Falls Hotel.
  • Explore Rainy Lake City to view the saloon and what remains of structures and streets from the gold rush era.
  • Stop by the various sites at Harry Oveson’s Fish Camp.
  • Winter visitors can enjoy snowmobiling, snowshoeing, skiing, ice driving and ice fishing.

Things To Do Nearby Voyageurs

  • Just minutes away from the park is the exciting historical city of Fort Frances in Ontario, Canada. Just 15 miles away is the nature-filled community of Kavetogama MN, and both are ideal for day trips.
  • Play a few rounds in Fort Frances at the Heron Landing Golf Course or the Kitchen Creek Golf Club.
  • Overlook Fort Frances from The Lookout Tower during a summertime trip.
  • Discover the history of early settlers and their relationship with nature, and explore the artifacts and interactive exhibits.
  • Water and nature abound at the 621,000-acre Kebetagoma National Forest which offers camping options.
  • Go camping, hiking or birdwatching at Pine Island State Forest or Smokey Bear State Forest in remote areas of Kebetagoma County.
blind ash bay in voyageurs national park minnesota
Blind Ash Bay

Minnesota National Monuments and Recreation Areas

river in grand portage national park and monument in minnesota

Grand Portage National Monument

Take a path that leads you into the past of the historic fur trade amid the region with a visit to Grand Portage National Monument. This historic park lies along the northernmost shore of Lake Superior near Independence Falls, Minnesota.

The park is a preservation of the Anishinaabeg Ojibwe heritage and their role in what became one of the primary fur trading hubs in North America in the late 1700s.

Today, the depot at Grand Portage still resembles what earlier travelers saw and experienced, as does the Grand Portage Path, where the views are fantastic as hikers pass waterfalls and hear the rush of the rapids of the Pigeon River racing towards Lake Superior.

Things To Do At Grand Portage National Monument

  • Watch the staff exhibitions where they dress in period costumes and interpret life at the fort in the 18th century.
  • Hike the Grand Portage Path that follows the fur trading route of the Anishinaabeg Ojibwe and French-Canadians between depots and wintering grounds.
  • Check out the galleries, bookstore and programs at the Heritage Center at the monument.
  • Visit during the second weekend in August to catch the amazing Rendezvous and Pow Wow.
  • Walk the Mount Rose Trail and explore more than a dozen interpretive posts.
  • Hike the steep Mount Josephine Trail to enjoy panoramic views of the monument and surrounding landscapes.

Things To Do Near Grand Portage National Monument

  • Visit the replica of Fort William Historical Park 45 miles away in Thunder Bay.
  • Take a two hour road trip and visit the impressive cultural and natural history of the indigenous peoples at the Chick-Wauk Museum and Nature Center.
  • Solitude and adventures await visitors to Isle Royale National Park for boaters, scuba divers and hikers just 35 miles away.
pipestone national monument in minnesota

Pipestone National Monument

This site was visited or centuries by numerous North American tribes in search of red pipestone to may effigies and pipes, and many natives still come to the monument to carry on those same traditions.

Pipestone National Monument was brought to national attention with its establishment in 1937, and it provides visitors with the chance to explore active quarry pits, quartzite rock formations and unique tallgrass prairie lands.

Today, the site looks very similar to prehistoric times, although some portions of the monument area have been restored for educational purposes.

Things to do at Pipestone National Monument

  • Picnic at Three Maidens where you can enjoy the day beneath sheltered lodges while soaking in the views.
  • Hike the 3/4 mile Circle Trail along the Topeka Shiner Creek to see some ancient quarries still in use today that sit behind a lovely waterfall.
  • Watch the short film and view the exhibits at the visitor’s center to gain a better understanding of the site’s historical and spiritual significance.
  • Winter visitors can snowshoe around Circle Trail after January when weather permits.

Nearby Attractions

  • Learn about the pipestone quarries, participate in culture camps or workshops and shop for gifts at the Keepers of the Sacred Tradition of Pipemakers just minutes away.
  • Visit Split Rock Creek State Park seven miles away to enjoy boating, swimming or fishing in Split Rock Lake.
  • Just 25 miles south of the park are herds of grazing bison and prairie remnants at Blue Mounds State Park.
  • Jeffers Petroglyphs Historic Site is 80 miles east, but it’s worth the drive to see the native carvings telling their history back to 5000 years.
st croix national riverway in minnesota

Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway

Traversing more than 250 miles through the Upper Midwest is the mighty St. Croix River and its tributary the Namekagon River that comprise the Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway.

The riverway is the water path from the recreation area near Prescott, WI and the Mississippi National River. Once a major thoroughfare for transportation by the Native Americans and early settlers, it has a rich history to discover.

These remote and primarily undeveloped territories are teeming with wildlife, water, and is commonly used today recreationally for boating, fishing, birdwatching and other outdoor pursuits.

Things to Do at Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway

  • Primitive and remote camping opportunities abound along the St. Croix River and Namekagon River, and its easy to move along the shoreline for multi-day trips.
  • Paddle the rivers, which have skill challenges from beginner to expert level.
  • Fish between Indian Head Flowage and Danbury, WI for some of the best smallmouth bass opportunities in the nation.
  • Small boats can cruise along much of the Riverway, while bigger ones can travel south of Hwy. 8 on the St. Croix.
  • Throughout the Riverway, birdwatching is easy with over 240 species throughout the area.

Things To Do Nearby The Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway

  • Drive along the site of a former glacier’s edge on the Ice Age National Scenic Trail, where some of the best examples of remains of animals from 15,000 years ago remain.
  • The North Country National Scenic Trail intersects the Riverway and is well worth a stop to explore the historic sites about America’s history and growth as a nation.
  • About 90 minutes away is the pristine and peaceful Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, which features rocky shorelines and amazing sunrise and sunset views amid an inspiring environment.

Minnesota National Trails

National Parks In The Surrounding Area

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Kate is the lead content creator for and has spent over two years living in a camper van conversion. She has traveled through 48 US states and writes about van life, camping and RV living.

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