Voyageurs National Park is well-known for its stunning lakes, vibrant forests, stargazing opportunities, and a myriad of outdoor activities. In turn, taking a trip to the park is a great idea, regardless of the season.
However, while the park is open all year round, it’s still good to do a bit of research and see what the best time to visit Voyageurs National Park is. Apart from that, we’ll also share other tips and tricks to ensure you make the most out of your adventure!
Why You Should Visit Voyageurs National Park
There are many reasons why the Voyageurs National Park should be on your travel list.
Below we share the most inspiring ones:
- The park is a real beauty throughout the whole year. In winter, it dresses in blankets of snow; in spring, it awakens and undergoes a deep poetic transformation; in summer, it caresses the lakes and winks at the sun; finally, in fall, it borrows never-before-seen colors and wears them proudly.
- There are 80,000 acres of water, a lot of miles of underdeveloped shoreline, and many islands.
- Just when you think everything revolves around water, the park surprises you. Namely, one of the most popular places in the park is the “Showplace of Lake Kabetogama,” or the Ellsworth Rock Gardens, featuring sixty-two terraced flower beds, around two hundred rock sculptures, and distinct flower varieties.
- As the park appears like a labyrinth from above, accessing it never gets boring. With its three access roads, including Kabetogama Lake, Ash River, and Rainy Lake, getting into the park can be a fun experience.
- Starry views. These can’t be described, but we do hope you’ll get to experience them!
- The park is abundant with wildlife sounds. From the American Robins’ mumbled clicks or a woodpecker’s rattles and chattels to a wolf’s howl — the park is never quiet but truly enchanting!
Now that you understand that going to the Voyageurs National Park is worth your while, let’s see when you should do it.
Overall Best Time to Visit Voyageurs National Park
If you wish to see the best Voyageurs National Park offers, consider visiting in the fall. It’s hands down the prime season to visit the park.
The summer hustle and bustle is long gone, kids are back to school, mosquitos are more or less dormant, and the park’s trails flash their vibrant orange, yellow, and red colors.
The lakes are still, perfect for sunrise lovers or sunset chasers who wish to see the sun’s reflection on the calm waters. If you’re lucky enough, you’ll catch the Northern Lights flirting with the sleepy waters.
The fall season is also the best time to hit the trails, cast your fishing line, engage in wildlife watching, or paddle in a canoe, to name a few.
Keep in mind that fall is a short season in this US area, so the crisp temperatures turn cold in the wink of an eye. This means that in late September or early October, paddlers should be mindful of the cold water temperature.
In September, on average, the maximum temperature is 66°F and the minimum 48°F. There are approximately 18 dry days and eight hours of sunshine per day.
October sees temperatures fluctuating between 49°F and 37°F. Note that park buoys are taken off in early October, which makes lake navigation a daunting task.
In November, the temperatures range between 34°F and 24°F. Apart from some rain, snow is also common.
Cheapest Time to Visit Voyageurs National Park
It’s somewhat difficult to determine the cheapest time to visit Voyageurs National Park, as there’s no fee to enter it. That said, we have an idea or two to help you out.
For starters, it’s good to consider the most affordable time to visit Minnesota in general. Budget-minded folks should note that going to Minnesota is the cheapest during the travel slump after all the winter holidays.
The December–February period provides travelers with affordable airfare prices and attractive lodging options.
Of course, whether you can benefit from this or not ultimately depends on how far your country of origin is. Either way, the post-holiday period seems to be great for price-aware travelers.
There’s a catch, though, and we’re going to be straightforward with you: winters here can be mind-bogglingly cold. Winter not only arrives early in Voyageurs National Park, but it also stays late.
In December, expect temperatures that fluctuate between 19°F and 8°F. Wind chills may unfortunately make these temperatures feel way colder at times. There are around three rainy days in the month, but approximately 20 of them are filled with snow.
January travelers should prepare for temperatures ranging between -1°F and 14°F. Being hands down the coldest month in the park, January sees two hours of sunshine a day on average. Use them wisely.
February sees a maximum temperature of 18°F and a minimum of 3°F. Going in winter may be the cheapest time to visit the Voyageurs National Park, but if you live in warmer climates, purchasing winter gear may be somewhat expensive!
Those brave enough to face the harsh Minnesotan winter wonderland can enjoy snowmobiling, snowshoeing, ice-fishing on some of the frozen lakes, as well as cross-country skiing. It’s likely that you’ll catch the northern lights, too — consider this a bonus for enduring the brass monkey weather.
All in all, very few travelers opt for a winter adventure in the Voyageurs National Park, however, those who do so are welcomed with unsurpassable views and calming winter solitude.
Least Busy Time to Visit Voyageurs National Park
The least busy time to visit the Voyageurs National Park is in spring.
The park is slowly transforming from a winter idyll into a spring haven — leaves and blooms start popping up on the winter-bare trees; animals who have been out of sight begin to reemerge; birds prepare for their homecoming.
The snow starts melting, and the park trails are almost fully visible again (expect a bit of mud, though). Park guests replace comfy snowmobiles with cool motorboats.
That said, keep in mind that spring weather in the park is highly unpredictable. For example, warm temperatures are fairly common in May, but witnessing harsh winter storms followed by random snowfalls isn’t unheard of either.
Also, as the temperatures increase and lakes slowly start thawing, it may be unsafe to embark on an ice adventure during that period. Make sure to check the weather before you decide to visit.
It’s worth noting that apart from these few pieces of cautionary information, the weather in spring is great for hiking, wildlife watching, and building campfires.
And the best part is that you get to enjoy these activities in solitude — spring sees fewer park visitors, as most await summer and warmer temperatures. The season is suitable for boating and fishing too.
In March, you can expect temperatures to fluctuate between 32°F and 18°F, alongside 17 snowy days. April welcomes guests with temperatures between 45°F and 30°F.
The number of rainy and snowy days is more or less the same: around ten or eleven. May temperatures vary between 63°F and 42°F. It’s sunny for around nine hours per day.
Worst Time to Visit Voyageurs National Park
While the Voyageurs National Park is a year-round destination, we don’t recommend going in summer.
Biting flies are everywhere, ticks inhabit areas with dense vegetation, and mosquitoes “take advantage” of travelers looking forward to pleasant temperatures and recreational outdoor activities.
And while a bug-free adventure is only wishful thinking, other outdoor experiences are quite enticing in the summer period.
From fishing, canoeing, and kayaking to observing eagles soaring in the sky (keep your binoculars within reach!), swimming, and hiking, the park is abundant with playful opportunities.
In June, on average, the temperatures vary between 71°F and 51°F. There are sixteen rainy days and nine hours of sunshine. July travelers should prepare for a maximum temperature of 77°F and a minimum of 57°F, as well as 17 dry days.
This month sees nine hours of sunshine on a daily basis. Lastly, the August temperatures range between 76°F and 55°F. There are 19 dry days and ten hours of sunlight. Enjoy them!
As a result of these warm temperatures and daylight stretching longer during these months, summer days tend to be the busiest at the park. This means people-packed lakes, crowded trails, and noisy nature.
As we said, going in summer isn’t the best decision, although we understand that summer weather is more than tempting.
Finally, the ace up our sleeve to convince you NOT to visit in summer (and go in fall instead) is letting you know you have the smallest chances of seeing the remarkable northern lights in summer.
Did we succeed?
Things to Consider
Before heading to the Voyageurs National Park, there are several more things worth taking into account:
- Flying into the Falls International Airport is the quickest way to reach the park.
- Tour boats and visitor centers usually open in June (check the official websites for any possible changes, though).
- June is the wettest month in the park, whereas the driest is January.
- Note that the cell service is a hit-or-miss kind of thing.
- Drones are prohibited in the park.
- Only at the Ash River Visitor Centercan you get access to public Wi-Fi.
- Keep a safe distance from wildlife and use common sense at all times.
- Stick to the trails, and don’t wander unaccompanied.
- Dress in layers, especially if you go in spring or fall when the weather conditions are constantly changing.
- Visitors need an MN fishing license to fish in the park.
- Summer doesn’t come just with pleasant temperatures – it includes unpleasant swaths of mosquitoes and flies as well, so if you visit the park in summer, make sure to bring insect repellents to protect you against these annoying thingies.
- If you’re visiting in winter, check ice and trail reports and double-check whether you’re adequately prepared for such conditions.
- If you don’t have skis or snowshoes, you can rent them from the Rainy Lake Visitor Center (hint: they’re free!).
- While the park is open 24/7, the services and activities have seasonal work hours.
- As plastic water bottles aren’t sold in the park, make sure to bring your own water bottle.
- Those into stamp collecting should head over to the visitor center and get some National Park Passport stamps.
- When in doubt, always, and we mean always, leave things to the park experts. The place is full of guides and people who know the area and will be more than willing to show you the way or assist you with anything you may need at any given moment. Some commercial services include: Camping Guide, Fishing Guide, Houseboat Support Services, Water Taxi and Shuttle Services, Motorboat Rentals, and others.
Frequently Asked Questions
How many days do you need at Voyageurs National Park?
If you want only a brief overview of the park and a few cool stops, Voyageurs is good for a one-day trip. A better option, however, would be to plan at least a three-day itinerary and enjoy everything the park has to offer in greater depth.
This will add variety to your journey and allow you to explore hidden park corners, as well as more “mainstream” ones.
Don’t limit your journey to just several days, though! You could stay for an entire week and still have something fun and interesting to do/see each day.
Keep in mind that the park tends to close on national public holidays, so if you’re traveling during such days, you may need to add a few extra days to your trip to compensate for the park’s non-working days.
Ultimately, it depends on the activities you wish to engage in and the things you want to see while you’re there.
What should I bring to Voyageurs National Park?
Here’s our list of recommended items to bring to the Voyageurs National Park:
- Map of the park — there are many Voyageurs National Park maps out there, but this one is the most user-friendly;
- First aid kit;
- Swimsuit (if you visit in summer);
- Hiking boots/shoes;
- Camera (a smartphone with a high-quality camera will also do);
- Water bottle;
- Water purifier;
- Bug repellent;
- Fishing rod;
- Solar battery charger;
- Handheld GPS;
- Marine radio;
- Fire-starting kit;
- Rain gear.
Where should I stay when visiting Voyageurs National Park?
As outlined on the official website, there are multiple accommodation options you can consider for your stay, depending on your preferences:
- The Kettle Falls Hotel is the only in-park accommodation option. The hotel is accessible by water and water only, and, as they state, it’s a “tough place to get to…. but well worth it once you get there.” To book a room or simply learn more, visit their official site.
- The park provides visitors with camping options such as the front-country campsites found on Namakan, Rainy, Sand Point Lakes, and Kabetogama. Do note that you need a paid permit to camp in any of these locations. That said, camping permits can be easily obtained by making an online reservation. Finally, keep in mind that reaching these sites is only possible by watercraft.
- The park offers backcountry camping as well. Besides accessing these by water first (either by a local water taxi service or a private watercraft), you also need to be ready to hike up to several miles to the designated campsite location afterward. If this sounds too demanding, stick to the front-country campsites.
- If you’re up for RV camping or car camping, check out the private and public campgrounds outside the park boundaries.
- Houseboating is a cool option for travelers seeking a thrilling accommodation experience. They do require an overnight stay permit, though. As with most permits, you can obtain this one online as well. To learn more about what to expect during your houseboat adventure, make sure to check out the official Houseboating page.
Finally, if you want more sophisticated and modern lodging options, it’s more than likely you’ll need to opt for International Falls and seek out city accommodation outside the park limits.
What city is closest to Voyageurs National Park?
The closest city near Voyageurs National Park is International Falls. It’s just an eight-mile drive to reach the Rainy Lake Area.
Is Voyageurs National Park dog friendly?
Much of the Voyageurs National Park is unfortunately off-limits to dogs. They’re just allowed in the front country camping sites. There are some other areas you can access with your pet out of the park’s boundaries.
These include the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) or the Kabetogama State Forest. Dogs should also be on a six-foot leash, comply with the necessary vaccination requirements, and must always be attended to.
Are there bears in Voyageurs National Park?
Yes, the Voyageurs National Park is home to around 150 black bears. The bears are said to embody Minnesota wilderness. They’re a notable wildlife encounter too!
With that said, such encounters may lead to human-bear accidents. Property damage is a much more common occurrence instead of human injuries, though!
Now is probably the right time to let you know how to prevent bear-related problems during your stay to ensure a stress-free experience:
- Report any bear incident to available park staff or park rangers right away;
- Carry bear pepper spray with you (another item that should make it to your what-to-pack list!);
- Store all food in bear-proof lockers (same applies to other strong-scented items such as toothpaste, soap, and insect repellents, to name a few);
- Do NOT feed bears even if they appear calm;
- If you find yourself in the presence of a bear, try to move to a more secure area quietly without disturbing the bear;
- If you’re staging in a tent, don’t cook right next to it — this may attract bears;
- Always clean picnic tables after eating, and never leave any food leftovers;
- Don’t leave any fish entrails nearby — get rid of them in deep water;
- If a bear has any cubs with her, never position yourself between her and a cub — she may consider you a danger and won’t hesitate to attack;
- Remember, bears don’t wish you any harm consciously — they just want to find their way and be left on their own.
What is so special about Voyageurs National Park?
There are many aspects of the Voyageurs National Park that make it so special. From its fantastic wildlife, walleye fishing opportunities, and creative lodging, to big lakes, thriving forests, rock ridges, and stargazing, this 218,055-acre park has something for everyone who decides to visit it.
What also makes the park so special is that it provides a plethora of activities all year round. In summer, visitors can engage in fishing and kayaking, hit the land-accessible trails, or simply join a guided park tour.
In winter, guests can explore the park’s corners by snowshoeing or cross-country skiing. Voyageurs National Park is hands down one of Minnesota’s most valuable gems.
So, When Should You Visit Voyageurs National Park?
There you have it! The best time to visit the Voyageurs National Park accompanied by useful tips and tricks and a detailed FAQ section.
With that said, we did share quite a bit of information, and it’s always great to go through the most important ones once again.
- First and foremost, the best time to visit the park is in the fall — between late September or early October. There are no irritating insects, the colors are as lively (and lovely!) as they can be, and the weather is more or less pleasant.
- Price-aware travelers should visit in winter after the holiday buzz is gone. While going to the Voyageurs National Park in winter may not be for the faint of heart, with the right attitude and, more importantly, suitable winter gear, you can have a magical time.
- Next, the least busy time to go is in spring. It’s when visitors can witness the park being reborn after the harsh winter. That said, spring months can be highly unpredictable in terms of weather, but that doesn’t mean going then isn’t worth it.
- The worst time to find yourself in the park is in the summer. There are more mosquitos than you can count, rain rules the season, and there’s not enough room to swing a cat. However, summer months also entice visitors with long sunny days, warm temperatures, and a plethora of fun outdoor opportunities.
On the whole, the Voyageurs National Park has four distinct seasons, each with its beauty and possible challenges.