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Voyageurs, Isle Royale, and general Qs
Posted January 10th, 2013 - 11:41 am by from Medford, United States (Permalink)
Greetings ever-helpful locals,
Each year I hit the road on an open ended road trip through a portion of the country. For my third and final US tour, I am planning a trip through the northern border states and eventually looping back to my hometown in Oregon. Initially, I intended to see every national park, but Im starting to wonder if Voyageurs and Isle Royale are realistic given my circumstances. Generally, I hike by foot and sleep in the back of my station wagon outside park borders or in a campground. However, these two seem to be only accessible via watercraft - is this correct? My only shot at procuring something like that would be via couchsurfing, if i were lucky enough to find a host already equipped. As far as camping gear, I generally dont bother carrying it as my car makes for very safe, bug free, and comfortable quarters. Can some of the experts tell me a bit about the parks and what their appeal is? I love outdoor photography and hikes, but do not generally fish or game.

Additionally, are there any "must sees" in the state outside the big cities? Smaller state parks, perhaps, or iconic roadside pullouts? I will either be coming from North Dakota along I94, or south from the National Parks from Grand Rapids/Duluth area. Any, ANY recommendations would be greatly appreciated.

Oh, and I expect ill be coming through in June, so the weather shouldnt be too concerning. Thank you!

Posted January 11th, 2013 - 2:12 pm by from Grand Marais, United States (Permalink)
If you get to Duluth, you might as well drive up hwy 61 along Lake Superior. It is arguably the most beautiful area in the whole state. Very nice state parks, waterfalls, rocky shoreline and wonderful dining if you get all the way to Grand Marais. (100 miles N of Duluth.

Posted January 13th, 2013 - 10:19 pm by from Anoka, United States (Permalink)
I too have wondered about Voyageurs and Isle Royale. I have always found real difficulty getting info. about how to get to them on the internet. I am a big planner. I know there is a ferry, but I can't ever seem to find a schedule. Obviously people go there, but search me how they do it.

What I can help you with is the rest of the north shore. We LOVE the Minnesota North Shore along Lake Superior. Not only is the lake part awesome, but there are tons of great rivers to hike along as well. You can hike all day and see waterfall after waterfall after waterfall. It's awesome! Here are some suggestions for parks:

Here's a map so you can find them on the upper right side: http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/map.html

1. Gooseberry Falls: I consider this the "Disneyland" of the North Shore Parks because it's always crawling with tourists. Why? It is free to park there even in their lots. It is also the closest park to Duluth. I don't like that it is always crawling with people, but it's free, so why not stop.

2. Tettegouche and Temperance River - Both of these parks are awesome! Great hiking, great rivers and waterfalls. http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/tettegouche/index.html
http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/temperance_river/index.html

3. Judge C.R. Magney - This park is beautiful as well, but what it's really know for is "Devil's Kettle." It's a rock formation in the river that swirls around and goes down a hole. No one knows where it goes. It's pretty cool and you can hike out and look right in it. However, if it's a dry year prepare to be disappointed. We went there last summer and the river was too low for there to be anything exciting going on there. Here's a pretty good picture. http://www.gowaterfalling.com/waterfalls/devilskettle.shtml

Also, one of my favorite places that not many know about is Beaver Bay. It's a tiny town between Two Harbors and Grand Marais. When you start to leave Beaver Bay you cross a bridge. You can park in a lot right before you cross the bridge. Under that bridge is a great river. If you you cross the bridge on foot and head down to the lake, you will see a sign that says, "Private Property - Please Enjoy and leave it as you found it." How great is that? On the lake side you can sit all afternoon combing through the rocks and picking out tiny agates. The river that feeds into the lake is great fun to hike up. There is a trail alongside it, but my husband and I have spent many a beautiful sunny day walking up in the river - climbing rocks etc. There are tons of awesome little waterfalls. Pack and lunch and bring some good shoes for tromping in the water.

Honestly, we've never been disappointed in any of the places we've gone on the North Shore.

If you like art, Grand Marais has a great artist community. The Angry Trout is a great restaurant where everything is local, sustainable, and made by hand (including tables, chairs, napkins...) oh, and the food is great! The World's Best Donut shop is pretty swell too. Good thing we're heading up to the North Shore in a couple of weeks. Writing all this is really making me miss it!

I could go on and on about restaurants, shops, great people. So, even if you don't make it to Voyageurs it's worth a trip to MN's North Shore!

Posted January 14th, 2013 - 12:55 am by from Saint Paul, United States (Permalink)
Isle Royale is an awesome park. I would recommend access from Grand Portage Minnesota on the boat into Windigo. (Catching a glimpse of one of the coolest light houses in the world, one that only mariners get to see, Rock of Ages). It is considered a world class wilderness hiking destination and the vast majority of the park visitors are hikers, although those in the know also consider it one of the finest sea kayak challenges. For those of you who don't know about Isle Royale, it is 45 miles long and about 9 or so wide at it's widest point, a little over 206 square miles, about 10 times the size of Manhattan. But the park border encompasses all the islands around it, so as far as Kayaking goes it is about 893 square miles.

It sounds like your best plan would be to leave your car in Grand Portage (no roads on the island) take the boat over and hike into a camp site. You could just go out for an overnight or spend a couple of weeks trying to circumnavigate it on foot.

I have stopped there the last three summers while sailing on trips from Bayfield to one of the most beautiful and remote coast lines in the World between Thunder Bay Ontario and the Slate Islands. It is unfortunate that about the only way to see it is by sailboat and no one will let you charter to it because the charter companies consider it too dangerous (it is not). Happy Trails.

Posted January 14th, 2013 - 1:43 am by from Minneapolis, United States (Permalink)
Voyageurs is beautiful.

When I went I found a resort that rented kayaks, so I parked there and kayaked to the nearest island to camp.

A very serene park (and free to camp/enter) if you make it!

Posted January 14th, 2013 - 1:48 am by from Minneapolis, United States (Permalink)
Oh, and Gooseberry Falls state park by Duluth is worth a go (you don't need a park pass here) and if you find yourself in central MN Itasca state park is pretty and has the little stream of the headwaters of the Mississippi River (but you do need a park pass here).

Posted January 14th, 2013 - 7:36 am by from Medford, United States (Permalink)
Thank you everyone for the responses - I fear I may be ill prepared for the adventures to the islands as my camping gear is mediocre at best, and my budget for renting kayaks or taking a ferry would probably be harder pressed than I like. Perhaps Ill make it a point to go there on a more direct mission in the future when I can plan the entirety of my visit.

Also, thank you Syneva and Alex Barrett for the detailed response!! I have pinged my google map with all those places and will definitely include them on the itinerary! I love photographing waterfalls, youre speaking my language :)

Posted January 14th, 2013 - 1:20 pm by from Anoka, United States (Permalink)
Awesome. You're going to have a great trip. Honestly, anywhere you pull over to hike from Duluth on up is amazing! I forgot to say that what I like about Beaver Bay is that it's not a state park, so most of the time when we've hiked up river there we don't see anyone else. (There usually are people on the beach). Also, be prepared for rocky coastline. Some kind of shoes you don't mind getting wet would be good. The rocks can hurt your feet as you walk if you don't have tough feet. I was shocked when I went to Bayfield, WI for the first time and camped on Madeline Island and it is just a big sandy beach. Beautiful and good for laying around, but not what I expected after all these years hiking the North Shore of MN.

Enjoy!
Syneva

Posted January 14th, 2013 - 9:20 pm by from International Falls, United States (Permalink)
Hi there, Voyaguers is quite large and does have a few access points to it. If you go to International Falls you can visit the Park Headquarters. It has some really cool history of the area along with some full body mounts of the local animals. Who knew moose could get that big! You dont need a boat to get to it either. Its free to enter also. (A boat is needed only if you are going to camp on the lake itself in Voyaguers. They have hundreds of campsites throughout the Park on the lakeshore. its the only National Park that is water based, in case you need a good trivia question.)

Itasca Park was mentioned in an earlier response. you can buy a Minnesota State Park sticker which allows entry into all state parks in MN. You can get one at any of the State Parks. You could proably do it online too. it cost about 25 dollars or so the last time i bought one a few years back. or you can buy a day pass at a cheaper rate but would need one at every state park. Itasca has some beautiful camp areas and many hiking biking trails too. There is also a canoe kayak rental place there. It has the largest white and red pine trees in the state, which mentioned below was never logged. Eat at douglas lodge if you can. its good food in a log lodge thats been around a long time. the visitor center there is awesome too. its free to enter and has many interesting historical facts.

One thing i didnt see mentioned is the Lost Forty. its 40 acres between Itasca Park and Voyaguers National Park just East off of highway 71 a few miles. i think if you google it you should bet ore info. Its literally in the middle on nowhere, in fact, so remote the logging companies working the area totally forgot to log it at the turn of the last century or before. It is one of the only places in MN that wasnt clearcut logged, along with Itasca Park. It shows what Minnesota looked like before the loggers chopped everything down. it is very remote and i dont think it has camping but there are campgrounds in the area.

I grew up a few miles south of Itasca Park in Park Rapids and also lived in International Falls for 5 years. I spent many hours in Voyaguers boating and fishing. I have first hand experience with both places so if you have more questions feel free to email me back.

Most people are really friendly and if you strike up a conversation at the boat ramp or at a bar on one of the lakes you should be able to at least catch a boat ride from someone. :-)

Have fun, Marty

FYI its 160 miles between Park Rapids and International Falls all on Highway 71.

Posted January 29th, 2013 - 11:40 pm from Minneapolis, United States
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Posted January 14th, 2013 - 6:47 pm by from Denver, United States (Permalink)
Northern Minnesota is awesome, there are quite a few areas worth seeing. If I were you, I'd hit Detroit Lakes, Brainerd (good paul bunyan stuff, if you're into that), Grand Rapids, Ely (gateway to the boundary waters), Duluth (via hwy 1 along the north shore), and then Minneapolis if you want some city action.