Make a memorable ending to your day on Rainy Lake by catching a sunset at one of these easily-accessible sites. Before you go, check a weather app for sunset time and make sure your camera batteries are fully charged.
Voyageurs National Park Headquarters
Located on Highway 11 just east of International Falls, this site faces northwest and provides a view of the Rainy River and the community of Fort Frances, Ontario, on the opposite shore.
Located about 3 miles east of International Falls, the community of Ranier welcomes visitors with a restaurant, bar, brew pub, ice cream shop and several opportunities to catch the sunset. The Ranier River dock has a unique view of the convergence of Rainy Lake and Rainy River, which flows briskly under the railway lift bridge. Located at the end of Ranier’s main street, the Spruce Street dock offers the chance for a leisurely stroll, as well as the chance to see spectacular sunset. When standing at the end of dock, you’ll notice a beach with another dock not far to your right, which is another great place to watch mother nature’s end-of-day light show.
Tilson Bay Wayside Park
Further east on Highway 11, Tilson Bay has a dock, boat launch and parking lot, as well as a trail used for both hiking and cross-country skiing. Those who take the trek are rewarded with a picture-perfect view from a high ridge. You can also watch the setting sun warm the colors of the bog on the south side of the bridge.
If you have boat access, simply head onto the lake and face west for endless photo opps framed by deep blue water and rocky pine shores.
Not only a destination for four-season fun, Rainy Lake is also a great place for the entire family to enjoy. Here are our top family-friendly recommendations:
Voyageurs National Park
The only national park in Minnesota, Voyageurs is more than 40 percent water, which means you’ll want to bring your own boat, rent one, or take a boat tour to fully experience the park’s rocky shores, sand beaches, abundant wildlife and verdant landscape. Reconnect the entire family with nature by hiking the park’s miles of well-marked trails or spend a night (or two) at one of the many well-appointed campgrounds. The park visitor center also offers opportunities for learning, discovering and interacting. Beginning in June and running throughout the summer, it provides programs and excursions, including a boat tour to Kettle Falls, where you can place one foot in the United States and the other in Canada.
One of the park’s most popular and immersive features is the chance to glimpse the life of the fur traders who explored the area more than 250 years ago. The park’s visitor center features wildlife and historical displays, as well as a movie about the Voyageurs. Visitors can also go on a canoe trip that traces the intrepid explorers’ footsteps, complete with paddling in time to traditional songs. Make sure your camera is photo-ready when you get to the visitor center; the giant moose inside is a selfie waiting to happen.
Plan Your Rainy Lake Vacation
Smokey Bear Park
Another can’t-miss photo opp is the 26-foot tall statue of Smokey Bear and his two cubs, located adjacent to the International Falls City Square, at the corner of 3rd Street and 6th Avenue. The statue has been a community focal point since its arrival in 1954. Seasonally, he’s decked out with gigantic accessories such as hats and mittens in the winter and fishing vest and landing net in summer (To learn more about Smokey’s history, visit smokeybear.com). From International Falls, you can ride the Rainy Lake Bike Trail, which runs 12 miles from International Falls to Voyageurs National Park.
Ranier and City Beach
Smokey isn’t the only famous statue in the area. As you travel east from International Falls on Highway 11, the entrance to the community of Ranier is marked by Big Vic, a 25-foot tall Voyageur created by colorful local resident, Vic Davis, in protest to the creation of the national park in 1980. After posing with the imposing figure, head into Ranier to explore the port town’s parks, shops and restaurants. Grab an ice-cream cone at Tara’s Warf, then stroll to the end of the dock, where you can see the Canadian shores of Fort Frances. Don’t miss the easily-accessible Ranier beach, where you can play in the sand and perfect your cannon ball jump off the dock.
Another can’t-miss beach is located just outside Ranier. City Beach boasts a large sandy shore, roped off swim area, lifeguard, volleyball and basketball courts and more. The pavilion is perfect for picnics and can be reserved for larger groups and events.