Although most of Voyageurs National Park trails are maintained throughout the year, becoming snowshoe and cross-country ski attractions during the winter months, Spring is perhaps the best time for a hike through the forest. Delicate, lime-colored leaves are just beginning to appear, pairs of mating geese can be seen – and heard – over nearby lakes, and cool breezes keep temperatures mild.
All you need is a comfortable pair of shoes, drinking water and a map in order to immerse yourself in nature and witness the emergence of a new season. And, with a variety of trails to choose from, hikers can easily find one that suits their individual skill levels, from 20-minute jaunts to hours-long adventures.
Voyageurs is known for its acres of water (84,000) and miles (more than 600) of undeveloped shoreline. But that doesn’t mean you need a boat to explore and enjoy the park, which features close to a dozen land-accessible trails.
In addition to providing varying degrees of difficulty and lengths, park trails also provide the opportunity for people with disabilities to experience Voyageurs’ singular scenery.
Trails with Views
Make time in your trip to the Ask River Visitor Center to enjoy theses little-known gems:
Before you begin a journey on any of the park’s trails, be sure to pick up a map at one of the visitor centers.
Interested in hiking at Voyageurs National Park? Let us know in the comments below!
Rainy River access in International Falls, Pelland Junction, and Birchdale are all open.
Rainy River provides some of the earliest and best open water fishing in the upper midwest as walleye head upstream from Lake of the Woods. Walleye season on our border weaters remains open until April 14, and you might also pull in one of the huge sturgeon lurking in the river. The swifter waters below the dam at International Falls are almost always good for a few walleye and smallmouth bass. Kuttes Landing at Pelland Junction is just upstream from the confluence of the Little Fork River, which is another great hot spot. Nelson Park at Birchdale is just below the Long Sault Rapids where you can find concentrations of walleye and sturgeon.
Related: What Fishing On Rainy River is like.
As the monochromatic landscape of snow and ice begins to transform into color with delicate tree buds and determined flowers, Northern Minnesota welcomes back its feathered residents. Spring is a prime time for viewing – and hearing – the state’s large variety of birds, from waterfowl to raptors. Whether you are a seasoned birder, or curious naturalist, spring on Rainy Lake hums with possibility, as dozens of species of migratory birds return to nest and raise their young. The following is month-by-month guide to the season’s variety of spectacular color and song.
March: While snowstorms are still likely, Northern Minnesota also experiences melting during this time. As pussywillows begin to open and hepatica blooms, butterflies emerge from hibernation. Waterfowl, including swans, begin returning. Canada geese are common, and it’s possible to see a Ross’s goose within flocks of snow geese. American kestrels appear, as do Eastern bluebirds, American robins, killdeer, great blue herons, red-winged blackbirds, tree swallows, American woodcock, and common grackles.
During this time, bald eagles follow the progress of melting lakes. And, because their population has grown over the years, there are now unparalleled opportunities to see the majestic birds on Rainy Lake throughout nesting periods and while raising their young.
Another returning resident during this time is the wood duck. Males are covered in iridescent chestnut and green feathers with accents of purple, blue and red, as well as striking black and white patterns. A distinctive ornate crest flips off the back of their heads, and their eyes are ringed in bright red.
April: As trees begin to fill with leaves, migrants and nesting birds make their return, filling the forests with a riot of color. Some of the most anticipated sightings are the spectacularly hued warblers, which include yellow-rumped, common yellowthroat, Tennessee, yellow, American redstart, palm, orange-crowned, black-and-white, Nashville and chestnut-sided.
Adding to the kaleidoscope of color during this time is the Scarlet Tanager, a famously gorgeous bird with a blood-red body set off by jet-black wings and tail. When trying to spot the elusive bird, listen for its unique chick-burr call it makes. Also visible now is the Northern Cardinal, rare worldwide, but thriving in Northern Minnesota. The male’s song can be heard throughout the spring as a cheer, cheer, cheer or birdie, birdie, birdie. Their rich, red-hued bodies are set off by a crest on their heads and black on their faces.
May: The color continues as the season progresses, with the inclusion of ruby-throated hummingbirds, red-eyed vireo, northern parula, rose-breasted grosbeaks and Baltimore orioles. Bright orange with black and white on head and back, the Oriole winters in Central America, but is a common Minnesota favorite.
In April and May, Minnesota’s most iconic bird, the common loon, returns to Rainy Lake to nest and raise their young. Minnesota has more common loons than any other state except Alaska, and their distinctive, haunting calls can be heard across the lake throughout the spring and summer.
Whether you’re hoping to add to your sighting list, or are content simply seeing a variety of color, the area around Rainy Lake during the spring is a bounty of bird-viewing opportunities.
What is your favorite Rainy Lake birding memory? Let us know in the comments down below!