While fishing, boating and other water activities are often the main attraction on Rainy Lake, don’t miss the opportunity to explore the area by bike. A 12-mile paved trail runs adjacent to Highway 11 from International Falls to the Voyageurs National Park Visitors Center and offers diversions such as ice cream stops, wildlife viewing and even a dip in the lake!
The trail is located just east of the Convention and Visitors Bureau office (301 2nd Avenue), roughly where highway 53 meets highway 11/71 in downtown International Falls. You can park there to begin your eastward journey. This area of the trail features river views on your left, which overlook the community of Fort Frances, Ontario. Note the paper mill at the falls, as well as the wood chips and logs that are piled along the highway before being sent to the mill. Make a stop at the Voyageurs National Park Headquarters (360 Highway 11), where you can enjoy the river views.
Approximately 3 miles west of International Falls is the community of Ranier, marked by a 25-foot statue affectionately known as “Big Vic.” Plan to take time for a detour here. Ranier is a charming village with restaurants, a bar and brewery, as well as an ice cream shop. Chances are good you will see a train, as the Canadian National Railway border crossing in Ranier sees the most railroad cars of any crossing between the U.S. and Canada. This is also where the Rainy Lake flows into the Rainy River, which you can see from the Spruce Street dock. From here, you can either head back to the highway, or bike along County Road 20, which wends through a residential area and past City Beach, where you can cool off with a swim or enjoy a picnic.
Here the bike trail merges with highway 11 for a few miles, while the landscape begins to change. You’ll see some of the only farmland – watch for cranes, geese and deer – as well as an unobstructed view of Rainy Lake at the Jackfish Bay Wayside Park. The trail then turns left at County Road 103 to become enveloped in the wooded landscape.
This part of the trail crosses Tilson Bay, where you can see wild rice growing in the wetlands on the right and Rainy Lake to the left. Stop here to rest on the dock or get in some cross training with a trek on the hiking trail.
Here the trail is on the shoulder of Highway 11, which challenges bikers with a long, gradual uphill climb before again turning to the left and into the woods. Gradual hills make for a fun, not-too-hard ride, while grouse are known to peak out from the underbrush. At the end of the trail, cross Highway 11 to the Rainy Lake Recreation Trail, a wide, paved path that welcomes runners, walkers and bicyclists. Leading to the entrance of Rainy Lake Visitor Center the 1.75-miles include benches for taking a breather while taking in the views of Rainy Lake.
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.
For campers, Voyageurs National Park is like Lambeau Field for Green Bay Packer fans. Thousands of acres of pristine wilderness beckon to those who love waking up to the call of loons, brewing coffee over a fire and discovering endless Instagram-worthy lake views. All Voyageur National Park (VNP) campsites are accessible only by boat, which is one of the reasons they are so beloved by campers. When you pitch a tent on Rainy, you experience the singular solitude of nature.
Here’s everything you need to know about camping in VNP:
Where to Camp
Campsites are divided into two categories: front country, which includes Rainy, Kabetogama, Namakan, Sand Point and Crane lakes; and back country, which includes the Chain of Lakes and other interior lakes. Front country tent campsites are accessible only by boat and have a maximum stay of14 consecutive days or no more than 30 in a calendar year. Backcountry tent campsites are accessible by boating to a trailhead and hiking in and have a maximum stay of 7 days in a calendar year. You can reserve canoes and row boats for back country use at www.recreation.gov.
Maximum group size: small campsite - 9, large campsite - 18, group campsite - 30, canoe permit - 3, rowboat permit - 3
Etiquette and Amenities
Many of the campsite in the park have amenities such as privies, tent pads, picnic tables, food lockers and fire rings. In addition to using these, visitors can help keep the park pristine for future trips by following the “Leave No Trace” principles, which include:
By planning your Voyageurs camping trip in advance and following some basic guidelines, you help ensure your time in the park is memorable and enjoyable for everyone. Do you have a favorite memory from camping in Voyageurs National Park? Let us know in the comments down below!