Voyageurs National Park is all about the water, but if you prefer to travel by foot you will not be disappointed here. The Cruiser Lake Trail, Voyageurs’ most adventurous hike, cuts 9.5 miles across the east end of the Kabetogama Peninsula and, together with its adjoining trails, passes a dozen lakes and nearly as many campsites—this is the best backpacking destination in the park.
Though hilly, the route is only moderately challenging; still, because of the peninsula’s remoteness you should have some basic outdoors skills before venturing out here. The primary path connects Kabetogama Lake’s Lost Bay (about a three-mile paddle with one short portage from the Ash River Visitor Center) to Rainy Lake’s Anderson Bay, climbing ridges for remarkable panoramas and dropping down to cross beaver dams, trout streams, and berry patches.
Wildlife abounds on this remote peninsula, and you might spot any of the park’s most exciting species. Peary, Brown, Cruiser, and Ek Lakes are all represented in the Boats on Interior Lakes program. Cruiser Lake, near the trail’s midpoint, makes a good day-trip destination.
Several other paths with similarly stunning scenery branch off the Cruiser Lake Trail, including the highly recommended Anderson Bay Trail at the northeast end. The two-mile loop leads atop the Anderson Bay Cliffs, which rise 70 feet above the water, for some magnificent long-distance views.
Over on the west end of the peninsula are the Locator Lake Trail and the Beaver Pond Trail. The former starts on Kabetogama Lake and crosses two miles of beautiful country inhabited by countless beaver. The moderately difficult (very difficult if you are shouldering a canoe) path climbs a ridge and drops through a ravine before reaching its namesake, part of a long, narrow chain of lakes through the heart of the peninsula. There’s a day-use picnic area and rental boats at the end.
You can probably figure out what’s at the end of the Beaver Pond Trail, a 1.25-mile-long round-trip starting near the Rainy Lake Visitor Center. Many of the peninsula’s portage trails, particularly Gold, Cranberry Creek, and Ryan Lake, cross through some beautiful scenery.
Over on the mainland the 26-mile Kab-Ash Trail, which links the Kabetogama Lake and Ash River gateways, accounts for over half of all the park’s trail miles, and a variety of forest types and wetland boardwalks make for great wildlife-viewing. There are also some short trails at each of Voyageurs’ four gateways.
Rainy Lake’s option is the Oberholtzer Interpretive Trail, an easy 1.5-mile route that covers a cattail marsh, pine forest, and scenic views of Black Bay; the first half is wheelchair accessible. The slightly hilly 2.5-mile Echo Bay Trail, a few miles northwest of the Kabetogama Lake Visitor Center, loops through a mix of aspen and conifer stands. You’ll pass many areas flooded by beavers and might spot wolf tracks.
The Ash River area’s Blind Ash Bay Trail is arguably Voyageurs’ most beautiful short mainland path. The hilly 2.5-mile round-trip follows a rocky ridge—there are some great views of Kabetogama Lake from atop it—and ends up looking out over the narrow namesake bay.
© Tim Bewer from Moon Minnesota, 3rd Edition