Thursday, December 10, 2015

Best trails to see Voyageurs NP’s wonders

Ellsworth Rock Gardens. Photo courtesy of Voyageurs NPS.
Among the best ways to see Voyageurs National Park’s top sights is via a day hike. Just three short trails will allow you to enjoy each of the park’s highlights – border lakes, rock gardens, and boreal forests.

The remote national park in northern Minnesota can be reached via U.S. Hwy. 53, which runs north from Duluth, Minn., and east from International Falls, Minn. County Road 122 then leads to Kabetogama while County Road 129 heads to the Ash River resort area.

Border lakes
The U.S.-Canadian border runs through two of the park’s four scenic lakes, all of which are popular among canoeists, kayakers and fishermen for their unspoiled beauty. The 2.3-mile Echo Bay Trail runs through aspens and pines, past a great blue heron rookery, and along an overlook of one of those waterbodies, spectacular Kabetogama Lake, which covers 62 square miles.

Ellsworth Rock Gardens
Beginning in the 1940s, artist Jack Ellsworth created terraced flowerbeds on rock outcroppings that now sit inside the park; today, his work is often compared to that of modern sculptors. Boat tours from Kabetogama Visitor Center visit this site on the northern shore of Kabetogama Lake with short hiking paths through the gardens. Note: Though open, the gardens currently are being restored.

Boreal forests
The park marks the transition zone between the hardwood forests common in the United States to the conifer-based boreal forests of Canada. The latter can be experienced on any segment of the Kab-Ash Trail, which runs up to 26 miles through the park. One easy-to-reach section begins off of Mead Wood Road, which leads to the Ash River resort area and includes the brief Beaver Pond Overlook Trail.

Learn more about national park day hiking trails in my Best Sights to See at America’s National Parks guidebook.