Friday, January 20, 2017

Trail links Voyageurs to International Falls

Rainy Lake Recreation Trail. Photo courtesy of Voyageurs NPS.
Visitors to Voyageurs National Park looking for an easy trail to hike or bike will enjoy the new Rainy Lake Recreation Trail.

Opened in 2015, the fairly flat, paved trail covers 1.7 miles one-way in the park’s Rainy Lake area. If looking for a longer walk or bicycle ride, the trail conveniently connects to the International Falls Bike Trail, which runs for another 12 miles.
Trail map. Map courtesy of Voyageurs NPS.

To reach the trailhead, from International Falls take Minn. Hwy. 11 east. Turn on County Road 96 and follow the signs to the Rainy Lake Visitor Center. Park at the center.

Before heading out onto the trail, stop at the center to enjoy its exhibit, children’s activity center, and small theater for enjoying a film about the park. Rainy Lake is the only one of the park's three visitor centers that operates year around. A bike rack, picnic table, and benches are available at the visitor center plaza.

From the visitor center, the trail runs alongside the park road and County Road 96, dipping into the woods and curling around rock outcroppings.
The trail reaches the International Falls Bike Trail at the junction of County Road 96 and Hwy. 11. Running 12 miles, the bike trail offers views of Rainy Lake, heads through woodlands, and passes vibrant marshes and lakefront neighborhoods. A portion of the bike trail is in Koochiching State Forest.

At Jackfish Bay, the Bike Trail becomes a designated on-road shoulder route, which is fine for bicyclists but not so great for hikers or walkers. It turns back to an off-road trail after passing through Ranier.

After passing the Voyageurs National Park Headquarters in International Falls and running alongside Rainy Lake’s southern shore, the trail ends downtown. Parking is available in the Chamber CVB lot (301 2nd Ave.), close to where U.S. Hwy. 53 meets Minn. Hwys. 11/71. The trail is a quarter mile east of the CVB office.

Wheelchair accessible, the connected trails are open to walkers, bicyclists, runners, and snowshoers. Pets are allowed but in the national park must be leashed of no more than 6 feet and attended at all times.

Learn more about the park’s day hiking trails in my Best Sights to See at Voyageurs National Park guidebook.