I am personally surprised there are only five National Parks in Minnesota as outdoor recreation is so valued here.
The Twin Cities is constantly getting ranked as one of the top healthiest cities in America and you will find people recreating here year-round.
National Parks in Minnesota
Of course Minnesota is one of the best places to get outdoors and enjoy its numerous recreational activities as there is 11.842 Lakes, 18,000 miles of fishable rivers and streams, 4000 miles of biking trails, and close to 500 golf courses.
Winter Enthusiasts love the 22,000 miles of snowmobile trails, and numerous miles of cross country skiing and snowshoeing trails.
I can't in my heart not write an article about Minnesota and not mention that there is a thing here called Minnesota Nice. What this means is that people are just so friendly here!
I swear, everywhere I have been in Minnesota, and especially in the National Park Service Sites, everyone is just so nice! Me and my wife stayed the night at the Kettle Falls Hotel and by the end of or stay we had become Facebook friends with over a half dozen other people!
Park Ranger John Pro Tip
Minnesota is well known for their Juicy Lucy hamburgers (hamburger patty with melted cheese in the middle). For a healthier option look for the locally grown wild rice and order the best bowl of chicken and wild rice you have ever had!
[mv_video jsonLd="true" key="bx6k9cb10y3bjfm7m2nt" ratio="16:9" thumbnail="https://mediavine-res.cloudinary.com/video/upload/bx6k9cb10y3bjfm7m2nt.jpg" title="Little American Island Boat Tour – Voyageurs National Park"]
Grand Portage National Monument
Top Things to do -Watch the Grand Portage Film, Investigate Archeology at the Heritage Center, Explore Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) Culture, Learn About the Fur Trade and the Colorful Voyageurs, Participate in a Ranger Walk or Talk, Visit the Reconstructed North West Company Depot, Hike Grand Portage Trails, Visit Grand Portage State Park
Lodging - While Grand Portage National Monument in Minnesota does not offer lodging within the park, there are several lodging options nearby. The closest option is the Grand Portage Lodge and Casino, offering rooms, a casino, and dining. The town of Grand Marais, located approximately 35 miles south, provides additional choices, including hotels, cabins, and vacation rentals. The Gunflint Trail, southwest of Grand Portage, offers wilderness lodges and cabins. Camping is also available in the Superior National Forest and other campgrounds in the area.
Camping - Camping is not available around the historic site or Grand Portage Trailhead.
Two remote campsites are available for hikers and paddlers at the Pigeon River (Fort Charlotte) with a free backcountry permit.
The Grand Portage Lodge offers camping near their marina, about a mile from the park.
Park Address - 170 Mile Creek Road, Grand Portage, MN 55605
Grand Portage NM is located in northeastern Minnesota, approximately 150 miles northeast of Duluth. The park offers the opportunity to visit reconstructed fur trading posts and Indian village.
This park offers visitors a chance to explore and experience the lives of the Anishinabe or Ojibwe peoples and the fur traders who later convened here. Walking tours led by guides in historic costumes explain the importance of the beaver to earlier people in this area.
The tour also gives visitors a chance to learn about the construction of canoes used in the fur trade. The historic gardens allow an opportunity to learn the importance of the produce garden to early families and to learn about their methods of preserving food.
The Heritage Center is a new 16,600-square-foot building with galleries explaining the Ojibwe culture and the fur trade. It includes a bookstore, educational programs, and more.
From here you can also board a boat that will take you to Isle Royale, about an hour away. Technically, this park is in the state of Michigan, but many visitors access it from Grand Portage. It is a true primitive wilderness and home to the Ecological Study of Wolves.
Mississippi National River and Recreation Area
Top Things to do -Visit the Mississippi River Visitor Center, Visit Upper St. Anthony Falls Visitor Center, Go on a Day Hike at Coldwater Spring, Start every Friday right with Coffee With a Ranger!, Kayak in the park with Paddle Share, Earn a Junior Ranger Badge, Bicycling, Boating & Canoeing, Camping, Citizen Science, Fishing & Hunting, Geocaching, Hiking & Walks, Photography, Watching Wildlife
Lodging - There is no designated National Park Lodging within the park.
Camping - There are no formal campgrounds within the national park.
Two state parks within 50 miles of the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area have camping facilities. These are Afton State Park and William O'Brien State Park, both east of the metropolitan area near the St. Croix River.
Park Address - 111 E. Kellogg Blvd., Suite 105, Saint Paul, MN 55101
This is a relatively new park, established in 1988. The park includes 72 miles of the Mississippi River emphasizing the significance of the river as a spiritual site and a place for getting out and enjoying the great outdoors.
The Mississippi River flows from Minnesota's Lake Itasca to the Gulf of Mexico almost 2,320 miles. The National Park Service works with local, state parks, and federal and regional entities to protect and provide access to the river.
Additionally, there are public boat launches along the river, allowing the adventurous to explore the river. Respect private lands and the river currents.
Top Things to do - Guided Tours, Indoor Interpretive Experiences, Exhibits and film, Cultural Demonstrations including carving the red pipestone, Picnic at the Three Maidens, Hike the Circle Trail, Winter Snowshoeing, Bird Watching, Wildlife Watching
Lodging - There are no lodging facilities within Pipestone National Monument
Camping - There is no camping within Pipestone National Monument
Park Address - 36 Reservation Ave, Pipestone, MN 56164
Pipestone National Monument is located in southwestern Minnesota approximately 35 miles northeast of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The park is open year-round and offers the opportunity to learn about Plains Indians and how they visited the area for pipestone.
American Indians have been coming to this area of Minnesota for centuries. They visited to quarry a soft reddish rock called Pipestone or catlinite. The quarry and the pipestone are considered sacred. A location where Native American tribes can come in peace to collect the stone.
Visitors can see a park film, and interpretive displays within the visitor center as well as watch Native American craft workers working on pipe making.
Saint Croix National Scenic River
Top Things to do - Paddle the Rivers, Fish the Riverway, Camping, River Boating, Hike Along the River, Ranger-Led Programs, Wildlife Viewing
Lodging - Lodging options near the Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway, which spans Minnesota and Wisconsin, include hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts, vacation rentals, campgrounds, and canoe outfitters. Nearby towns like Taylors Falls, St. Croix Falls, and Grantsburg offer various accommodations, making it convenient for visitors to explore this scenic riverway.
Camping - Camping options near the Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway include state park campgrounds in Minnesota and Wisconsin, National Park Service campgrounds, canoe outfitters with camping facilities, private campgrounds in nearby communities, and potential backcountry camping areas.
Park Address - 401 North Hamilton Street, St. Croix Falls, WI 54024
St. Croix National Scenic Riverway is located in western Wisconsin and eastern Minnesota. The park offers the opportunity to enjoy canoeing, kayaking, camping, swimming and wildlife viewing on the St. Croix River.
The St. Croix and Namekagon Rivers were a trade route for Indians and early European fur traders during the 19th century. The National Scenic Riverway includes over 200 miles of beautiful natural resources perfect for spending time on the water.
Top Things to do - Explore its interconnected waterways by motorboat, kayak, canoe, or houseboat camping, visit the Ellsworth Rock Gardens, Fishing, Wildlife Watching, Educational visitor centers, Ranger Programs, Hiking, and Stargazing is exceptional due to its International Dark Sky Park status and is a great park for seeing the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis). Winter recreational activities include snowmobiling and cross-country skiing.
Lodging - There are many different ways to spend a night in Voyageurs National Park. The only in-park, concession-operated lodging available in the park is at Kettle Falls Hotel. Remotely located on the far eastern side of the Kabetogama Peninsula, it is approximately 15 miles from the nearest road and is only accessible by water. If you do not have a watercraft of your own, you can arrange a shuttle service with your hotel reservation.
Camping - Voyageurs National Park in Minnesota provides diverse camping options, including front-country campgrounds with tent and RV sites, backcountry campsites accessible by watercraft, houseboat camping for a unique experience, and group camping facilities. Winter camping is also available during the colder months.
Park Address - Voyageurs National Park Headquarters, 360 Hwy 11 East, International Falls 56649
Voyageurs National Park is a fantastic Bird Watching destination! There has been over 240 species identified in the park with almost 70 of them being identified as being of great conservation concern. Northern Minnesota also has the highest density of breeding warblers on the continent with several species within the park. I personally love searching for Bald Eagles flying overhead and seeing the Common Loons in the water when I visit Voyageurs.
Voyageurs National Park follows along the Canadian Border and is located approximately 190 miles northwest of Duluth. The park offers the opportunity to enjoy house boating, hiking trails, fishing, camping, and more.
If your visit to Grand Portage fires your imagination and interest in the early explorers and the fur trade, the next logical place to visit would be the park that recognizes their adventures, Voyageurs National Park. This is a park that encourages, in fact, requires, that you leave your car behind and explore by water.
Today’s visitors can see this unspoiled wilderness by canoe as the early explorers did or opt for more modern methods such as a houseboat or motorboat. A tour boat offers a chance for naturalist-guided tours. The park is home to wolves, bears, and of course, the haunting calls of loons. However you see this vast area of lakes, islands, and forests, you will consider it a trip to cherish.
During the late 17th century when the supply of furs in the eastern parts of North America started to diminish the fur traders started to move westward.
The Rainy Lake Visitor Center is 11 miles east of International Falls, Minnesota. There are also visitor centers at Kabetogama Lake and Ash River.
List of Minnesota National Parks
- Grand Portage National Monument
- Mississippi National River and Recreation Area
- Pipestone National Monument
- Voyageurs National Park
- North Country National Scenic Trail (New York to North Dakota MI, MN, ND, NY, OH, PA, WI)
- Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway (WI, MN)
There are 5 National Parks in Minnesota including 1 Wild and Scenic River managed by the park service, 1 National Trail managed by the park service and over 1600 National Register of Historic Place listings.
Minnesota National Parks include 25 National Historic Landmarks, 8 National Natural Landmarks and 572 places recorded by Heritage Documentation Program.
The National Parks in Minnesota receive over 975K visitors a year producing more than $56 million in economic benefits.
There are over 548K objects in the Minnesota National Park collections and 523 Archeological sites within the parks.
If you have dreamed of working in the National Parks make sure and check out our article on How to Become a Park Ranger. Working in the parks is one of the most amazing jobs you can find. There is just something special about waking up and knowing you are going to work in a beautiful park.
Additional National Park Travel Resources
Planning a National Park vacation? America the Beautiful/National Park Pass covers entrance fees for an entire year to all US National Park Sites and over 2,000 Federal Recreation Fee Sites.
The park pass covers everyone in the car for per-vehicle sites and for up to 4 adults for per-person sites.
Buy on REI.com and REI will donate 10% of pass proceeds to the National Forest Foundation, National Park Foundation, and the U.S. Endowment for Forestry & Communities.
Free Entrance Days -Mark your calendars with the five free entrance days the National Park Service offers annually.
For a fun adventure, check out Escape Campervans. These campervans have built-in beds, kitchen area with refrigerators, and more. You can have them fully set up with kitchen supplies, bedding, and other fun extras. They are painted with epic designs you can't miss!
Check out the National Parks in the Neighboring States
For an entire list of US National Parks head over to our list of US National Parks in Alphabetical Order. We also have a printable checklist of all 417 National Park properties in the United States available.