6 Minnesota National Parks and National Park Service Sites to Visit

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Serene dawn over Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness with forest reflections

While Minnesota doesn’t have dozens of national parks like states in the great Southwest (in fact, it’s only got one), this state is filled with outdoor adventures. It is home to two national monuments and a number of national recreation areas and national trails that bear major significance in the history of the United States.

They’re also stunning places to visit while on vacation or a daycation in Minnesota. In this article, we will break down the stunning Voyageurs National Park and other terrific national park service sites across Minnesota.

List of Minnesota National Parks

Here are all the national parks and national park service sites in Minnesota.

Name Location Type
Grand Portage Grand Portage, MN National Monument
Mississippi Twin Cities Metro, MN National River and Recreation Area
North Country Eight States – MI,MN,ND,NY,OH,PA,VT,WI National Scenic Trail
Pipestone Pipestone, MN National Monument
Saint Croix Saint Croix Falls, WI,MN National Scenic Riverway
Voyageurs International Falls, Kabetogama, Ash River, and Crane Lake, MN National Park

Minnesota National Parks & National Park Service Sites

1. Grand Portage National Monument

Aerial View of the Lake in  Grand Portage National Monument

Grand Portage National Monument is a United States National Monument and Historic Site. It is located on the north shore of Lake Superior, in the northeast corner of Minnesota, near the Canada–US border.

The park lies within the Grand Portage Indian Reservation and is open to the public. The park was established in 1978.

The Grand Portage National Historic Site is unique because it allows visitors to travel back and explore the ties between the Grand Portage Ojibwe and the North West Company during the North American fur trade.

There are a few great places to stay near the visitor center. The Grand Portage Lodge and Casino is located on the lake and offers beautiful views of the surrounding area.

See Related: Best Minnesota State Parks

2. Mississippi National River and Recreation Area

An aerial view of a leisure boat cruising along the Mississippi River, surrounded by autumn-hued trees and a clear blue sky, reflecting a tranquil and picturesque setting.
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

The Mississippi National River and Recreation Area is a great place to explore the history of the Mississippi River. This is one of my favorite areas to explore in the Twin Cities.

There is so much to see, which is underrated even amongst the locals. You can hike, bike, fish, or canoe the Mississippi River Bluffs and learn a ton about the history of the Great River.

There are quite a few great hiking trails along the Mississippi River in the Twin Cities. The most popular trails are the Cedar Lake Trail, the Stone Arch Bridge, and the Father Hennepin Bluffs Trail.

The Cedar Lake Trail is a 4.5-mile trail that winds through Cedar Lake Park. The Stone Arch Bridge is a historic bridge that crosses the Mississippi River. The Father Hennepin Bluffs Trail is a 2.5-mile trail offering great river valley views.

The Gateway State Trail is an excellent choice for a challenging bike route. This 18-mile trail runs from St. Paul to Hastings. The paved trail makes it perfect for biking, running, or walking. The trail also features a number of scenic overlooks and bridges.

This refuge consists of 12,000 acres of land and water. The refuge is home to a variety of wildlife, including bald eagles, trumpeter swans, and beavers. The refuge also offers multiple hiking and biking trails.

There are a number of great places to stay near the Mississippi River in the Twin Cities. The most popular options include hotels, inns, and bed and breakfasts.

The Hewing Hotel is a superb option for those looking for a centrally located Minneapolis hotel close to the Mighty Mississippi with plenty of restaurants and entertainment. Read our full Hewing Hotel review for an insight into the experience of staying there.

See Related: Things to Do in Minneapolis

3. North Country National Scenic Trail

Backpackers Hking in North Country National Scenic Trail

Minnesota’s North Country National Scenic Trail winds for 4,600 miles from the prairies of North Dakota to the forests of Vermont (the great eight states of the North Country trail).

Along the way, it passes through the bluffs and valleys of Minnesota’s Driftless Area, where you can find stunning views of the Mississippi River Valley.

The trail is open to hikers, backpackers, horseback riders, and cross-country skiers. There are also a number of side trails that lead to interesting sites like the Temperance River State Park, Tettegouche State Park, and Interstate State Park. The North Country National Scenic Trail is a great place for an outdoor adventure.

See Related: Best Waterfalls in Minnesota to Visit

4. Pipestone National Monument

Located in Pipestone, Minnesota, the Pipestone National Monument is a sacred site to many Native Americans. They have quarried the red pipestone found at the monument for use in prayer pipes for centuries.

The site is considered sacred because the pipestone quarried here is believed to carry prayers to the Great Spirit. Even today, many Native Americans come to the monument to quarry and carve pipes.

The traditions of pipe making and quarrying at the Pipestone National Monument are an important part of the site’s history. These activities have been carried out by many different tribes over the years, and they continue to play a significant role in the lives of Native Americans today.

If you’re interested in learning more about these traditions, be sure to visit the Pipestone National Monument. It’s a fascinating place with much history and culture to explore. Be sure to add it to your list of places to visit in Minnesota.

5. Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway

Serene Autumn Drive Along the St. Croix River National Scenic Byway
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

The Saint Croix River National Scenic Riverway is a river trail in the United States that snakes the border between Wisconsin and Minnesota.

It is federally protected and is a great spot to visit any time of the year. The river flows for 881 miles (1,414 km), making it the longest in Minnesota.

The Saint Croix River was designated a National Scenic Riverway in 1968, one of the first rivers in the United States to be given this designation. Justly so, as many parts of the driveway give off hearty Eden vibes.

The Namekagon River is a river in the United States that flows from its source in northern Wisconsin to its confluence with the Saint Croix River just across the border in Minnesota. Together, the two rivers form the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, a protected area under the National Park Service.

See Related: How to Pack for a Camping Trip

6. Voyageurs National Park

River and Trees in Voyageurs National Park

And finally, Minnesota’s sole national park, Voyageurs National Park, is named after the French-Canadian fur traders who were the first to explore the area. These hardy traders were known as voyageurs, which means “travelers.”

They traveled the waterways of North America in canoes, trading goods with the Native Americans in exchange for furs. Voyageurs National Park, which covers more than 430,000 acres (1,730 km2), was established in 1975. The park is home to a variety of fauna, including moose, deer, bears, beavers, and wolves.

Voyageurs National Park is a paradise for those who love adventure. The park has many beautiful features, including exposed rock ridges, cliffs, wetlands, forests, and streams.

The park is also home to a variety of aquatic ecosystems, making it the perfect place for those who love water sports. In addition, the park is located in a transition zone between the boreal and hardwood forests, providing visitors with a unique experience.

The park is home to a variety of ecosystems, making it the perfect place for those who love nature. In addition, the park is located in a transition zone between two different types of forests, providing visitors with a unique experience. The Rainy Lake Visitor Center is 11 miles east of International Falls. Kabetogama Lake and Ash River have visitor centers as well.

FAQ

How many National Parks are in Minnesota?

Minnesota’s six national parks are governed by the National Park Service, including Voyageurs National Park, Mississippi National River and Recreation Area.

Pipestone National Monument, Grand Portage National Monument, the North Country National Scenic Trails, and the Saint Croix River National Scenic Byway.

What National Park is in northern Minnesota?

Voyageurs National Park is in northern Minnesota near International Falls, Minnesota.

Related Resources

Kyle Kroeger
WRITTEN BY

Kyle Kroeger

Kyle Kroeger is the Founder and Owner of ViaTravelers.com. He is a full-time traveler and entrepreneur. Kyle started ViaTravelers.com to help travelers experience a fully immersive cultural experience as he did initially living in Italy. He's a converted finance nerd and Excel jockey turned world wanderer (and may try to get lost on purpose). After visiting 12 countries and 13 national parks in a year, he was devoted to creating and telling stories like he'd heard.

Plus, after spending more time on airplanes and packing, he's learned some incredible travel hacks over time as he earned over 1 million Chase Ultimate Rewards points in under a year, helping him maximize experiences as much as possible to discover the true meaning of travel.

He loves listening to local stories from around the world and sharing his experiences traveling the globe. He loves travel so much that he moved from his hometown of Minneapolis to Amsterdam with his small family to travel Europe full-time. Read more about his portfolio of work.

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