ROCKY BORDER ICE [ Voyageurs ] By land or by lake, Minnesota’s only national park offers some of the most dramatic winter landscapes in the Upper Midwest — and some of the best snowmobiling. Voyageurs National Park is treasured for its unspoiled wilderness waterways. When this remote collection of lakes and rivers freezes up, those waters are transformed into long and glorious ice trails that hug rocky shorelines and run across the great wide open between the U.S. and Canada. The park features 26 small lakes and four main lakes, Kabetogama, Namekan, Sand Point and Rainy Lake, which covers about 360 square miles with cold, clear water. Steep cliffs and boreal forests give the region a rugged beauty. These ancient routes have been used by traders and travelers for centuries, and in the park’s most remote corners, you can see the world much as it was in the days of the voyageurs. Beginning in the late 1600s, the French fur traders explored these waters via the canoes they adopted from the area’s native population, navigating by the stars. Speaking of stars, take a night ride to experience the constellations undimmed by the city lights. The stars seem bigger and closer here. Chances are good that you’ll also catch an awesome northern light show, with the aurora borealis dancing colorfully across the horizon. It’s another world in voyageur country, and well worth a visit. ROAD TRIP ATTRACTIONS While you’re at the park, stop by the visitor center to learn about its rich history. The Voyageurs region has deep ties to the Native communities who lived here for centuries, as well as French traders, gold miners and European settlers. The communities of Ash River, Kabetogama, Ray, International Falls, Crane Lake and Orr warmly welcome snowmobilers and offer a host of amenities to winter visitors. A road trip to the area should include a few stops to admire local curiosities. Football fans should visit the Bronko Nagurski Museum, a special wing of the Koochiching County Historical Society dedicated to the Chicago Bears fullback and NFL Hall of Famer who grew up in International Falls. A great reason for a January roadtrip is always the Icebox Days celebration in International Falls. This city on the western edge of Rainy Lake has recorded temperatures below 40 degrees more than 60 times since the state began keeping track in 1895. That’s earned the city the title “Icebox of the Nation,” and its residents show their pride with snow sculptures, fireworks, a 5K, hockey tournament, canoe races and a toilet seat toss. January 17-21, 2018. If you have a passport, cross the border to Fort Frances, Ontario, a friendly Canadian town on the other side of Rainy Lake. Visit the Rainy Lake Mermaid, a 1930s sculpture made by Minneapolis architect Gordon Schlichting, who spent summers in the area. Admire the Hallet, a logging tugboat that hauled thousands of cords of wood across the lake before permanently docking in the Sorting Gap Marina. Learn about local history at the Fort Frances Museum and Cultural Centre. GREAT TRAILS The Chain of Lakes Trail is a legendary snowmobiling route that doubles as a greatest-hits tour of the park’s best features. This one-way, 13-mile trail twists and turns through some challenging terrain. Rocky outcroppings, ancient cliffs and forested scenery encourage riders to take it slow and take it all in. The Rainy Lake Trail follows the northern shoreline of the lake, dipping into ice-encrusted bays and through a course of rocky islands to land in the town of Ranier, one of the many snowmobile-friendly communities around the park. The Voyageurs Trail travels across all four of the park’s main lakes, and covers a wide variety of terrain ranging from rocky river corridors to big stretches of ice. The Blue Ox Trail runs 74 miles from Bemidji to International Falls. This railroad-grade route is a smooth, direct ride that covers a good variety of territory, including black spruce woods, aspen stands and swamps before the sky views open up as you approach the park. ma Snowmobil (Photos by Dan Vertina/Ash River Kabetoga e Club) 10 Minnesota Snowmobiling Destinations