voyageurs and isle royale parks

Old Jan 1st, 2020, 05:05 AM
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voyageurs and isle royale parks

We want to visit both Isle Royale and Voyageurs parks in early August and if possible Theodore Roosevelt park (which we somehow didn't see when we were visiting other closer parks that would have been more convenient) on our quest to visit all now 62 national parks. Any suggestions on where to fly in and out of and the easiest route between the parks would be much appreciated.
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Old Jan 1st, 2020, 08:08 AM
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Delta has the cheapest flights to Duluth MN depending on where you are flying from. To go to Voyageurs rent a car and go north on US 53 to the turnoff to the visitors center (122?). From there you have to go by boat. There are also a couple of day use areas. Since you have visited many National Parks, I'm guessing you have an Annual Pass or the Lifetime Pass if you are over 65.
After Voyageurs return to Duluth (maybe overnight?) then head east on MN Rt. 61 all the way to Grand Portage (about 3 hours). There is a a passenger ferry from Grand Portage over to Isle Royale. No cars are allowed on the island. You can spend about 4 hours on the island before returning on the ferry back to Grand Portage.
There is a National Monument in Grand Portage if you like to visit them.
If you want to keep your rental car from Duluth, you can drive US 2 all the way to Williston ND and then south on US 85 to visit the north and south units of Theodore Roosevelt NP.
From the south unit, head south to I-94 to head back to Minnesota.
If you chose to fly to MSP and go from there you could also take the Amtrak Empire Builder west to Williston ND and rent a car from there for Theodore Roosevelt NP.

Last edited by tomfuller; Jan 1st, 2020 at 08:31 AM. Reason: Added thoughts
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Old Jan 1st, 2020, 10:06 AM
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thank you

Thank you - I had not thought of flying in and out of Duluth. We will be flying from Boston and yes we do have the lifetime senior passes. I like your circular route to and from Theodore Roosevelt. What do you think about going to Isle Royale first from Grand Portage and then driving north to Thunder Bay and onto route 11 to get to voyageurs and then from there to Theodore Roosevelt on route 2 and back from there to Duluth on route 94 as you suggested?
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Old Jan 1st, 2020, 08:00 PM
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The regular gas price in Thunder Bay is about $1.30 per liter ~ $4.90 US Gallon. There aren't many towns or gas stations west of Thunder Bay on 11.
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Old Jan 1st, 2020, 11:04 PM
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I don't recommend going to Voyageurs National Park through Thunder Bay. I grew up on the North Shore of MN and have been to both parks and going from Thunder Bay to Voyageurs is really out of the way in my opinion. There are definitely not a lot of places between them. Going to Isle Royale from Grand Portage, MN is a much shorter drive than going from Michigan. 25 miles as opposed to 60 miles and also a long drive to get over to Houghton or Copper Harbor. Best bet is to fly into Minneapolis or Duluth. Duluth will be the closest to both parks.
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Old Jan 2nd, 2020, 06:45 AM
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I just hate retracing steps so it seems different to go the northern route rather than backtrack. On the other hand, I sure don't want to run out of gas in the middle of nowhere.
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Old Jan 2nd, 2020, 07:31 AM
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The gas price in International Falls MN is about $2.54/gal. Maybe spend the night in International Falls (several motels under $100). Fill the tank in the US and then head for Thunder Bay and Grand Portage the next day. As for heading west into North Dakota, you could fly to Fargo ND and take the train overnight to Williston. The Empire Builder arrives in Williston about 11AM every day. The train beats driving all the way across ND on US 2 IMO.
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Old Jan 2nd, 2020, 09:44 PM
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Neither Isle Royale (rhymes with loyal) nor Voyageurs are the prettiest or most interesting areas in the region.

Most would drive MN Hwy 1 to connect the eastern parks, itís a twisty road. Thereís a wolf center here. There isnít that much backtracking and the lake shore is scenic.

Iíd spend the night on Isle Royale, and rent a houseboat for Voyageurs.

From Minneapolis to Grand Portage is about 6 hours, Medora to Minneapolis is a fast 8 hours despite the distance.

Grand Portage has an interesting national monument and Indian Community.

Kakabeka Falls west of Thunder Bay is impressive. If you go this way you of course need passports and a rental car you can take into Canada thatís insured.

Note that the 3 parks are in 3 different time zones. Thunder Bay is also an hour ahead of Minnesota.

Fitting in the Winnipeg Folk Music Festival between Voyageurs and TRNP could work out.

Last edited by tom_mn; Jan 2nd, 2020 at 10:11 PM.
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Old Jan 3rd, 2020, 01:14 AM
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Ah thank you, I hadn't seen route 1 going through between the two parks which eliminates thinking about taking a rental car into Canada plus the gas prices and remoteness - and it looks like a more interesting drive. As far as taking the train I am confused about how that would work with the rental car since it is so much more money not to return the car to the same place you picked it up.
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Old Jan 3rd, 2020, 08:01 AM
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Route 1 looks a lot better than driving into Canada. The train option only works if you rent and return in St. Paul MN which means flying to MSP instead of Duluth. It would be possible to leave the rental car at the train station in Detroit Lakes MN and taking the train to Williston ND and renting another car there for the Roosevelt Parks visit. It's probably not a good idea to have 2 cars rented at the same time though.
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Old Jan 3rd, 2020, 12:46 PM
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There are a couple of museums between Minneapolis and Duluth right on the interstate about the time (1870-1920) when there were really bad forest fires and 400-2000 people died in a single fire, either the Hinckley Fire Museum in Hinckley or The Fires of 1918 Museum in Moose Lake.

This is the best food of your planned itinerary https://www.sceniccafe.com/menus/ about 20 minutes north of Duluth.

You should try the Lake Superior Whitefish somewhere along the lake, and the walleye in MN, if you eat fish.

Worth stopping at for high tea or lodging near Grand Portage, https://www.naniboujou.com/

A large famous resort on the lake for lodging or a meal https://www.lutsenresort.com/

While driving along Lake Superior it's worth a stop at both Palisade Head (no hiking) and Shovel Point at Tettegouch SP (light hiking). There are many short hikes to various waterfalls all along the shore, which can be nice, water flow in the summer is variable. Split Rock Lighthouse is probably the top attraction in this part of the state.

While driving from Voyageurs to TRNP it is a long way but it's interesting to go from a wet boreal forest to treeless Great Plains in a day. A place to break up the journey is the source of the Mississippi, Lake Itasca.
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Old Jan 3rd, 2020, 02:54 PM
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Well I just booked our flights to Minneapolis rather than Duluth because the rates and times were so much better. Thank you for the food suggestions - I love to get those! I am going to work on getting some hotel reservations and boat reservations next week. Thank you so much for all the suggestions - the waterfall hikes sound great
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Old Jan 3rd, 2020, 03:18 PM
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That sent before I was done. I am much happier with that route 1 drive. And we are fine with driving to Theodore Roosevelt. At the end of the summer I will have visited 32 national parks - hoping to get to all of them eventually.
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Old Jan 5th, 2020, 10:09 AM
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Sounds good. If you need dinner in Minneapolis before your flight out I like Hai Hai which is car friendly https://www.haihaimpls.com/#intro

if you are looking for books to read during your long drives, Under a Flaming Sky https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/..._a_Flaming_Sky is a gripping read similar to Into Thin Air.

For North Dakota and NW Minnesota anything by Louise Erdrich works.
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Old Jan 6th, 2020, 03:09 PM
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> I’d spend the night on Isle Royale

If going to Isle Royale from Grand Portage -- something we've done twice -- the only way to spend the night is to camp in near-primitive conditions. For us, this was EXACTLY why we wanted to spend the night there, but it isn't for everyone. You'll need sleeping bags and probably a tent before you should even THINK of spending the night there.
https://www.nps.gov/isro/planyourvis...sle-royale.htm
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Old Jan 7th, 2020, 05:48 AM
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There are 2 camper cabins at Windigo and a store according to this website

https://www.nps.gov/isro/planyourvis...rbor-lodge.htm

The full service resort is on the far side of the island but 1 of the 2 ferries leaving Grand Portage will proceed to there after Windigo, looks to be about a 6-7 hour journey. Leaves Grand Portage 3 days per week.

I've done the 4 hour stay day trip and it's unsatisfactory. The reason for going is to experience wilderness. The short hikes to so-so scenery that can be done in 4 hours hardly justify the trip.

When I went the ride was rough and a large contingent of passengers vomited both directions.
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Old Jan 8th, 2020, 02:50 AM
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I booked a room in the Rock Harbor Lodge. We tent camped and primitive camped for many years and then moved to a popup and now aliner after my husband would no longer tent camp. We are going to take that long boat ride from Grand Portage to Rock Harbor that makes some short stops along the way so hoping that will give us at least a general idea of Isle Royale and maybe a few short hikes from the lodge that he will be able to handle. Although I don't want to watch anyone getting sick on the boat neither one of us has ever gotten even remotely close to being seasick when others around us are so I think we will be okay. I have booked the first few stops on the trip and will continue to book in the next few weeks. Any suggestions in International Falls or closer to Voyageurs?
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Old Jan 8th, 2020, 07:30 AM
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Note that the Grand Portage Customs bldg has global entry appointments with walk up availability most of the time if you need a global entry appointment. You can also get or renew a Nexus card at International Falls, again little if any appointment waiting time. If you are interested in either of those things.

International Falls is a paper mill town (so is Ft. Francis in Ontario across the river) so probably best avoid it. I'd look at lakeside resorts in Orr, Crane Lake or Ash River. The point of the park is water surface and shore so it's hard to see much without getting a houseboat and cruising. Sorry, never done it.

Between GP and Voyageurs, Ely is a resort town to possibly stay in. Been a few times to the Fortune Bay Indian Casino in Tower which is nice enough-- it's a smallish Indian Casino Resort and I assume you know what that means, there's always food available but check in/out is slow and there's a hint of smoke in the air. The Soudan Mine is an interesting tour.

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Old Jan 9th, 2020, 07:42 PM
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Parts of this may be of interest, hope you can play it

https://www.tpt.org/minnesotas-national-park-legacy/
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Old Jan 13th, 2020, 07:50 AM
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Ah I just sat down and watched - what a wonderful film! Really gave me a feel for the area. Now i can't wait for August and our trip there. I have everything booked now except the rental car in and out of Minneapolis which is proving to be more expensive than i would like ($500+ for the 8 days). Going to work on that more in the next few days. It looks like it may be worth taking an uber downtown for about half the price.
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