Known for its excellent winter recreation opportunities, Minnesota offers visitors a warm welcome even during the coldest months. With more than 350 resorts open for winter fun, it’s easy to stay and play among Minnesota’s frozen lakes and rivers. And these majestic bodies of water just so happen to be some of the best ice-fishing spots in the country.
If you don’t mind roughing it, you’ll enjoy spending the night in one of the many sleeper fish houses. However, if you prefer warm, cozy lodgings, there are a number of accommodations that fit the bill as well.
This four-day itinerary explores some of the best spots for ice fishing and other winter activities in Minnesota.
For travelers flying in, there are a few airports near our first destination, Voyageurs National Park. Falls International Airport is about a 30-minute drive away. For more direct flight options, consider arriving at Duluth International Airport or Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. All three options offer car rental services to get you on the road in no time!
DAY 1 & 2 – VOYAGEURS NATIONAL PARK
A sprawling expanse of lakes and forests along the Canadian border, Minnesota’s Voyageurs National Park may seem like a warm weather paradise, but the frozen vistas and stunning skies of Voyageurs are just as magical in the winter.
During the coldest months, snowmobiles, snowshoes and cross-country skis are the main methods of transportation in Voyageurs National Park, and the four lakes that make up forty percent of the park become a haven for ice anglers.
Spend a full day enjoying the tranquil winter scenery as you wait to reel in your catch. During your time, you’ll have the opportunity to catch walleye, perch, pike, and crappie.
Beginners or those new to the area might consider reserving an ice fishing excursion with local guides. RainyDaze Guide Service offers full-day ice fishing adventures with all the gear you need included! Gas, bait, and snowmobiles will be provided for your trip so you can plan less and fish more.
For those who have plenty of equipment or prefer to go out on their own, rentals are available at the Voyageur Park Lodge. Transportation is included with each heated fish house rental, and the lodge has ice rods and other equipment available as well.
Note: Visitors should always check the conditions ahead of time, as inclement weather can affect road conditions and sometimes result in closures. If traveling by snowmobile, visitors should be sure to follow the groomed trails and obey all closure signs. A fish house registration and fishing license are required before accessing the fish houses in Voyageurs.
More Winter Activities
While ice fishing is king in Voyageurs National Park, there are a number of other outdoor winter activities to enjoy. Start by strapping on those cross-country skis and hitting the trails. There are a number of available routes, including the lengthy Black Bay Ski Trails and the beginner-friendly Echo Bay Trail.
Snowshoeing is another popular activity in Voyageurs—and there are plenty of ways to do it. Spectacular scenery awaits adventurers on the Blind Ash Bay Trail, the Sullivan Bay Trail and the Oberholtzer Trail. Stop by the Rainy Lake Visitor Center for all your snowshoe and ski rental needs.
Last but certainly not least, Voyageurs National Park offers some epic sledding opportunities too. The park even has its own official sledding hill dubbed the Sphunge Island Sledding Hill, the perfect place for visitors of all ages to get their sled on.
Where to Eat & Stay Near Voyageurs National Park
For dinner, head to the little town of Ranier, which is just ten minutes away. Rainy Lake Grill is known for its casual spread of sandwiches and burgers, and Border Bar and Pizza is a great spot for piping hot pizza.
After a long day on the ice, visitors may want to find somewhere a bit cozier to spend the night, and Kec’s Kove on Lake Kabetogama certainly fits the bill. Home to year-round lodging, Kec’s Kove offers visitors fully furnished cabins, a full-service lodge with sauna and spa, and an on-site dining room. The Cantilever Hotel is another great option. This boutique hotel and distillery near Rainy Lake offers guests a high-end stay in the heart of the Minnesotan-Canadian wilderness.
DAY 3 & 4 – LAKE OF THE WOODS
Second only to the Great Lakes, Lake of the Woods is the largest inland freshwater lake in the Continental U.S., making it an ideal spot for ice fishing. Plus, with a plethora of accommodations and sleeper fish house outfitters throughout the area, it couldn’t be easier to access some of the best ice fishing in the entire Midwest.
At over 70 miles long and with more 65,000 miles worth of shoreline to explore, Lake of the Woods is also known as the Walleye Capital of the World. You’re sure to catch more than a few fish during your ice fishing day. There are various ice fishing guides to choose from near Lake of the Woods. Easily book an ice fishing package with Ballard’s Resort–our recommended lodging for the night. Or rent a sleeper house for the day with Sweet’s Fishing, which can accommodate up to four people per house. They’ll provide everything you need for a successful day of Minnesota ice fishing.
While ice fishing is the main attraction at Lake of the Woods, the area is also known for its amazing snowmobiling trails. Thanks to the hundreds of miles of connected groomed trails, you’ll have the chance to explore the frozen wilderness. If you’re worried about braving the cold for hours on end, don’t worry! There are a number of snowmobile shelters along the way where explorers can escape the winter chill.
Cross-Country Skiing & Snowshoeing
Lake of the Woods also has some amazing cross-country skiing opportunities. Pop by Franz Jevne State Park in Baudette and Zippel Bay State Park in Williams for the best cross-country skiing trails in the area. Both have groomed trails that are secluded and peaceful. On top of all that, there’s snowshoeing for those who prefer to explore at a more leisurely pace.
Note: A Minnesota Ski Pass is required to access these trails. Passes can be purchased in person at select state park locations.
Where to Eat & Stay Near Lake of the Woods
There are a few different places to stay near Lake of the Woods. We recommend Ballard’s Resort, a waterfront accommodation specifically known for its spectacular fishing and ice fishing opportunities.
As for where to eat, Rock Harbor Lodge is a fantastic option. This waterfront restaurant is known for elegant dishes like the shrimp ahoy starter and the prime rib entree. If you’d like a seafood-focused meal in honor of your ice fishing adventures, Rock Harbor Lodge can deliver on that front as well with its shoreluncher sandwich or broiled walleye.