Voyageurs National Park
Hermit's paradise: Pretty much the same wilderness the pioneers knew
Voyageurs National Park is located three hundred miles north of Minneapolis, at the Ontario border. You can go days there without encountering another soul.
655 miles of shoreline
The park, one-third water, was named for 18th-century French Canadians who traveled in birch canoes and traded furs. Boating is still the only way to explore what is essentially a roadless area. Campers rent canoes or kayaks (Voyageurs Adventures, 877/465-2925, from $15) or cruise in floating homes (Rainy Lake Houseboats, 800/554-9188, rainylakehouseboats.com/, from $289/day for up to six people). Swimming is for the brave--the crisp waters, which flow from northern Canada, may cause hearts to skip a beat. But fishing is huge. Top prize is the rare walleye, known for its tasty white fillets.
Visitors camp for free at 215 developed sites, or they pitch a tent pretty much wherever they want, which usually means sleeping somewhere humans haven't set foot in months. After dark, loon calls, both soothing and eerie, accompany the howls of timberwolves. The night sky comes alive, too: Voyageurs is one of the few places in the lower 48 states where, if you're lucky, you can see the northern lights.
Little American Island
In 1893, prospectors found gold on a speck of land in huge Rainy Lake, leading to a brief mining craze. During the peak months (June through August), rangers escort visitors through its abandoned shafts, as well as on cruises, canoe trips, and hikes along the park's 45 miles of water-accessible trails. Most excursions are free or cost less than $15, and they launch from three visitors centers, each located a few miles from International Falls, Minn. In winter, when there are more black bears and moose than hikers and blueberry pickers, the frozen park morphs into a playground for snowmobiling and cross-country skiing.
The Kettle Falls Hotel
Built during a 1910 logging boom, the 12-room hotel, a National Historic Landmark deep in the park, retains its antique, middle-of-nowhere charm. May through mid-October, it charges from $50 per person (218/374-4404, kettlefallshotel.com/).