This Little-Known National Park Is One of the Best Places in the U.S. to Catch the Northern Lights

by Victoria Santiago
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If you’ve ever wanted to see the northern lights, this national park in Minnesota should be next on your travel bucket list. Conditions need to be just right to catch a glimpse of the greens, purples, and reds that dance across the sky. Luckily, Voyageurs National Park has it all.

This park is just about as far north as you can get in the lower 48 states, which is essential for northern light viewing, along with perfectly pitch-black skies. In fact, it’s even recognized by the International Dark-Sky Association for how dark the nights get.

Huge bodies of water make the event even more picturesque, as lights dance across the sky and reflect back on the water. Luckily, Voyageurs National Park has you covered there as well. More than a third of the 218,000-acre park is covered in water.

Overall, it makes for a pretty good viewing experience.

This National Park Is Perfect For the Northern Lights

You can see the northern lights in the national park year-round. The natural phenomenon is visible during the summer, but winter is better. Minnesota’s winter nights are darker for longer. Thus, you’ll have a better chance of catching the lights. Voyageurs National Park suggests that visitors should come on a clear winter night. While there, they should look for a spot that has an unobstructed view of the horizon.

One northern lights photographer has seen the lights so much that he even has a preferred viewing spot. “My favorite spot is on the south shore of any inland lake in northeast Minnesota. Being on the south shore means you get a great view of the lights looking north over the lake,” said Travis Novitsky.

The national park has some preferred viewing spots as well. The visitor centers at Rainy Lake and Ash River are great places to see the northern lights. The Voyageurs Forest Overlook parking lot also works, as does Woodenfrog Beach. Not to mention, any lakeside campsite or houseboat site (these get bonus points for the waterfront views).

Stargazing At Voyageurs National Park Is An Experience, Too

Of course, any park that has perfect views of the northern lights has something else to offer: stargazing. All of the same conditions make for a perfect night of looking at the stars. Dark skies, unobstructed views, and plenty of meteor showers make this park a star-lovers dream.

In fact, Travel + Leisure says that the Milky Way is often fully on display at the national park, especially in the summer months. Once again, the Voyageurs Forest Overlook makes for a good spot for getting the best view. Beaver Pond Overlook and the Kettle Falls Dam area are also good for stargazing.

If you’re planning a trip to Minnesota anytime soon, it’s clear that your first stop needs to be at Voyageurs National Park. If not, don’t fret. You may not even need to travel to catch a glimpse of this natural wonder. For all of our Outsiders in New England, there are good northern lights viewing spots for you, too.

Outsider.com