Things To Do In Crane Lake

Published On: January 20, 20237.2 min read
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Crane Lake, Minnesota – welcome to the finish line. This northeastern Minnesota community literally lies at the end of the county’s highways. With a population of less than 100 full-time residents, visitors are arguably more likely to encounter some wildlife than other human beings.

The areas surrounding Crane Lake are remote to say the least, but don’t let the solitude fool you – what the area lacks in population is made up for in recreational opportunities. Whether your group prefers water, land, or a mix of both, Crane Lake has something for every visitor type. The area has an outstanding list of resorts, restaurants, and other local businesses with all the amenities any visitor could ask for.

Water-Based Opportunities

Perhaps the most prevalent outdoor opportunities in this region are water-based in nature. Visitors of the region have access to thousands upon thousands of acres of water to explore. Crane Lake itself is roughly 3,000 acres in size but has connections many larger waterbodies like Sand Point Lake, Namakan Lake, Rainy Lake, and Kabetogama Lake – in addition to countless other smaller lakes and reservoirs.

Crane Lake has three public water access points, as well as a few others through local resorts, so finding a way to get on the water is not a concern.

A word of caution while on the water – be cognizant of your location. In many instances the United States – Canadian border crosses on the water, so be sure you know which side you’re on. If you plan to cross into Canada, make sure to check in with the Canadian Customs office on Sand Point Lake.

The scenery in this neck of the woods is truly second to none. Every trip on the water comes standard with breathtaking views and picturesque landscapes. While on the water, there’s several areas worth viewing or visiting, including some of the nation’s oldest geological formations, the Grassy Bay Cliffs, the pictographs at Namakan Narrows, or the Vermilion Gorge.


The Crane Lake region draws anglers from near and far. The lakes of the Namakan Reservoir (Crane Lake, Sand Point Lake, and Namakan Lake) are premier destinations for walleye and smallmouth bass – both in terms of quality and quantity. Fisherman visiting the area have potential to encounter countless ‘eater class’ fish, as well as those of trophy caliber.  Other species that inhabit the area lakes include sauger, black crappie, lake trout, northern pike, sturgeon, largemouth bass, yellow perch and bluegill.

Throughout the open water months, fish are generally cooperative in the area and it doesn’t take a lot of gear to have a great time. For more information regarding walleye and smallmouth bass fishing on Crane Lake and the surrounding area, check out the blogs here.

Regardless of where you fish or what you’re after, be sure to grab a fishing license before hitting the water. It’s a good idea to brush up on the current fishing regulations as well because these types of things are constantly evolving.

Boating, Canoeing and Kayaking

If fishing doesn’t tickle your fancy, then not to worry because the area Is rich with plenty of other water-based enjoyment. Whether you’re interested in a sunset boating cruise, tubing or waterskiing with the family, or taking a paddleboard out for spin, there’s certainly no lack of water to recreate on. With no motor restrictions on this expanse of water, the possibilities here are endless.

For the adventurer-type, the Crane Lake area has plenty of options for canoeing and kayaking as well. With connections to Voyageurs National Park, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, and Quetico Provincial Park, there are thousands of miles of canoe routes available to visitors.

For a more non-traditional boating experience, visitors can combine their time on the water with their sleeping arrangements via a houseboat rental. There’s something quite special about starting and ending your day literally on the water. There’s a number of houseboat camping sites located throughout Voyageurs National Park. Houseboats are available for rent from a few of the local resorts and come fully outfitted for your stay.

If you don’t have access to a boat, canoe, or other vessel, don’t be afraid to reach out to the local resources. Several resorts and outfitters offer rentals for boats, pontoons, canoes, paddleboards and more.

Land-Based Opportunities

Beyond the sheer amount of water, the Crane Lake region has countless acres of accessible land as well. If more terrestrial activities are your style, there’s a wide range of land-based opportunities offered in the area. Whether you want seclusion and solitude or to partake in group activities, there’s plenty of options in this neck of the woods.


With the vast expanses of land that exist in this area, hiking is a popular activity for residents and visitors alike. Within a short drive of the Town of Crane Lake, there are miles upon miles of hiking trails across lands owned by USDA Forest Service, Minnesota DNR, and other local organizations.

The hiking trails provide great opportunities to simply stretch your legs, go birdwatching, pick berries, enjoy the views from the scenic overlooks, or have a picnic with your friends and family. The trails in the area range in difficulty level and overall length, so you can pick your segment accordingly.


This region is well-known for it’s camping opportunities, and that’s for good reason. Crane Lake serves as the gateway to Voyageurs National Park, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, and Quetico Provincial Park. These three locales encompass millions of acres of wilderness, so there’s no lack of land to explore.

Voyageurs National Park has more than 150 campsites available for use, while the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness adds another 2,000 or so campsites. On the Canadian side, Quetico Provincial Park offers an additional more than 2,200 campsites.

Sections of the areas are open to motorized traffic, but large portions are only accessible via non-motorized travel like canoeing, kayaking, and hiking. If off the beaten path is what you’re after, these three areas are hard to beat.

If you’re looking for something a little less rustic and secluded, some of the area resorts and businesses offer campgrounds, which are open to both RV camping and tent camping. If you’d like more information about the area campgrounds, you can find it here.


With more than 250 miles of off-road trails, the Crane Lake area is truly an ATV/UTV riding paradise. The area is home to largest ATV club in the State of Minnesota, Voyageur Country ATV, so the trail system in this neck of the woods receives a lot of support. And with so much support, the Crane Lake off-road vehicle trails are constantly on the increase.

This well-maintained system of trails is praised by visitors for its easy riding as the trails are fully mapped and signed so getting lost isn’t really an option. The detailed maps are perfect for planning your route and picking the stops you’d like to make. With so many miles of trails, visitors can choose to spend a full day riding or combine some riding with some of the many worthy stopovers.

The trails are designed with stops in mind, so be sure to check out some of the scenery or grab a drink or bite to eat at one of the local establishments. There’s also plenty of locations to gas up your off-road vehicle. The local businesses are big supporters of the trail system in the area. In fact, the local resorts, campgrounds, and other businesses in the area are ATV/UTV friendly.

For more information about the ATV trails near Crane Lake, you can visit the link here.


Want to hit the links? Well, you’re in luck. Just a short 15-minute drive from Crane Lake is the Par 36, Vermilion River Greens. The establishment offers a nine-hole golf course, along with clubs and carts for rent. Take in the area’s fantastic scenery with every swing.

There’s no doubt that the areas surrounding Crane Lake, Minnesota have a lot to offer. Any visitor to the area has their choice from a wide-ranging list of water- and land-based activities. Spend some time of the water fishing, tubing, and kayaking or hit the ATV trails, go on a hike, or enjoy a secluded camping experience. Maybe, you’ll even want to have a mix of both. The only downfall with a visit to the area is that you’ll regret not planning a longer vacation.

Thanks for thinking of Crane Lake.  Where the road ends – adventure starts.