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Backpacker Magazine – November 2010

Best Hikes Ever: Boundary Waters, MN

Immerse yourself in Minnesota's liquid wilderness.

by: Kelly Bastone

Can you have your solitude and cold beer, too? In the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, the answer is yes. The labyrinthine, 1.3-million-acre expanse of streams, lakes, and islands along the Canadian border serves up countless wild nooks and crannies where you can lose yourself for days, and canoe capacity means luxe camping every night. The price of admission? Navigating the maze. Solve the puzzle with our three-day route from Trail’s End to Hunter Island: Our scout carefully mapped the GPS coordinates for waypoints all along the 38-mile point-to-point journey, so you can find your way among false channels and hidden portages with confidence. Go in early September for fine weather, few bugs, and lower average wind speed on Saganaga Lake.

Do it From Trail’s End, near Sea Gull Lakes, follow the current into Saganaga Lake, then go nine miles west into Canada (present passport at Cache Bay Ranger Station). Paddle across the bay to portage around Silver Falls, the park’s highest cascade, and continue north through Deadman’s portage (.2 mile) to camp on Hunter Island, where moose and bald eagles hang as casually as picnickers at a city park. Next day, return to Cache Bay (south of Silver Falls) and take the side hike to spy petroglyphs of two canoes and humans; camp across from the ranger station. Day three, paddle back to Trail’s End.

Driving From Grand Marais, take Gunflint Trail 57 miles north to the Trail’s End Campground.

Required; enter lottery for summer trips from December 1 to January 15 ($28, Get a CANPASS to cross the border ($30, and permit for Quetico Provincial Park ($32, 807-597-2735;

USGS quads Munker Island and Conners Island

Trip ID 30772

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Feb 14, 2013

TMan and Matt are both right on! The Kekakabic trail is 41 miles of remote wilderness withing the BWCA, and no canoe or passport needed!

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Aug 29, 2011

I agree with Todd...c'mon Backpacker Magazine! There's actually 192 miles of hiking/backpacking trails in the BWCAW. Learn more about them at

Nov 07, 2010

I don' know why the "Best Hike" in the Boundary Waters is a canoe trip and not the stunning 65 mile Border Route Trail. The BRT has dozens of beautiful overlooks, and goes by two really spectacular waterfalls in Bridal Veil Falls and Stairway Falls. Plus you get a little bit of the moonscape created by the Ham Lake Fire and the oddity of Magnetic Rock.


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