Backpack, Paddle, and Camp the Great Lakes

Backpack Lake Huron's shores, kayak the St. Lawrence Islands, and camp along Lake Superior
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Backpack Lake Huron's shores, kayak the St. Lawrence Islands, and camp along Lake Superior

1. Backpack: Spelunk a Great Lakeshore

Why

Ontario's Bruce Peninsula is an immense natural jetty: It juts a whopping 50 miles out into Lake Huron, creating Georgian Bay, a vast expanse of Grecian-blue water. Its uplands shelter thousand-year-old cedars, dolomite cliffs, and cave-studded beaches.

How

Hike the sweetest 25-mile stretch of the 496-mile Bruce Trail (www.brucetrail.org) by traversing flat, lichen-painted rock 5 miles from Crane Lake. Then, hoof it to the Grotto, a beachside cave with waters backlit by an underwater entrance. Crash at the Storm Haven campsite before a 12-mile day of rock scrambling beneath eroded overhangs and 200-foot climbs to the jagged cliffs.

2. Sea Kayak: Paddle to a Thousand Islands

Why

Iroquois legend holds that the Great Spirit once tried to take back paradise on Earth-only to have it fall from his hands and splinter into the Thousand Islands. The 27 granite isles of St. Lawrence Islands National Park offer campsites among hardwoods and lonesome stetches of paddling.

How

Put into the St. Lawrence at Gananoque, in water so clear you can see your hull's shadow 30 feet below, and paddle to Aubrey Island. Set up camp and visit the cathedral-like cliffs of Half Moon Bay. Then cross to Mulcaster Island for a hike and finish in Ivy Lea, where you can toast the Great Spirit's butterfingers. www.paddle1000.org

Basecamp: Crash Next to a Waterfall

Why

Before Bob Dylan sang about a girl from the North Country, adventurers already knew they had something good on Lake Superior in Minnesota. Namely, a spider-web of bike trails, a 95-mile Superior Hiking Trail section, and a bird-of-prey flyway.

How

Sleep to the music of the Cascade River's falls at a Superior National Forest backcountry site. From there, you're a short hike from 2,301-foot Eagle Mountain, the state's highest, and Devil Track Lake loop, a 25-mile mix of singletrack and forest roads. On nearby Pincushion Mountain, kick back and watch hundreds of migrating red-tailed hawks. www.superiornationalforest.org