Boundary Waters: Trails End to Hunter Island

Sheltered camps with bugling moose. Coves with ancient rock art. A raging waterfall. You'll find even the portages delightful as you paddle this 38-mile, 3-day route through Minnesota's million-acre water park into Canada's Quetico Provincial Park.
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Sheltered camps with bugling moose. Coves with ancient rock art. A raging waterfall. You'll find even the portages delightful as you paddle this 38-mile, 3-day route through Minnesota's million-acre water park into Canada's Quetico Provincial Park.

-Mapped by Steffan Fay

TO TRAILHEAD: From Duluth, head N on MN 61 for 114 mi. to Grand Marais, then take Gunflint Trail 57 mi. N toward Trails End. Turn R onto Sag Lake Trail for put-in access. Permits required for Boundary Waters and Quetico; reserve well in advance (www.bwcaw.org, www.ontarioparks.com/english/quet.html). To receive Quetico trip planning info by mail, call (807) 597-2735. Visitors entering Quetico directly from the U.S. must have a Remote Area Border Crossing Permit; visit www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/rabc.html.

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 61.8

Waypoints

HIL001

Location: 48.171724, -90.891024

From Trails End, launch canoe or kayak into Sea Gull River, paddling N with current

HIL002

Location: 48.199735, -90.88131

When the river enters Saganaga Lake; point bow NW to avoid a dead-end in one of the numerous bays

HIL003

Location: 48.210704, -90.898808

Swing W and stay S of Munker Island (the large island to the NW)

HIL004

Location: 48.212606, -90.931306

Cross protected channel between Long and Munker Islands. Tip: It's tough to find; use GPS "go to" function. More open water ahead

HIL005

Location: 48.218954, -90.96257

At Rocky Point, head N to the crescent-shaped cove of Hook Island (the cove is on the W side of the island)

HIL006

Location: 48.22419, -90.963385

Rest @ Hook Island, then continue SW (when waves are low)

HIL007

Location: 48.211805, -91.011397

Welcome to Canada! Grab backcountry permit for Quetico Provincial Park @ Cache Bay Ranger Station

HIL008

Location: 48.230576, -91.02896

Paddle into the calm channel. According to legend, the Ojibwa hid on these 100-ft. cliffs to ambush incoming Sioux warriors

HIL009

Location: 48.23172, -91.055267

Begin rocky portage past foamy, super-wide Silver Falls, the park's highest cascade. Relaunch N, hugging lake's shoreline

HIL010

Location: 48.274996, -91.026428

Route tapers into small bay; go NW around promontory

HIL011

Location: 48.278409, -91.029174

Large outcrop sheltered by thick pines conceals S end of .2-mi. Deadman's portage; after quick scramble, continue NE along heavily forested shoreline of Hunter Island

HIL012

Location: 48.296328, -91.002143

Moose, bald eagles, and fine views make this a 5-star campsite. Next day: Return to WPT 8 or opt for a leisurely 6-mi. loop around islands off the NE tip of Hunter Island, where shoreline slabs make ideal overnight spots

HIL013

Location: 48.215927, -91.034587

Portage across wooded point

HIL014

Location: 48.212613, -91.047188

Short side trip: This cove conceals a petroglyph of two canoes and human figures. Respect tribal elders' wishes; no photos, please. Backtrack out of cove; head SE

HIL015

Location: 48.20956, -91.022614

One tent campsite between rock slab and pine stand. Backtrack to launch site

Cache Bay

Location: 48.215941, -91.03448

©Steffan Fay

Hook Island Beach

Location: 48.224201, -90.963224

Rest for a spell in a shady little cove on the lee of Hook Island before paddling into Quetico Provincial Park. ©Steffan Fay

O Canada

Location: 48.211305, -90.996172

Welcome to Canada! Paddle past the forest outlets of Cache Point. © Steffan Fay

Ranger Station

Location: 48.211812, -91.011193

Pick up a backcountry permit at Cache Bay Ranger Station. ©Steffan Fay

Above Silver Falls

Location: 48.231727, -91.055117

Silver Falls from above, plus south end of portage. ©Steffan Fay

Silver Falls

Location: 48.232363, -91.055524

Quetico Provincial Park's highest waterfall. ©Steffan Fay

North End of Silver Falls Portage

Location: 48.236251, -91.057177

Prepare to head deep into the aquatic backcountry of Quetico Provincial Park. ©Steffan Fay

South End of Deadman's Portage

Location: 48.278059, -91.029056

Point for the rocky outcrop to begin the .2-mile land section. ©Steffan Fay

North End of Deadman's Portage

Location: 48.280573, -91.028069

Shove off from the empty shore toward Hunter Island. ©Steffan Fay

Quiet Channel

Location: 48.291131, -91.011171

Enjoy the solitude in these backwater sections on Hunter Island's north shore. ©Steffan Fay

Excellent Campsite

Location: 48.296371, -91.002052

Moose, bald eagles, and fine views make this a 5-star campsite. ©Steffan Fay

A Catch

Location: 48.296326, -91.002041

Smallmouth Bass (a.k.a. brown bass, bronzeback) are plentiful, feeding on other fish, crustaceans and insects. Bait tip: They can't get enough crayfish. ©Steffan Fay

Evening Glow

Location: 48.296264, -91.002057

The sun sets over camp. ©Steffan Fay

Final Campsite

Location: 48.209575, -91.022286

Set up a final camp on the promontory across from the Cache Bay Ranger station. ©Steffan Fay