Geology lesson: It took two million years of glacial movement to create this vast network of lakes, wooded hills, and granite outcrops. Paddling lesson: Don’t rush this 35-mile point-to-point. Take three days to link its chain of 23 lakes. Start at Entry Point 55 and save half a day’s paddle with a seven-mile tow across the sometimes wave-riddled expanse of Saganaga Lake to Rocky Point (1). Point your bow southwest through Sag’s northwest arm. After two quick portages (“Locals Know," next page), cut southwest across Ottertrack (2), a narrow border lake with walleye and northern pike.
Next, string together the pristine waters of Ester, Hanson, and South Arm Knife Lakes, hedged by granite bluffs and white pines—giant cedars also flourish along the Hanson-to-South Arm Knife portage (3). Near mile 12, camp in one of South Arm Knife’s quiet coves (4).
Next day, paddle 1.4 miles south-southwest to a short, 500-foot portage (5) that parallels Eddy Falls, which cascades 75 feet down mossy boulders. Five lakes (Eddy, Jenny, Annie, Ogishkemuncie, and Mueller) and four portages later, stash your canoe along the Mueller-to-Agamok portage (6). Turn left on the Kekekabic Trail for a .3-mile (round-trip) side hike to a wooden bridge spanning a shallow gorge.
Near mile 20, enter 209-feet-deep Gabimichigami (7), one of the deepest lakes in Minnesota (tip: Gabi has few islands to offer protection on windy days). Steer your boat southeast to Rattle Lake, then to Little Saganaga, and camp on a west-facing, 15-foot bluff with prime sunset views (8).
On the last day, canoe across the eastern fringes of Little Sag before crossing five more lakes and portages. A 1.3-mile portage (9), connecting Tuscarora and Missing Link Lakes, awaits near mile 32. After a .5-mile paddle through Missing Link, portage into Round Lake for the .7-mile stretch north to the take-out (10) on the northern shore. Shuttle back to Saganaga Lake.
Put-in Take CR 12 north 53 miles from Grand Marais. Go right on CR 11 for .9 mile.
Take-out From Grand Marais, go north on CR 12 for 45 miles. Turn left on CR 47. Park in .7 mile.
Permit $16/person. (877) 444-6777; recreation.gov
Contact (218) 626-4300; fs.usda.gov/superior
Gear up Get canoe rentals, maps, fishing license, and arrange towboat rides at Voyageur Canoe Outfitters, 189 Sag Lake Trail, Grand Marais, MN; (218) 388-2224; canoeit.com
Trip data backpacker.com/hikes/1098988