Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness
From the air, it looks like a giant blue-and-green jigsaw puzzle-thousands of blue lakes in a sea of green pine forest. But the best way to appreciate the 1.25-million-acre Boundary Waters area is by paddling the 1,200 miles of canoe routes.
To find solitude, travel off-season or add a couple of difficult portages. The Kekekabic, Sioux Hustler, and Border Route Trails let you go where even paddling can't take you.
Contact: Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, Superior National Forest, (218) 626-4300; www.bwcaw.org.
Superior Hiking Trail
Start in Duluth and make for the Canadian border. That was the dream in the mid-1980s. Twenty years and 235 miles later, that dream is nearly complete, making the Superior Hiking Trail a landlubber's answer to the Boundary Waters wilderness. Beautiful enough, one trail register note says, to turn "city slickers into tree huggers in 1 short mile."
Contact: Superior Hiking Trail Association, (218) 834-2700; www.shta.org.
Voyageurs National Park
With 30-plus lakes, some of them huge, like Rainy and Kabetogama, Voyageurs is as close to a paddler's paradise as you can get: more than one-third of the 218,000 acres is underwater. Bring your canoe or kayak, and stay long enough to sample the myriad camping and fishing opportunities.
Contact: Voyageurs National Park, (218) 283-9821; www.nps.gov/voya.