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Caribou Rock Trail
Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, MN
Heart-thumping views in the land o’ lakes? Only on the Caribou Rock Trail, which crests a series of high bluffs to vistas of birch forests pierced by shimmering fingers of water. Even better: Scaling those steep bluffs discourages most hikers. Begin a 12-mile out-and-back at Caribou Rock trailhead, following the ridgeline east of Moss Lake. At 1.5 miles, cedars surround the junction with the unsigned Bearskin-Duncan Portage (resist the urge to pick May-blooming purple calypso orchids for a backcountry bouquet). Turn right on the portage path, then make a quick left to continue on the Caribou Rock Trail, which tops yet another hill for views across Duncan and Rose Lakes to Canada. At 3.7 miles, turn left on the Border Route Trail to descend the 130 red pine steps of Stairway Portage, which parallels 25-foot-high Stairway Falls. Cool off in the pools beneath the cascades, then follow the Border Route Trail 1.8 miles east to the Rose Lake West campsite, where pines and birches fence off your secluded love nest—on every side except for your swoon-worthy view across Rose Lake. Trailhead 140 miles northeast of Duluth; 40.044442, -89.824218[corrected] 48.061607, -90.453843Best season August for warm swimming temps, September for fewer bugs Permit Required for camping ($6; recreation.gov), plus $16 fee per person (May 1-Sept. 30) Contact (877) 444-6777; bwca.cc