Overnight Paddling Trips: Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

A multi-day canoe rig in the Boundary Waters Caneo Area.
A multi-day canoe rig in the Boundary Waters Caneo Area. (Gree Bruff/courtsy, NPS)

Boundary Waters Canoe Area, Minnesota

  • The lottery for overnight quota permits in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) begins on November 1 each year. Applications are accepted through January 10, but apply early, and make sure you know which permit-issuing station you'll need to visit before you begin your trip.
  • The three-day Pine Creek Loop in the BWCA's southwest unit is a classic paddle for quiet and solitude. Because Vermillion and Trout Lakes flanking the entry portage are congested with motorized boats, you'll quickly abandon these lakes for a motor-free area with startlingly low visitation.
  • For a tough five-day route with a distinct educational component, put in at the South Hegman Lake entry point northwest of Ely. Follow the Pictograph Route across 50 miles, 17 lakes, and 20 portages, paddling at two different points past ancient Native American rock paintings.
  • Humble Little Sagana Lake offers some of the best island camping in the BWCA, not to mention excellent views of nearby outcroppings. Paddle Round Lake off the Gunflint Trail to the entry point at Brant Lake, and then head west through any combination of intermediary puddles.

Fly-in paddle out options exist for the group interested in doing more extensive traveling. Trips start at five days. To fully enjoy a fly-in adventure, allow at least seven days from fly-in points starting at Lac La Croix, Beaverhouse, Nym, and ClayPowell. These points offer trips that extend into the "heart" of Quetico Park. All the amenities of a wilderness adventure are available on a grander scale including top notch fishing, spectacular scenery with cliffs, falls, virgin forests, Indian Pictographs, and access to some of the most remote areas in the canoe country. All with the romance of flying in.

A shorter version of the above trip would be a Lac La Croix fly in and paddle out. By way of Crooked Lake, an exceptional fishery with beautiful scenery waterfalls, pictographs and four exit options. Easiest to most challenging exit routes include Nina Moose, Mudro Lake, Fall Lake, or Moose Lake, with a wide range of portages from easy to challenging. This "shorter" fly-in can be either a U.S. or Canadian trip between five and seven days.

For the base camper who has fish & fly-in in mind, any fly-in destination can also be a fly-out. Travel in a day or so, basecamp, fish, relax, and then paddle out to your pick up point.

Also, a fly-in to Beaverhouse and fly-out from Lac La Croix is an option for a shorter fly-in trip of five to seven days.

Thanks to Canadian Border Outfitters for sharing this information on Boundary Waters.


Sign up to Away's Travel Insider

Preview newsletter »