Border Route Trail (MN)

DISTANCE (round-trip)





65 mi (104km)

3-6 days

Paddling BWCAW

Share a Segment of the North Country Trail

If you’re not already aware, the North Country Trail is a 4,600 mile trail spanning 7 states in the US. Not up for a liesurely 4,600 mile walk? Try a segment!

Note: At the time of this writing the Border Route Trail is not quite officially part of the NCT – it’s in progress.

In this area of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness you can find trails, rivers, and lakes crisscrossing like snakes. It’s remote and the most likely things you’ll run into are fishermen paddling the lakes or a few fuzzy forest creatures roaming the lost wildlands of the BWCAW.

When to Go

Most of this trail stays relatively high compared to the lower-lying rivers, lakes, and swamps of the region. For that reason you might get away with a few less bites during blackfly season, bit I’d still avoid it.

Avoid the area altogether from June 1 to about June 20 if you want to skip the worst of black fly season. If you’re going on or near that time, make sure to bring a bug head net and some bug spray.

Weather will warm up and become enjoyable by May if you run warm and will stay pleasant until about October.

Getting To Border Route Trail

There’s no easy way in to the BRT honestly. It’s way the hell out there.

However, once you fly in to Minnesotta, rent a car and head north. Once you’re in the area you’ll be looking for lodging around Grand Marais.

In this area, and even further north into the more remote sections, lodging is prolific. There are tons of outfitters and lodges that will put you up for the night before your hike.

Check around and see who can shuttle you to the trailhead and arrange for pickup at the end of your trip.

Gunflint Lodge & Outfitters is right next to the western trailhead of the BRT so check with them first.

Know Before You Go

  • The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is quite remote so stock the car with snacks and food before you go. Gas stations are common enough, but top off before you leave Grand Marias if you head out from there.
  • There are few hotels in the area, but instead expect to find lodging at “mom and pop” cabins and rustic areas. Many of these will allow you to pitch a tent for a cheap price instead of renting a cabin.
  • The outfitters and lodges in the area spend a great deal of time with adventurers planning trips, don’t be afraid to call them with questions.

For More Information

Border Route Trail

An atmospheric inversion in the valleys below the Border Route Trail.

Gear Recommendations for This Trail

  • There is plenty of clean water to drink in this area, freshwater is abundant. Take a chemical water purification system like AquaTabs to stay lightweight and treat that water for nasties!
  • You can’t resupply on this trip, so take enough food for the entire duration. A large internal frame pack like the Osprey Aether 85 has tons of room for long trips where you need to cary a ton of gear and food.
About the author

Casey Fiedler

Professional ski instructor and backpacking guide, Casey Fiedler went to school with CWC and NOLS for Outdoor Education and Leadership. Want to read more about what it takes to lead great adventure trips? Casey writes about outdoor education at

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