Chat Rooms (0 Chatting)  |  Search  |   Login/Join
* For the benefit of the community, commercial posting is not allowed.
Boundary Waters Quetico Forum
   Trip Planning Forum
      First Timers Need Route Advice!     
 Forum Sponsor



Mary Kate
Guest Paddler
01/08/2018 02:04PM
Hi everyone. My adventure buddy Abby and I are planning a Boundary Waters trip in mid-June this year. We are both running Grandma's Marathon in Duluth on June 16, and then plan to spend 3-5 days in BWCA. We are both totally new to this, so I'm looking for some advice on how to even begin picking an entry point and route.

-Beautiful scenery and avoiding the biggest crowds are probably our two biggest considerations when it comes to routes (aside from not wanting to do anything too complicated for first-timers). Neither of us fish so that doesn't need to be a consideration.
-We are both quite active and have lots of backpacking experience. For reference, other recent trips have included a week on the Appalachian Trail and a week backpacking in Alaska.
-Like I said, we're probably looking at a 3-5 day trip, starting on June 18, and we'll be coming from Duluth.
-I've heard Moose Lake is a good entry point, but that's the only advice I've received so far.

Any suggestions on entry points and routes would be greatly appreciated! If I need to provide other details to help narrow down my options, just let me know. Thanks!
Reply    Reply with Quote    Print Top Bottom Previous Next
distinguished member(6844)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
01/08/2018 02:24PM
You know, I've never given this advice without a tongue planted firmly in cheek, but with your marathon and backpacking experience and your desire for solitude, an Angleworm Lake entry fits quite nicely.

Of course, every subsequent trip would seem like your hiking was constantly being interrupted by paddling...
01/08/2018 03:17PM
I would talk to an outfitter if you don’t have a canoe and they’ll probably have some route recommendations for you as well. If you’re looking for some waterfalls and pictographs, you can’t go wrong with the Mudro Entry Point heading up into Horse, Horse River, Basswood River west to Lower Basswood Falls (there are some great pictographs 10 minutes north of the falls). Or head east on the Basswood River to Basswood Falls and Wheelbarrow Falls which are gorgeous as well. This area is kind of popular, but well worth it.

01/08/2018 03:40PM
Welcome to, Mary Kate (and Abby, too)! You've come to the right place. With the amount of experienced paddlers available to you here, you'll soon have more information than you can imagine.

You'll probably need some gear (assumption) so check out the outfitters who help sponsor this board. Food, tent, sleeping bags, route selection, permits, shuttles, even overnight accommodations before heading into the BW are things where the outfitters can help you.

In the meantime, enjoy the planning. That's half the fun!

Run a marathon in Duluth, then, since we're in the area, lets take a canoe trip in the Boundary Waters. Gotta love it!
distinguished member (490)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/08/2018 03:43PM
I've done trips out of the Tofte area and off the Gunflint. Baker Lake EP39 up to South Temperance is a nice way to go. If you really want to test your fitness try EP45 at Morgan Lake up to Vita then Horseshoe etc. The initial portage is about a mile.

As others have said talk to an outfitter. Sarah at Sawtooth Outfitters is great to deal with. Have fun!
distinguished member(10372)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished membermaster membermaster member
01/08/2018 06:20PM
Hi, Mary Kate (&Abby)-

You'll have a day between the marathon and your entry, so head up The North Shore (of Lake Superior) from Duluth towards Grand Marais. It's a very scenic drive with lots of things to see and do.

I assume you'll be bringing your own backpacking gear. Will you be renting a lightweight kevlar canoe?

There are lots of options for trips - trips where you travel most days, basecamps with day trips, trips with a lot of portaging (backpacking with a canoe) or very little portaging. You obviously have the physical capability to do a lot of portaging, although I'm not sure how much you'll want to do after the marathon. I don't know your paddling experience or comfort level on big water.

Routes are obviously dependent on how fast you paddle and portage (single or double) and how many hours per day you want to do that. It's a wise idea to build some extra time into the trip in case of weather delays such as lightning or strong winds that prevent paddling.

Routes can be out-and-back to the same entry, a loop back to the same entry, or a point-to-point trip, which requires a shuttle. You can do your own if you'll each have a car or have an outfitter shuttle you if that's in the budget.

An example of a point-to-point trip with a shuttle that may fit your time frame would be The Lady Chain route. Drop a car at Sawbill Outfitters on Sawbill Lake at the end of the Sawbill Trail out of Tofte. Shuttle over to Kawishiwi Lake, EP #37, go north to Polly Lake, then east through Hazel, Phoebe, Grace, Beth, and Alton to Sawbill.

There are several nice loops you could do through the Lizz Lake entry out of Poplar. Rockwood Outfitters is on Poplar Lake and you can just paddle away from their place.

You may want to read the basics on tripping in the BW, review all the special regulations, and read some trip reports out of the various entries - see the planning tab at the top. Then ask lots of questions.

BTW, this is a good place to look at some maps for route ideas and information.
distinguished member (435)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/08/2018 06:38PM
schweady: "You know, I've never given this advice without a tongue planted firmly in cheek, but with your marathon and backpacking experience and your desire for solitude, an Angleworm Lake entry fits quite nicely.

Of course, every subsequent trip would seem like your hiking was constantly being interrupted by paddling...

Ha, insane! I run Grandma's every year, I usually do a trip a couple weeks later, and I've done Angleworm. I can't imagine doing Angleworm a day or two after Grandma's, however.

I think after a marathon you'll want something with more paddling and less portaging - let the arms do the work while the legs recover. Of course, any entry with few portages means you'll have to paddle a long way to outrun the crowds.

I'd choose which side you want to enter, choose an outfitter on that side, and then talk with them to choose a specific entry that meets your needs.
distinguished member(2734)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/08/2018 07:14PM
I think its Mary Kate and Ashley, not Abby.
If Mary Kate had a dollar for every time someone has said that one :-)

Others will have much more information than I can provide so I won't offer any except to use an outfitter and perhaps see if you can get some paddling lessons if you are new to a canoe.
I am curious where you backpacked in AK.
I just moved back to Duluth from the Kenai Peninsula of AK.
distinguished member (272)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/08/2018 07:40PM
Welcome to the If you are backpackers, you've got a great base for BW trips! You'll probably pack lighter than most first time trippers. Rent a Wenonah Adirondack (or comparable 16' canoe) in Kevlar if the outfitter has one....the difference between 37ish lbs. and 42ish lbs. is definitely noticeable.

Going out of Rockwood Lodge through entry #47 Lizz/Swamp can be busy on Caribou / Horseshoe, but if you then head west to Allen, Pillsbery, you'll have solitude (Allen only has 1 site / Pillsbery 2). Gaskin is also a larger but beautiful lake. Not any pictos or waterfalls that I'm aware of though. If you would intend to go north out of Pillsbery through Swallow and Meeds back to Caribou, ask about the portage from Pillsbery....its not where the maps depict it. I didn't find it on my first BWCA trip and went back through Allen after camping on Pillsbery. I think I've heard it is back further east in the 'bay' and not in the narrows as shown on most maps.

As backpackers, I'm sure you're used to mosquitos, but I've been in some major swarms in early June and in later July that have made me head for the tent or be extremely grateful for a headnet during the 1/2 hour before and hour after sunset.

Wish you a great marathon and maiden voyage into the BWCAW!
distinguished member(7762)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
01/08/2018 09:00PM
I like the Rockwood outfitters/ Lizz entry idea. Good, easy first trip. Smaller, uncrowded lakes.
distinguished member(2082)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/08/2018 09:30PM
The Cross Bay entry point number 50 is is pretty neat. It has a lot of smaller lakes and fairly easy portages. You can head down to Long Island Lake and Basecamp there and do day trips to Cherokee and Frost Lake. The beaches on Frost are phenomenal. Tuscarora Outfitters is just down the road from the entry point and they can outfit you as much as you need.

01/09/2018 04:07PM
For some adventure, go in Moose River North to Agnes. Travel is essentially following the stream up to Nina Moose. If that's enough, you can camp there or continue on up to Agnes. Total travel time is around a half day. Just a thought.
01/09/2018 10:30PM
Welcome. As you can read there are lots of great recommendations for routes. In fact I do not know of a thread where bad routes are described. Common advice is the first lake or two from the entry point gets more use with some of those lakes really camped out. If you want more privacy a couple portages will get you close and a portage over two hundred rods will give you lots of privacy.
More important advice will be gear and paddling input. You discussed backpacking experience, but if you have not paddled getting some lessons and experience before you enter is critical. And portaging a canoe can require skills in loading the boat so it will balance and managing that long awkward thing over your head while you navigate rocks and roots with twists and turns. Really not so bad, unless you have no experience or initial coaching. Some of the paddling issues in addition to navigation on water vs trail and keeping it going straight include managing current near falls and wind.
For first timers an outfitter or guide is really useful. Canoe tripping is more than just backpacking. Discuss your experience with paddling canoes with the outfitter. And if you have paddling experience you will have known most of my input. You probably will find the blend of paddling and hiking very pleasant and probably get hooked and be back several times.
distinguished member (397)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/11/2018 12:56AM
I'll just add that coming from Indiana, I found ALL the scenery to be beautiful. If you are from the area, I guess some cliffs, pictos, or waterfalls would be nice.
distinguished member(2310)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/11/2018 08:37AM
Using Tuscarora outfitters for a canoe and gear:

I would suggest entry 51 (Missing Link) or 50 (Cross Bay) as they are very close to each other and head into Snipe. Beautiful lake and you can continue on and do a loop thru Tuscarora, Crooked, etc and back to Round lake where you will have started from just a note you will travel through some burn area.

Or base camp on Snipe. Take day trips to Tuscarora or on down to Long Island lake. Great scenery.

Good luck
distinguished member(2357)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/11/2018 12:27PM
My suggestion is Sawbill Outfitters. It's at the entry point #38. Paddle north to Cherokee Lake (picturesque), spend a couple of nights there and backtrack to Sawbill for the exit. Five to Six hours paddle from Sawbill entry to Cherokee. Or do the loop: Sawbill (entry point)-->Ada-->Scoop-->Cherokee-->North & South Temperance-->Weird-->Jack-->Kelly--Burnt-->Smoke--Sawbill (exit point). Five days of staying on the move each day at a leisure pace. Not busy in mid-June. July 4th weekend is a different scene. Full or partial outfitting, primitive campground w/water spigots & pit toilets, outfitter & store w/hot showers ($6 w/towel). quiet.
Reply    Reply with Quote    Print Top Bottom Previous Next