BWCA in the Winter Months

Photo by Blueshadow

Although snow can fall in any month in the BWCA, most people think of the Boundary Waters as a canoeing and camping destination, but when soft water travel wraps up in mid-fall, it is time to plan a return to the BWCA area for some winter adventure. Winter travel in and around the BWCA provides travelers with a unique opportunity to experience solitude and a new way to be challenged in the outdoors. If you aren't interested in an all out wilderness experience, you can get your toes wet by staying at one of the many lodges or taking a guided trip in and around the wilderness area.

 Winter Camping Forum
Winter Activities
  • Dog Sledding - try a guided cabin to cabin trip.
  • Cross Country Skiing - Stay and ski the trails around the boundary waters or adventure into the BWCA on skis.
  • Ski Pulk - Hook youself to a sled with all your gear and head into the wilderness for some camping
  • Ice Fishing - Try you hand at catching lake trout, walleye, northern, and crappie.
  • Winter camping - Test you skills at some winter camping.
  • Snowshoeing - walk over deep snow in the quiet forests.
Winter Travel
Winter travel is nothing to be taken lightly though. It requires better planning than summer trips. It can get bitter cold in the northwoods and deep snow can fall quickly. For novice winter travelers, consider staying at a lodge or yurt on the edge of the boundary waters to use as home base for activities.

You sleeping accommodations can be in a traditional winter rated tent, canvas sided tent with stove, yurt, or cozy cabins with fireplace.

Winter Camping Rules and Recommendations from Forest Service:
General BWCA rules apply from the Forest Service except on the recommendation of camping and fire.

Permits - Permits are required year round in the BWCA. During summer months, visitors are used to having to reserve overnight camping permits months in advance. However, from Oct 1st through April 30th, visitors just need to fill out a self-issuing permit which is free of charge. Areas surrounding the BWCA are generally permit free.

  • Campites selection -
  • On the ice, in a protected bay, or in a natural forest opening such as a swamp.
  • At least 150 feet from trails, summer campsites or other groups.
  • Make just one trail connecting the shoreline to camp.
  • Campfires
  • It is preferable to make a campfire on the ice to minimize fire scars. Use base logs or portable fire pans if your campfire is on the ice. Use a camp stove or fire pan if your campfire is on land.
  • Collect only dead and down wood far from shorelines, trails or campsites.
  • Make sure your fire is out cold to the touch when you leave.
  • Scatter ashes in the woods away from the shoreline and cover the campfire scar with snow.
  • Live Vegetation
  • Do not cut green vegetation for tent poles, bedding for humans or dogs, or to create new dogsled trails.