Hike the Boundary Waters: Multi- and single-day trails

May 4, 2022
Ethan Brown
Wide angle shot of Beth Lake; Photo Credit: Samuel Wagner

The Boundary Waters is well-known for its miles of waterways and premiere paddling trips. But a canoe isn't the only way to enjoy America's most visited wilderness! This week, we're highlighting the BWCA's various hiking trails, which afford an entirely new way to experience the unspoiled boreal forests of the Wilderness. Keep reading to learn about some of the most iconic multi- and single-day hikes in the Boundary Waters.

Some of the hikes in this list require an overnight hiking permit, which can be reserved here. 

Multi-Day Hikes

2-3 Days: The Powwow Trail Full Loop (30.1 mi)

Coming in at the shortest multi-day hike on this list, it will likely take hikers 2-3 days to complete the lollipop-style Powwow Trail Loop. The trail sits north of Isabella, Minnesota, and because it sits within the BWCA, an overnight hiking permit is required. Be aware that portions of the trail are not currently maintained, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

2-3 Days: Sioux Hustler Trail (30.8 mi)

The Sioux Hustler trail is also a relatively short, lollipop-style loop trail that should take hikers 2-3 days to complete. Its closest town is Orr, Minnesota, and a permit is required to enjoy this fairly quiet trail.

2-4 Days: The Kekekabic Trail (38.6 mi)

The Kekekabic Trail is a 2-4 day point-to-point hike and a BWCA icon. This nearly 40-mile trail links the Gunflint Trail with southern portions of the Wilderness near Ely. The entirety of the hike takes place within the BWCA, so don't forget your permit for this more challenging trip!

4-6 Days: The Border Trail Route (63.8 mi)

The longest of the multi-day hikes on this list, the Border Route Trail is a considerable step up for Boundary Waters hikers. At points during this 4-6 day trip, hikers will find themselves right up against the Minnesotan-Canadian Border. Starting west of Grand Portage and also near Grand Marais, this hike traverses the easternmost section of the Wilderness.

Single-Day Hikes

2-3 Hours: Blackstone, Secret, and Ennis Lakes (4.3 mi)

Single-day hikes are a great way to experience the BWCA without need of an overnight permit. The loop of Blackstone, Secret, and Ennis Lakes is perfect for an afternoon hike near Ely. No permits are required to enjoy the route, and don't forget to bring your four-legged friends! 

2-4 hours: Eagle Mountain Trail (6.3 mi)

One of Minnesota's most iconic hikes, the Eagle Mountain Trail takes hikers to the highest point in Minnesota! This 6.3-mile out-and-back trail gets quite busy during peak months, and a self-issued permit is required to hike the portion of the trail within the BWCA.

2-4 Hours: Bridal Veil Falls via Crab Lake Spur (6.8 mi)

Only slightly longer than the previous hike, the trek to Bridal Veil Falls is a stunning out-and-back afternoon hike on the Gunflint Trail with views of a waterfall and overlooks of Crab Lake. Small portions of the trail cut into the BWCA, so a self-issued day use permit should be filled out at the entry point. 

4-6 Hours: Caribou Rock Trail to Clearwater Road (11.3 mi)

Perfect for an early morning trek, the Caribou Rock Trail is a 11-mile hike that will guide hikers past three different Boundary Waters lakes. This trail is more challenging than the other single-day hikes listed, and it requires a self-issued permit to enjoy.