The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) is renowned for its abundant wildlife, clear cool waters, and vibrant forests. Join our seven-day Boundary Waters trip to explore deep into the rustic backcountry of this northern gem. Paddle in our lightweight canoes on pristine lakes and rivers. Travel flora-filled portage trails. Enjoy wonderful meals prepared by our professional guides. Stretch out beneath the stars listening to loon calls as waves lap the shore. In a park of one million acres with over 60 starting points, each route offers unique sights and adventures!
Wilderness Inquiry is one of the only organizations that provides two professional guides on its Boundary Waters trips. Our lightweight Wenonah canoes make paddling and portaging easier than ever.
Sample ItineraryExpand All Fields
Day 1: Paddle to an island campsite on the western side of Saganaga Lake
Your trip will begin in the afternoon at one of the three BWCAW ranger stations. The trailer will be unloaded here and your gear packed into large dry bags. The first day’s paddle will be to an island campsite on the western side of Saganaga. Prepare dinner and enjoy an evening around the fire as you discuss trip expectations with your group.
Day 2: Navigate through Saganaga's many islands before setting up camp at American Point
Rise early for breakfast. Break camp and paddle east, navigating through Saganaga’s many islands. Enjoy lunch on Munker Island with a refreshing swim. Make camp on American Point, a short distance from Canadian soil. Enjoy a fire and camaraderie as the sun sets.
Day 3: Take a day trip to the Canadian border before returning to American Point
Wake up to a strong cup of coffee and a hearty breakfast. Today you will take a day trip to the Canadian border. Enjoy lunch on a large outcropping of the Canadian Shield. Take pictures next to large obelisks marking the border on Monument Portage. Return to American Point for another beautiful sunset.
Day 4: Make several portages to Red Rock and Alpine Lakes
After breakfast, break camp and load your boats for the paddle through Red Rock Bay towards the trip’s first portage. Enjoy the native foliage on the short 10-rod portage. Continue paddling south through Red Rock Lake. Challenge yourself to one more portage, this time 50 rods, before finding a beautiful campsite on Alpine Lake.
Day 5: Spend the day fishing, swimming, or exploring the shoreline on this layover day
Take a slow morning as you settle in for a much-deserved layover day. Spend your time exploring the shoreline, fishing, or bird watching. Prepare a delicious lunch and learn about the Ham Lake fire of 2007.
Day 6: Make the final portage of your trip to Seagull Lake
Rise early and set out for your final portage of the trip. After following an easy portage to Seagull Lake, you will see the effects of the Ham Lake fire along the shoreline. Set up camp early and have time to enjoy your final afternoon.
Day 7: Paddle across Seagull Lake and say farewell to your trip mates
Paddle across Seagull Lake to the access point. Help pack up the van and trailer for the ride home. Those who use Wilderness Inquiry's van transportation can expect to return to Minneapolis by that evening.
Dates & Fees
What to Expect
TERRAIN/ROUTE CHOICES: The BWCAW lies on the Canadian Shield, and is characterized by exposed granite with a thin layer of topsoil. The lakes and trails make this wilderness area one of the most accessible in the country. The BWCAW offers a wide range of route options from very easy to very difficult. Wilderness Inquiry runs trips all over the wilderness area, on all kinds of routes. Your Wilderness Inquiry staff will determine the route you will take, based on wilderness conditions and your group’s interests. No previous experience is needed to complete this trip.
TYPE OF TRAVEL/DISTANCE: You will travel in 18-foot ultra-lightweight Wenonah Kevlar canoes, which hold two to three paddlers, plus all necessary gear. An average day’s travel consists of 3-6 hours of paddling, and you can expect 2-4 portages (short trail crossings) per day. The portages tend to be hilly and range from 20 feet to 1/4 mile. Travel distances vary from 6-12 miles per day with the exception of scheduled layover days.
WEATHER: Temperatures in the summer range from 40 F to 95 F. Rainfall can vary, but you should expect at least a day or two of rain.
YOUR GROUP: Your group size will be no larger than 7 people, plus 2 Wilderness Inquiry staff. Most groups consist of people of various ages, backgrounds and abilities, including people with disabilities. Our trips are cooperative in nature. Wilderness Inquiry staff will assist you in whatever areas you need, however most people pitch in where they can. Part of the adventure involves learning about daily camp activities.
ACCOMMODATIONS: At night you will sleep in a comfortable tent that fits 2-3 people. Bathroom facilities consist of USDA Forest Service commodes.
MEALS: The fun of wilderness camping includes cooking in the wilderness, a challenge with great rewards. We pride ourselves on providing healthy ingredients for simple, plentiful dishes everyone will enjoy. Count on hearty breakfasts, trail lunches, plenty of snacks, and wonderful dinners, finished off with campfire s’mores. If you have special dietary restrictions, be sure to list them on your registration.
EQUIPMENT AND CLOTHING: Wilderness Inquiry will provide all group equipment. You will need to provide your personal gear as outlined in the packing list. If you are new to outdoor activities, you do not need to spend a lot of money. Wilderness Inquiry can usually arrange for you to borrow most items.
COVID POLICY: We continue to monitor and update our COVID-19 policies. Wilderness Inquiry strongly encourages everyone to be fully up to date with their COVID-19 vaccination and take other necessary steps for the health and wellness of all. We ask you to self-screen for any signs of illness prior to your trip’s departure. Please contact Wilderness Inquiry if you are exhibiting signs of illness. We will also continue to follow all guidance and requirements of locations that we travel, keeping in mind some international destinations do require vaccinations and/or negative covid tests. We will update this policy as new information and guidance becomes available.
SAFETY WHILE ON TRAIL: Though not required, some individuals may choose to wear a mask, and we expect all participants to respect this choice. Please ensure proper hygiene including, but not limited to, hand-washing and/or sanitizing before eating and after using the restroom. Individuals who become ill or test positive for COVID-19 during a Wilderness Inquiry experience will be isolated to the best of the group’s ability and are responsible for their own transportation and expenses to depart the trip.
GROUP EXPECTATIONS: To facilitate a safe and inclusive environment where we can all come together as our true selves, feel supported, and enjoy the outdoors in community, we have developed community agreements that align with Wilderness Inquiry’s core values and brand promise. We ask that you review these before your adventure so you can help Wilderness Inquiry create an inclusive environment for all.
Community Agreements as We Adventure Together
☐ We are safety conscious so everyone can have fun!
☐ We seek to understand each other and celebrate our differences.
☐ We are curious, open-minded, and communicate respectfully.
☐ We are open to trying new things and pushing outside of our comfort zone.
☐ We support each other and collectively contribute to group tasks.Read more »
Frequently Asked Questions:
Where do we meet?
Standard Meeting Places and Times
Start: Gunflint Ranger Station at 1:30 PM (local time)
End: Gunflint Ranger Station at 11:00 AM (local time)
This trip begins at 1:30 PM at one of three meeting places: Ely, Grand Marais, or Tofte. Each trip ends at the starting location at 11:00 AM on the last day. WI uses many different routes for Boundary Waters trips, so if you plan to meet your group at the entry point be sure to check with your trip leader about the specific starting point for your trip. Some meeting locations include a parking fee. You can take your own transportation or use WI’s van transportation from Minneapolis. To use our transportation you will meet in Minneapolis at Wilderness Inquiry Headquarters at 6:30 AM on the first day of the trip. The van returns to Wilderness Inquiry Headquarters at 6:00 PM on the last day of the trip. Detailed meeting place instructions will be sent to you when you are confirmed for the trip. Booking a flight? We recommend flying in to Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport the night before the trip, and flying out of Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport after 8:30 PM.
Do I need paddling experience to join a canoe or kayak trip?
Paddling trips with WI are appropriate for beginners and seasoned paddlers alike. On the first day of all trips, basic paddling strokes will be taught by the trip leader. Each trip gives participants multiple opportunities to practice their skills. Participants with more experience will have plenty of opportunity to paddle during the trip, and even to help teach less experienced paddlers!
What is the maximum group size in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness?
A group of nine people is the largest that can travel together within the Boundary Waters. This is a strict regulation that all Boundary Waters visitors must follow. Wilderness Inquiry provides professional guides on each trip experience that count toward this total.
If you are traveling with a larger group, you will need to split into two separate groups while traveling within the BWCA.
How much portaging will I do on a Boundary Waters trip with Wilderness Inquiry?
The number and length of portages varies from trip to trip. Portage choices will be made by the Wilderness Inquiry trip leaders based on the strength of the group and specific route chosen within the Boundary Waters.
Which route will my group follow on a Boundary Waters trip with Wilderness Inquiry?
There are many different route choices available within the Boundary Waters. The route will be chosen by Wilderness Inquiry trip leaders based on availability and the strength of the group.
What kind of wildlife will I see on this trip?
Northern Minnesota is home to many animals including, loons, deer, bears, moose, wolves, and more! While we can't guarantee you will see these animals on your trip, there is always a possibility of catching a glimpse (or hearing the call) of one or more of these animals in the north woods.
How do I portage on a Boundary Waters trip if I use a wheelchair?
Portages vary in length and terrain on BWCA trips. Some are flat and relatively easy, others are rugged up and down paths. Some start with a nice landing, others are rocky or swampy. We chose routes that have more accessible portages.
We can only accommodate manual wheelchairs on Boundary Waters trips, power chairs are typically too big and heavy to fit in our canoes.
If you can transfer independently in and out of a car and wheel around a hilly city park you should be able to portage with minimal assistance. If not, we have a variety of ways to assist you, including carrying you over difficult spots if necessary. If you will need help being carried, our upper weight limit is typically around 160 lbs. We recommend you call our office to discuss.
Over the last 40 years, Wilderness Inquiry has successfully served well over 1,000 people who use wheelchairs in the Boundary Waters. So while portaging may seem a bit daunting, we always figure it out and have fun while doing it.