Looking for an active 4-day itinerary for your Boundary Waters trip? This BWCA itinerary offers a base camp and active day trip paddles, fishing recommendations, and delicious healthy camp food recipes. Don’t leave home without this itinerary next time you find yourself headed to the BWCA!
WHAT A TRIP. We’re back from our BWCA canoe and camping trip, and what a wonderful long weekend it was. We loved this route, with a base camp and day trips so much, we thought we’d share our exact itinerary with you for next time you’re planning a 4-day trip to the Boundary Waters.
But before we get into the itinerary, can I just say how absolutely wonderful and rejuvenating it is to leave the hustle and bustle of daily life in the city and get off the grid to spend some good ol’ QT with your people?! Lee, Lin and I have traveled together to some amazing places, and have been without cell reception for day trips in National Parks, but this was the first time that the entire Team Fit Foodie was completely unplugged and off the grid for a long weekend. And guess what? Shit didn’t hit the fan while we were gone, and even though none of our Instagrams published while we were out, THAT’S OKAY. We left feeling refreshed and ready to take on our week.
Ok, let’s get into the trip deets:
How Much Time We Had in the BWCA
Our trip in total was Wednesday – Sunday, but we drove up to our outfitter on Wednesday night and paddled in to the BWCA Thursday morning and paddled out on Sunday. Specifically:
We left the Twin Cities midday on Wednesday and drove up to Duluth for a late lunch and a beer at Canal Park Brewery before continuing on our voyage to Grand Marais. We stopped in Grand Marais to stretch our legs and grab a beer at Voyager Brewing, and if you’re ever at Voyager, you NEED to get their Reuben Egg Rolls. From Grand Marais we headed up the Gunflint Trail to Seagull Outfitters.
Our return paddle on Sunday (more on that later in this post!) was a quick 3 hours, so we were back at Seagull by midday on Sunday.
What Outfitter We Used / Our BWCA Entry Point
We outfitted through Seagull Outfitters on the Gunflint Trail, and we couldn’t have had a more positive experience! We knew we were going to be arriving later in the evening on Wednesday, and didn’t want to have to rush to paddle out and get to an open campsite before dark. So, we opted to take our time getting up to Seagull and sleep in their bunk house on Wednesday night.
We reserved our permit through Seagull about a month before our trip, but we’d recommend reserving yours as soon as you have your trip dates and know what entry point you want to use.
Then on Thursday morning we chatted through route options with the incredibly knowledgeable staff at Seagull. Based on the weather, and what our priorities were for the trip, we were able to decide on the best route for us. We knew we wanted:
- A base camp that allowed us to do fun day trips without packing up our whole campsite every day
- Solitude (get us far enough into the BWCA to get away from crowds)
- Good fishing options
- A shady campsite
What We Did in the BWCA
After paddling out of Seagull Outfitters (entry point 54), we made the long trek across Seagull Lake in strong headwinds, which took us almost 4 hours. A much harder first lake paddle than we had anticipated, but we wanted to continue on to Jasper Lake where we planned to set up our base camp for our trip. Our route was:
- Seagull Lake to
- Alpine Lake to
- Jasper Lake (base camp)
There were 2 portages on this route from Seagull Outfitters to Jasper Lake. One strenuous 105 rod portage from Seagull to Alpine, and then a shorter, but quite steep, 45 rod portage from Alpine to Jasper. Once we arrived on Jasper, we opted for the northern most campsite, which was situated atop a beautiful cliff with a rock staircase up to the site, and a relatively flat area around the back side of the cliff to take our canoes out of the water at the end of the day. We LOVED this campsite, as it provided plenty of shade for each of our 3 tents, as well as a fire pit / cooking grate right on the cliff overlooking the lake. The latrine was in good condition and located about 100 yards away from the campsite itself. Swimming was great at this site as well with a rocky bottom and quick drop off with no mud.
Since we arrived later in the evening on Thursday to our site on Jasper, we knew we wanted to spend time experiencing Jasper on Friday. We swam and paddled around Jasper, and both fly fished and fished with deeper water spoons and jigs. Smallmouth were most abundant on Jasper, and we caught them both from shore and from the canoe. Seagull was super helpful in explaining how deep and where fish were located on our route based on the warmer season and the weather we’d have on our trip. It was really nice to have a “relaxing” day like this, especially after such a strenuous paddle in on Thursday. This gave us a chance to not only fish and paddle around Jasper, but relax in our hammocks, read and play games.
On Saturday, we wanted to do a bigger day trip, so we got going relatively early, and took off on the following out-and-back route:
- Jasper Lake to
- Kingfisher Lake to
- Ogishkemuncie Lake to
- Mueller Lake to
- Agamok Falls (and then retrace back to Jasper)
From Jasper to Kingfisher, there was a short 25 rod portage. Kingfisher was definitely the smallest lake we were on in our entire trip, but was still beautiful. We used this lake as a pass-through and didn’t fish. Then from Kingfisher to Ogish, there was another short 38 rod portage. We spent at least a few hours on Ogish paddling and fishing and just enjoying the day before doing our last portage, an 80 rod, from Ogish, to Mueller. After paddling across Mueller, we left our canoes at the portage between Mueller and Agamok Lake and hiked up to the Kek Bridge which overlooks the Agamok Falls. This came highly recommended by our outfitter and we’re so glad we added on this little hike to the falls!
Overall, we LOVE LOVE LOVED this day trip! While on Ogish, we paddled past the fire line from the Cavity Lake Fire of 2006, and it was incredible to see the difference in the tree line and growth. We’d recommend packing lunch and allow yourself a full day for this trip.
On Sunday morning we got up early, packed up camp and headed out for what we knew could be a 6+ hour paddle back to Seagull, but the winds were on our side this time, and our return paddle only took us 3 hours.
Boundary Waters Food and Drinks
It probably doesn’t come as a surprise with this group, but we ate WELL in the BWCA. Each couple planned a breakfast and a dinner and then we were all on our own for lunches and snacks. Each day we had a heartier breakfast and dinner and then lighter lunches and snacks (think EPIC bars, RXBAR, trail mixes, PB&J tortillas, and dried fruit). This kept our food packs relatively the same weight and allowed for a fun variety in meal prep, cooking and clean-up.
Thursday morning before we paddled out of Seagull, we had a hearty breakfast at the Gunflint Lodge down the road on the Gunflint Trail. After eating at this quaint lodge, we’re already planning a cross country ski trip here for this winter.
This first dinner at our campsite ruled. We sous vide and then froze steaks in a Ziploc at home before we left that then acted as an ice pack on our paddle out, and were perfectly thawed by dinner. We paired that with instant mashed potatoes (just add water!) and grilled fresh asparagus. So delicious!
Our Friday breakfast allowed us to have some fresh ingredients as well. We packed eggs (which we cracked at home and stored in a Nalgene), smoked venison bacon that didn’t need to be refrigerated and potatoes and onions. Knowing the weather was going to be hot while we were in the BWCA, we wanted to use the eggs on our first or second day to avoid them semi-cooking in the heat. And the potatoes and onions definitely added some weight to our packs, but we knew we’d only be carrying them one way, so #worthit. We cut the potatoes into larger chunks and diced the onions before adding spices and olive oil and wrapping in foil to cook over our grate at our campsite. We scrambled the eggs over our MSR in a pot, and crisped up the smoked bacon over the grate as well.
For dinner we had vegetable tikka masala packets from Trader Joe’s paired with cous cous and naan bread. We added dehydrated chicken and vegetables to the tikka to get a little more protein in this meal, and cooked it all over our MSR’s in larger pots.
Pancake day! We used Kodiak Cakes just add water pancake mix and added dehydrated blueberries from Trader Joe’s to make blueberry pancakes. We packed small containers of peanut butter and maple syrup, and cooked the pancakes over our MSR. We also heated up a package of lil smokies sausage.
For dinner we had chicken burrito bowls and toasted tortillas. We used AlpineAire’s burrito bowl packs and added some fresh red and yellow peppers and the rest of our potatoes that we foil packed over the fire. These were delicious!
Being our last meal before paddling out of the BWCA, we opted for a freeze dried camp meal of Mountain House biscuits and gravy and a Mexican hash. These were calorie dense, but kept us full for our entire paddle out.
We had a 10L gravity bag for water filtration that we used at our campsite, which was 100% worth buying for this trip. And used Aquamira for our day trips. As for other beverages, we brought Nuun tablets to add to water when we wanted, a MSR french press and hand grinder for fresh ground coffee, bagged red wine and plastic bottles of Fireball that were both relatively weightless (and empty!) on the way out.