Photograph by Christian Heeb, Aurora Photos

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A kayaker paddles through nature at its best on Birch Lake in the Boundary Waters Wilderness Canoe Area.

Photograph by Christian Heeb, Aurora Photos

AdventureBest American Adventures

Canoe the Boundary Waters, Minnesota

See trip details for canoeing the Boundary Waters in Minnesota, one of 100 best American adventure trips from National Geographic.

If you’re planning to rob a bank in the Midwest, arguably your best escape route is through the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. After entering this one-million-acre (400,000-hectare) bastion of lakes, streams, and primordial pine, birch, and aspen forests, you’re very unlikely to be found. That goes for law-abiding escapists, too. The Boundary Waters offer some 1,500 miles (2,414 kilometers) of canoe routes and 2,000 secluded campsites; in other words, it's the perfect territory in which to disappear for a while.

Plenty of people organize their own trips into the BWCA, but it’s far easier to let Ely, Minnesota-based Boundary Waters Outfitters do the work. They’ll organize meals, plan a route, rent equipment, and hand over all the maps. For true solitude, go in late August or early September when the summer crowds have thinned, or have the outfitters charter a float plane, which will drop you off far away from any signs of civilization.

Take at least four days to explore lake after lake, punctuated by rocky cliffs, waterfalls, and Native American pictographs. That’s about how long it takes to tune in to the heartbeat of this place—the silky water, the changeable skies, the deep fairy-tale-like forest, and all of the small details: moose and deer frequenting the shallows, eagles gliding between trees, and fresh wolf prints on shorelines.

Need to Know: Boundary Waters Outfitters ( fully outfits trips and offers guides on a custom basis. Unguided, four-day trips start at $406 per person.