Photograph by Christian Heeb, Aurora Photos

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An early morning kayaker breaks the stillness of Birch Lake, part of Minnesota's Boundary Waters Wilderness Canoe Area.

Photograph by Christian Heeb, Aurora Photos

Explore the Vast Boundary Waters by Canoe

This surprisingly accessible million-acre wilderness in Minnesota's northern woods offers adventure for the whole family.

Minnesota's million-acre (400,000-hectare) Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is the second largest wilderness east of the Rockies and surprisingly easy to access. Bill Forsberg, Jr., owner of Boundary Waters Outfitters, can custom-design canoe trips for any family—zero outdoor experience required.

"With the detailed maps we provide, you should be able to get from point A to point B with very little difficulty," Forsberg says. "Just show up with your clothes and toothbrush, and everything else is covered. We go over the entire route, all the gear, how to set up the tents. And help you brush up on your J-stroke."

With the Kevlar Explorer Package you’ll get the best and lightest of gear, from a We-no-nah Kevlar Canoe to a Crazy Creek camping chair. Guided options offer an extra layer of comfort and another pair of hands for portaging that loaded, 42-pound (19-kilogram) canoe.

Where to Play

The entry point at Isabella River might offer the best chance of seeing a moose, but when picking from more than 20 different entry points, over 1,500 miles (2,410 kilometers) of canoe routes, and some 2,000 solitary campsites, you can’t go wrong. “It’s overwhelming—I could list names of great lakes for hours,” says Forsberg. “In a million acres, we can make the most out of any spot.” Each trip is completely customized to your skill level and what you’re looking for, and the earlier you plan, the more permit options you’ll have.

At Day's End

Dinner is honey-lime chicken with asparagus and long-grain rice—surprisingly tasty freeze-dried fare, provided by Forsberg. And if your kids haven't crashed, toast marshmallows together under the stars.


A four-day, three-night unguided excursion for a family of four costs $1,420, including all gear;

Based on articles from National Geographic Adventure and updated by Greer Schott