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5 Of The Best Beginner Backpacking Trips In Minnesota

The Midwest's backcountry may just surprise you.

By: Joe Whitson + Save to a List

When you think of backpacking, you don’t usually think about the Midwest as a destination, but Minnesota actually has number of great backcountry trails worth exploring. Here are five of the best:

1. Glacial Lakes

Photo: Joe Whitson

While the north woods might be the least developed part of the state, it is nice to get out of the forest once in awhile and experience wider horizons. Glacial Lakes State Park is a great place for beginner backpackers interested in prairie camping. Far from cities, this park is excellent for stargazing and, while it’s not quite backcountry, it has so view visitors, it’s easy to imagine you’re miles away from the nearest road. Learn more.

2. Superior Hiking Trail

Photo: Jess Curren

Probably the most well known hiking trail in the state, the SHT runs almost 300 miles along the north shore of Lake Superior from Duluth to the Canadian Border. Sometimes right on the shore, sometimes deep in the woods, sometimes offering great views from the ridges, this trail is just one highlight after another, featuring the best the North Shore has to offer. While doing a thru-hike takes a more experienced backpacker – the trail can be rugged and although the total elevation change isn’t much, there is a lot of up and down between the shore and the ridgeline - it is easy for beginning hikers to just go for a couple days, skipping the more strenuous sections. Learn more.

3. Isle Royale

Photo: Joe Whitson

Ok, so Isle Royale is technically in Michigan, but since the island is closer to mainland Minnesota than mainland Michigan, and because it’s so cool, I had to include it here. Known for its wolf and moose populations, Isle Royale is a great place to see wildlife and the relatively level, if rough, terrain make is a good place for beginning backpackers. There are a number of routes you can take across ranging from just a few miles to nearly fifty. Learn more.

4. The Border Route Trail

Photo: Joe Whitson

This 65-mile trail runs along the Canadian Border through the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, which, as over a million acres, is among the largest wilderness areas in the lower 48. The route travels through some of the most pristine natural areas in Minnesota, skirting one lake or another almost the entire way. Don’t forget your fishing gear on this one! Although it has fewer entry points that the SHT, it is still possible to do sections of the Border Route that only take a few days. Check out the Border Trail Website for regulations on backpacking, but you can also car camp if you can’t swing a backpacking trip. Learn more.

5. Boundary Water Canoe Trip

Photo: Derek Tice

Although not strictly “backpacking”, by far the most popular backcountry trips done here in Minnesota are done in a canoe. With thousands of lakes and over 1500 different routes, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and Voyageurs National Park offer a relatively easy way to get away from it all. So give your feet a break and pick up a paddle. Learn more.

Cover photo: Joe Whitson

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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