Camp on BWCA's Lake 2

Rate this Adventure Minnesota Lake One Portage

Added by Dan Mirocha

  • Secluded location
  • Lakeside campsite
  • Chance to unplug from the world
  • Peacefulness
  • Stunning views of unspoiled Northern Minnesota wilderness

A trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area requires some planning ahead. First, you'll need acquire a permit/reservation via . Specify how many people are in your group, the number of watercraft you plan to use and how many days you'll be in the BWCA. You'll also need to select a group leader and alternate leader. Each entry point in the BWCA has a limit on the amount of people that can enter each day (Lake One, where we entered, allows 18 permits per day), so reserving your spot well in advance is a good way to go. For our trip, we had three guys and two canoes for two nights. Our total price was $54. Once your reservation is secured, you'll receive an email confirmation that you'll need to print and bring with you to check in at the entry point ranger station the day of your reservation.

For this trip, we entered the BWCA via the town of Ely, which is four hours north of Minneapolis. The ranger station is located at 1393 MN-169, Ely, MN 55731. At the ranger station, you'll confirm your reservation with a ranger and watch a 20-minute video that details all the rules ('pack it in, pack it out,' 'leave no trace,' etc.) and guidelines for your time in the wilderness.

After leaving the ranger station, continue traveling along MN-169 as it turns into County Road 18. The drive to Lake One from the ranger station is about 40 minutes. Upon arriving at Lake One, load all your gear into you canoe and paddle northeast (left). You'll travel through some narrow passages until turning south where you'll reaching the larger, more open center of the lake. I recommend starting this trek in the morning, as the warm, summer wind from the south presents a challenging paddle once you hit the middle of the lake. Follow the map, as it will lead you southeast to the Lake Two portage. There are two small portages to Lake Two. The first is 30 rods, which leads to a small pond. Once you cross the pond, there's another 40-rod portage to Lake Two. Both portages are flat, well-worn and easy to traverse.

Lake Two has 11 campsites and we stayed at the one on the northeast corner. It had a perfect view West toward the setting sun. Lake Two stretches two miles long and combined with trekking across Lake One, which covers 876 aces, it took us about 5 hours to reach our campsite.

Lake Two, part of the BWCA's Number Lakes, is very popular with canoers and campers. During the paddle and short portages, we saw several dozen or so people. This isn't the most remote part of the BWCA, but it's very accessible and easy-in/easy-out. We spent two nights on Lake Two at the same campsite. This is a great trip for those looking to move a little further away from an entry point, but stay close enough that getting in and out is only a half-day away.

Pack List

  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag and roll pad
  • Hiking shoes
  • Extra clothes, both warm and cold weather-appropriate
  • Dry food
  • Pump water filter and Nalgene water bottle
  • Canoe, paddles, life jacket
  • GoPro Hero3+ Silver
  • Bug spray
  • Map
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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



Backpacking, Camping, Chillin, Fishing, Hiking, Photography, Swimming

Skill Level:





Dog Friendly
Family Friendly
Picnic Area
Swimming Hole

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Added by Dan Mirocha

Always up for an adventure, both urban and off-the-grid. Instagram: @danmirocha

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