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Trip Planning

How to Plan a Boundary Waters Canoe Trip

Trip Planning Guide for a Successful Adventure

The Boundary Waters and Quetico are special places that hold a variety of wilderness experiences for a variety of different groups. No matter what your group's goals and experience levels, we can help you plan the Boundary Waters canoe trip that best fits your crew.

Contact Drew, Adam or Tim Barton With Questions:

Use this step by step trip planning guide to get started

1) Who Is Going?

Your group layout will help us determine which canoe route is best for your Boundary Waters canoe trip.  Here are a few things to consider when thinking about your group:

  • Age of crew members (No minimum age. Great for kids!)
  • Outdoor experience, including canoeing and Boundary Waters camping experience.
  • Is this your first trip? Learn more about Canoe Trips.
  • Fitness Level (How does everyone feel about portaging?)
  • Are you part of a Church, Camp, School, or Scout Group?
  • The maximum group size is 9 people.  (If you have more than 9 people, we can split you into two groups and get you two permits, but remember you have to travel and camp separately.) 
2) Does your group have any specific goals or interests?

There are many different types of Quetico and Boundary Waters canoe trips.  We will customize your route to best fit your group's interests.  Below are a few items for you to consider.

  • Fishing
  • Pictographs
  • Waterfalls
  • Wildlife
  • Basecamping vs Traveling (Do you want to travel every day or fish/explore from a basecamp?)
  • Solitude
  • Teambuilding
  • Difficulty Level (Are you looking to take it easy or challenge yourself? There are routes for both.)
3) When do you plan to take your trip?

To enter the BWCA or Quetico, you need an entry permit for a specific location on a specific date.  Entry permits are limited so it is important to plan in advance.

  • If your dates are fixed, great. We will find you the best canoe route based on the permits that are available for your date.
  • If your dates are flexible, we can pick the time of year and entry point that best fits the goals for your canoe trip.  Each season has different things to offer on a canoe trip.  For example, if you are looking for fewer bugs and more swimming opportunities mid to late August would be a good time of year.  If fishing is the reason for you trip, May or June would be best.  

Learn more about the Seasons in the BWCA & Quetico. Call 800-223-6565 with questions.

4) How many days will you be in the wilderness?

We can accommodate canoe trips of any length. There are many factors, but we typically recommend 5 days or more to allow time to leave the hustle bustle at home and get into rhythm with the wilderness. That said, a shorter trip might better suit your group; there are lots of great Quetico and Boundary Waters routes for short trips.

5) Route Planning and Reserving a Permit

Now that we know who is going, when, and what you are looking for, we can start talking about specific route options. If you haven’t already, this is the time to call us at 800-223-6565. Our outfitting managers Drew and Adam can help you sift through the hundreds of miles of canoe routes and find the one that best fits your crew.

Once we have a route in mind, the next step is to reserve the permit for the appropriate entry point on the appropriate date. We will walk you through this process.

Trip Planning Form | Free Trip Routing

6) What to Bring for your Canoe Trip

The next step is to determine what gear you have and what gear you will need to rent from us. We can help you with as much or as little gear as you need for your trip. The Boundary Waters Packing List will help get you started.

  • If you don’t have your own equipment or want to make things easy, our Full Outfitting Package is probably best for you.
  • If you have some gear, but need to fill in a few gaps, we have you covered.  See our Partial Outfitting List.
  • Have all your gear, but need an Ultra-light Kevlar Canoe?  We can help with that too.  Go to our Canoe Rental page to see our canoe rental fleet.
  • Want us to pack the food for you?  Check out our Menu.
7) Trip Logistics
  • Some folks drive right to Ely.
  • Others fly into either Minneapolis or Duluth.  Most people rent a car and drive from there to Ely.  We can suggest a company that might do shuttles from the Duluth Airport to Ely.  Shuttles from the airports are not easy to find.
  • If you need a motel room before or after your trip we can make a recommedation for you.
  • If you need transportation to/from your entry/exit points, we can shuttle you. (Shuttle Service)
  • If appropriate for your entry point, we can set up a tow boat ride for you. (Tow Service)
  • Call 800-223-6565 to get started.
8) Additional Items for Consideration
  • Do you want a Boundary Waters Guide?: It is not necessary to take a guide into the wilderness, but whether it is your first trip or your 10th, one of our experienced guides will greatly enhance your adventure.  From identifying flora and fauna, to pictographs and history, to camp craft and fishing, our guides have a wealth of knowledge at your disposal.
  • Satellite Communication DevicesWe rent out Satellite Phones for added piece of mind while you are in the wilderness.

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