Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Coolest Backcountry Campsites on the North Country Trail in Minnesota, Part 2

Are you still looking for some cool backcountry campsites in Minnesota?  I have just the ticket as I continue with my Coolest Campsites blog.  So here it is, the Coolest Backcountry Campsites on the North Country Trail in Minnesota, Part 2.

We left off at the Jackson Creek Pond Campsite on the Superior Hiking Trail. But now We’re headed into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Just a cautionary Note: The next 3 campsites are located on the Border Route Trail and Kekekabic Trail.  These two trail go through the heart of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.  Because of the Wilderness Rules, these two trails are not marked with blazes like other parts of the North Country Trail.  You need to have a map and compass, and know how to use them. Plus there are longer sections without a road crossing.  You should be an experienced backpacker to tackle these two trails.  However, our first campsite, Rose Lake East is an easy 5 mile walk from a road. Again, this was originally a presentation a the Midwest Mountaineering Outdoor Adventure Expo. You can follow along on my session handout located here:
Stairway Falls is a good day hike from the Rose Lake East Campsite
Rose Lake East Campsite (Border Route Trail)
I was going to say that this campsite isn’t all that cool, but it’s an easy day hike over to the Stairway Falls and Portage Area. But this campsite is in the Boundary Waters, which ups the level of coolness. It’s an easy hike along an old railroad bed to get into the campsite. The Campsite is on the shoreline of Rose Lake, and has a view of a big hill with a cliff on the other side of the lake in Canada. And, yeah, it’s a fairly easy day hike to Stairway.

Agamok Falls
Agamok Falls Campsite (Kekekabic Trail)
Camping next to a gorge with a waterfall is just cool. Getting into this campsite requires a hefty walk into the wilderness, but it’s worth it.  It’s way worth it.  Hiking from the Gunflint Trail, you will be going through the burn zone from 2007 Ham Lake Fire and 2006 Cavity Lake Fire.  It’s quite the moonscape to be walking through. I can’t describe how cool the Agamok Falls Area is.

Moiyaka Lake, very pristine
Moiyaka Lake Campsite (Kekekabic Trail)
This campsite is on one of the cutest most picturesque lakes ever, and it’s in the wilderness.  It’s a 12-mile walk to get out there, but it isn’t as hilly as the hike to Agamok Falls.  And for the most part, you are walking in a forest that hasn’t been ravaged by a windstorm or fire.  There is a clear cut (2008) on the Kekekabic Trail south of Pickerel Bay and may be more since I hiked it.  But after you get west of Pickeral Bay, you enter the designated Wilderness Area where no logging is allowed.  It’s a beautiful hike and a beautiful campsite.

Now we are heading over to the regular North Country Trail section in North Central Minnesota.  It features over 150 miles of continuous trail starting near Remer and ending near Ponsford. The Trail goes through the Chippewa National Forest, Paul Bunyan State Forest, Itasca State Park, White Earth State Forest and Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge. A new Guidebook for this stretch of trail is now available at  Here is the link:

The Old Pines Lake Campsite above and the lake below
Old Pines Lake Campsite (Chippewa National Forest)
This is just a nice campsite on a nice little lake.  A few years back NCT volunteer Tom Moberg adopted this stretch of trail and started making some improvements to the campsite.  This campsite has some great amenities such as a picnic table, campfire grate and even a wood rack.  It’s less than a mile from Forest Road 2117, which previously was a railroad grade known as the Speakers Truck Trail.  If you hike east from the campsite you will find a marshy lake that is really good for watching wildlife.

Lake Waboose and a bench at the campsite

Lake Waboose Campsite (Paul Bunyan State Forest)
This campsite, deep in the heart of the Paul Bunyan State Forest, feels like you are on an island, but it’s just a peninsula.  There is water on three sides of the campsite giving it an island feel.  You can access this campsite a couple different ways.  First you can park at the Lake Waboose parking lot and boat launch which is on the Lake Waboose Access Road.  Or you can park at the Akeley Cutoff Road trailhead and hike west on the NCT to the trail junction.  You will see some fishing boats out on the lake, but most of the fishermen don’t even know there’s a campsite on the lake.

The Flooded Woods right next to the campsite
Flooded Woods Campsite (White Earth State Forest)
Oh yeah, talk about spooky, it’s the Flooded Woods.  This campsite is located on a very large Flooded Woods.  To get to the campsite, go to the Elbow Lake Road Trailhead and hike south.  Flooded woods always seem really creepy and murky, and this one is no exception. The campsite itself is really nice with grassy tent pads and a nice campfire area.

Cheesehead Bonus!!!!
Copper Falls State Park Backpacking Campsite.
Yes, since I’m from Wisconsin, I thought I would sneak in a Wisconsin Backcountry Campsite.  Well, here it is, the Copper Falls State Park Backpacking Campsite.  This is a fee campsite that can be reserved through the Wisconsin State Parks Reservation System  Basically, you hike along the Bad River Gorge seeing both Copper Falls and Brownstone Falls. Then you take the NCT back into the wood over a couple hills to the junction of the Backpacking Campsite Trail.  That trail is about .4 miles long and leads you down to the campsite near the fast cascading Bad River.  It’s a treat.  The handout for the Cheesehead Special is located here:

That’s all for now, so go out and enjoy a Summer’s Night at one of these campsites