Home Trips Destinations The 7 Best All-Inclusive Canoe Trips In Minnesota

The 7 Best All-Inclusive Canoe Trips In Minnesota

Whether it's your first outing or you're well-seasoned, these outfitters have the canoe trip you've dreamed of

Feature photo: Ryan Brady/Wilderness Inquiry

Minnesota’s more than 10,000 beautiful lakes and abundance of wild rivers make this a place seemingly purpose-built for canoe tripping. With so many tempting options to choose from, it can be challenging to know where to start. Thankfully, the state is also home to plenty of professional outfitters offering expertly guided trips to turn your paddling dreams into reality.

Guided trips are perfect for novices, families and individuals looking to join a group. But these all-inclusive getaways also offer a pampered alternative to roughing it for more seasoned canoe trippers. Say goodbye to freeze-dried meals; treat yourself to the luxury of being wined and dined on a fully outfitted trip.

Beyond convenience and amazing food, you can trust these local experts to take care of all the complex logistics, including permits and shuttles, providing top-notch paddling equipment, and planning the best itineraries to take in all the highlights. Whatever your canoeing skill level, your guides can help you brush up on technique, as well as keep you safe and offer interpretation to enhance your experience.

We’ve explored Minnesota’s top canoe tripping destinations to assemble a list of the best all-inclusive paddling escapes, including relaxing family getaways, challenging backcountry adventures and everything in between.

Photo: Ryan Brady/Wilderness Inquiry

The trip: Boundary Waters Base Camp: Potlikker and Smoke with Chef Lachelle

If you enjoy exploring and eating locavore, join this four-day culinary wilderness adventure in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCA). Guests will spend their days paddling, portaging and foraging in Minnesota’s acclaimed canoe area, and their evenings learning, cooking and eating with Minneapolis-St. Paul chef Lachelle Cunningham.

The outfitter

Minneapolis-based Wilderness Inquiry has been leading canoe trips in the Boundary Waters’ million-acre wilderness since the 1970s. Their BWCA guided trips combine decades of intimate experience with top-notch food and gear. Trip options include a quintessential five-day canoe trip on Sawbill and Kelso lakes, a challenging seven-day expedition, or a relaxed five-day base camp and family canoe and hike adventures. For a more luxurious experience, choose their four-day lodge-based adventure centered out of stunning Wintergreen Lodge on White Iron Lake.

Best for

Adults seeking an introductory BWCA adventure and a meaningful exploration of natural foods.

Bonus perk you can’t resist

Themes of wellness and relaxation continue with guided movement exercises on the beach, yoga, breathwork, a sound-healing experience and forest bathing.

Photo: Tim Barton/Piragis Northwoods Company

The trip: Fall Colors and Wildlife

Travel the world-renowned Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness during the quiet season and see the boreal forest in all its fall color splendor. A late September departure ensures this six-day guided canoe trip takes in the best of the North Woods’ vibrant autumn displays, including showy aspen and golden birch. Wildlife is also on the move in the fall, increasing your chances of seeing moose, bear, otter and beaver—or even hearing the howl of wolves as you enjoy a crackling campfire.

The outfitter

Long-standing Ely-based outfitter, Piragis Northwoods Company, provides custom trips as well as scheduled guided canoe trips for groups with unique themes, including fishing trips, a women’s-only canoe trip, and a Boundary Waters stargazing canoe trip. Piragis also offers a practical “Jump Start” guide service, which includes a one-day primer with a professional guide to set you off on a successful trip. Boundary Waters gear rentals and partial and complete outfitting are also available.

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Best for

Photographers, wildlife enthusiasts, those looking for relaxed-to-moderate daily distances.

Bonus perk you can’t resist

Don’t miss the impressive bookstore, featuring many outdoor titles, at Piragis Northwoods’ central location in downtown Ely.

Photo: Ryan Brady/Wilderness Inquiry

The trip: St. Croix River Paddle Family Adventure

This three-day adventure promises a fun-filled family camping experience along the beautiful and historic St. Croix River between Minnesota and Wisconsin. Marvel at a 200-foot gorge, Ice Age potholes and scenic rock formations sculpted by this National Scenic Riverway—widely considered one of the best canoeing rivers in the country. You’ll paddle spacious and stable 24-foot North canoes down the easy-flowing water, enjoying scenic campsites along the way.

The outfitter

A Minneapolis-based nonprofit specializing in equitable access to the outdoors, Wilderness Inquiry creates memorable journeys for families and youth. They’ll handle all the equipment, logistics and meals on this relaxing weekend escape—just bring your sense of adventure.

Best for

Families—easy paddling makes this a great option for all ages and abilities.

Bonus perk you can’t resist

Superb swimming in the clean, clear water of the St. Croix River.

Photo: Ely Outfitting Company

The trip: LGBTQ+ Boundary Waters Trip

Experience the magic of the Boundary Waters with others who identify as LGBTQ+ on this four-day, all-inclusive canoe camping trip. You’ll be geared up with the best canoeing and camping equipment, feast on mouthwatering meals, and enjoy days of both travel and base camping. This trip is queer-guided and focused on building community and learning with one another in a safe and supportive environment.

The outfitter

Ely Outfitting Company is a gay-owned business that supports diversity and inclusion in outdoor spaces. They offer personalized guided canoe trips for groups of up to eight, ranging from two to eight days, with longer expeditions available. Or choose from women’s-only, beginner or photography group trips in the Boundary Waters. Guides will teach you the camping and paddling skills you’ll need for future trips, while providing insight into the local history and your natural surroundings.

Best for

Friends and individuals who identify as LGBTQ+.

Bonus perk you can’t resist

Discovering waterfalls and wildlife while traveling in the wilderness with other bold members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Photo: Border Lakes Tour Company

The trip: Boundary Waters Overnight Canoe Trips

Departing from Minnesota Highway 61, this three-day trip travels the remote eastern section of the famed canoe area. Explore a scenic region filled with spectacular bluffs, remote waterfalls and crystal clear waters, making this the perfect introduction to the Boundary Waters for beginners.

The outfitter

Border Lakes Tour Company is a Grand Marais-based outfitter that offers a range of Boundary Waters day and multiday guided trips. Scheduled group tours and custom private trips are available.

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Best for

Solo travelers, couples, friends and families with all levels of experience.

Bonus perk you can’t resist

Dinner specialties include steak fajitas and Korean rice bowls.

Photo: Tim Barton/Piragis Northwoods Company

The trip: Waterfalls and Pictographs

Travel the historic Voyageur Highway through the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness on this six-day paddle-and-portage adventure. Expect a challenging route where you’ll pitch your tent in a new campsite every night, view captivating Indigenous pictographs and witness spectacular Basswood and Curtain falls. Rugged portages and deep wilderness round out this classic BWCA experience.

The outfitter

Piragis Northwoods Company is one of the vibrant businesses that makes downtown Ely such a great place to visit. From its Central Avenue location, Piragis offers rentals, outfitting and sales—along with a variety of popular theme-based guided canoe trips, including fishing, women’s and stargazing trips.

Best for

Adult canoeists looking for a challenge—this is a moving trip with many miles and many portages.

Bonus perk you can’t resist

Searching the sheer cliffs of Picture Rock for images of animals, birds and spiritual figures painted centuries ago by Indigenous paddlers.

Photo: Moose Track Adventures

The trip: Guided Fishing Trip

From feisty smallmouth bass and northern pike to elusive lake trout and the tastiest walleye, the Boundary Waters is an angler’s paradise. Expertly tailored for die-hard anglers, Moose Track Adventures’ custom canoe trips offer an all-inclusive, guided Boundary Waters getaway with lots of great fishing and an insider scoop. Routes are selected based on your interests, desired intensity and skill level, as well as scenery and trip length.

The outfitter

With direct access to the BWCA near Ely, Moose Track Adventures’ experienced canoe and fishing guides specialize in helping anglers make the most of the Boundary Waters’ outstanding sportfishing. Enjoy a stay in the outfitters’ lakefront housekeeping cabins before or after your canoe trip.

Best for

Angling enthusiasts.

Bonus perk you can’t resist

Savoring your fresh catch, prepared gourmet by your guide.

To start planning your canoe trip, find travel guides, itineraries and more at exploreminnesota.com. Follow Explore Minnesota on Instagram, TikTok, Threads, Facebook, and YouTube.


Feature photo: Ryan Brady/Wilderness Inquiry

 

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