Border Route Trail
ElevationAscent: 7,693' 2,345 m
Descent: -7,447' -2,270 m
High: 2,052' 626 m
Low: 1,359' 414 m
GradeAvg Grade: 4% (2°)
Max Grade: 23% (13°)
Popular runs nearby
1.2 mi 1.9 km • Out and Back • 47 ft Ascent 14.38 m Ascent
6.7 mi 10.7 km • Out and Back • 690 ft Ascent 210.25 m Ascent
Crab Lake Trail to Bridal Falls
6.7 mi 10.8 km • Out and Back • 205 ft Ascent 62.41 m Ascent
North Country Trail (NCT): Minnesota
868.1 mi 1,397.1 km • Point to Point • 71,045 ft Ascent 21654.5 m Ascent
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“This rugged and idyllic route winds on high ridges between dozens of striking Boundary Waters lakes.”— Neil Christianson
Features Birding · Commonly Backpacked · Fall Colors · Lake · River/Creek · Spring · Swimming · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife
Use guidebooks and information online as references only, and be prepared with maps and backup options for camping. Camping is allowed 150 feet from a trail or body of water, but a suitable clearing is often hard to find.
Many lodges, outfitters, and individuals provide shuttling and other services along the Gunflint Trail. Through-hikers can park a vehicle at their exit point and hire a ride to the opposite trailhead, a drive of about two hours. A list of some of the services available can be found on the BRT Association's website.
Much of the trail has seen fire or wind damage, and the resulting new growth can slow travel and hide the trail under your feet. Rocks and roots are a constant tripping hazard and are often obscured by undergrowth. Beavers can also slow progress, as their flooded ponds can easily turn parts of the trail to standing water or deep mud.
At the west end of the Gunflint Lake Ridge is an overlook at towering cliffs. After a dip to the north shore of Loon Lake, the trail ascends again to a ridge north of Crab Lake. A spur to the north leads to Bridal Veil Falls. Crab Lake Trail splits off to the south, and the BRT continues in a near strait line until bending on the southern rim of South Lake.
The middle section is a pattern of ascents to overlooks and descents to a lake, creek, or falls. Here are the popular Watap Lake overlook, Rose Lake overlook and lake shore campsites, Stairway Portage and waterfall, among others. You're likely to encounter more people in this stretch than other parts of the trail as you pass portages and lake-accessible campsites. As a result, the trail is often in great condition.
Wandering from the international border, the trail passes the shores of Rove, Clearwater, and Gogebic Lakes, with routine large climbs between. After passing a boat launch at MacFarland Lake, it meets up with the border again and follows the South Fowl Lake Portage. A flat stretch through forest and tall grasses leads to the final ascents and a spur to the 270-Degree Overlook, also the terminus of the Superior Hiking Trail. An easy descent out leads to the exit at Otter Lake Road.
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Land Manager: USFS - Tofte Ranger District