The Border Route Trail is a 65-mile long hiking trail that crosses the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) in the far northeast corner of Minnesota (Arrowhead) and follows the international border between Minnesota and Ontario, Canada. It connects with the Superior Hiking Trail on its eastern terminus and with the Kekekabic Trail on its western end at the Gunflint Trail (Cook Cty. Road 12). The closest towns are Grand Marais (beginning of Gunflint Trail, County Rd 12) and Hovland (beginning of Arrowhead Trail, County Road 16). In addition to the eastern and western termini, the Border Route Trail can be accessed through several spur and connecting trails, allowing for hiking trips ranging from short day-hikes to multiday backpacking expeditions. On these pages, you will find information for planning your hiking trip on the Border Route Trail: BWCA regulations, outfitters, trail heads and announcements of upcoming trail clearing events on the Border Route Trail.
The trail was planned and built in the early 1970's by the Minnesota Rovers Outing Club with the help of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the US Forest Service. It was the first long-distance, wilderness backpacking and hiking trail in Minnesota planned and constructed by volunteers. The Border Route Trail Association was incorporated in 2004 to coordinate the maintenance and increase public awareness of the trail. The trail continues to exist by the efforts of volunteers and our valued partner relationships.
The North Country Trail is a National Scenic Trail currently under construction that stretches 4,600 miles from North Dakota to New York. The National Park Service is currently pursuing a re-route in northern Minnesota which will include the Border Route Trail into the North Country Trail. The re-route is dependent upon congress passing new legislation. The BRTA is a member of the Star of the North chapter of the North Country Trail Association.
The Border Route Trail is a rugged wilderness hiking trail that follows ridge-lines and the top of high cliffs wherever feasible. Therefore, hiking the trail offers expansive views across the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Minnesota and Quetico Provincal Park in Canada. Even though the trail is maintained by crews of volunteers, downed trees and patches of thick brush are common obstacles on the trail. Because of its rugged and primitive nature, it provides solitude and a true wilderness experience but also requires good map and compass skills. Hiking the trail is definitely much different from hiking your local city park.
If you plan to hike outside the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (east of McFarland Lake and west of Crab Lake), you do not need to obtain a permit. However, if you want to go on an overnight trip and want to camp within the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW), which the BRT crosses between Crab Lake in the west and McFarland Lake in the east, you need to obtain a wilderness permit from the Forest Service. For day hikes within the BWCA, you can obtain a self-issue permit at the trail-heads.
You can obtain your overnight permit over the phone by calling 1-877-444-6777 or over the internet. Some outfitters are also able to organize permits for you. A permit fee of $12 per person applies and the group size is limited to a maximum or 9 participants.