Backpacking in Minnesota: TOP 5 Multi-Day Trails

Backpacking in Minnesota: A hiker on a trail in Silver Bay, Minnesota

In this post, we'll take a look at:

Backpacking in Minnesota offers the chance to explore breathtaking natural landscapes, from pristine lakes and dense forests to rugged trails and towering cliffs in the “Land of 10,000 Lakes.”

In this guide, we’ll share essential tips and the TOP 5 multi-day trails to tackle in Minnesota. Whether you’re a seasoned backpacker seeking a new challenge or a beginner eager to immerse yourself in the great outdoors, the North Star State has something for every adventurer.

Interested? Let’s get started.

Key Tips for Backpacking in Minnesota

  • What to expect: While the most popular trails are generally well-maintained, be prepared for variable footing with rocks, roots, and mud, as the trails can narrow through thick forests and overgrown brush at times.
  • Essential gear: You might want to consider countermeasures against mosquitoes and bring good rain gear, including Gore-Tex shoes. Also consider bringing a bear canister.
  • Wildlife: In Minnesota’s backcountry, the main wildlife concerns include bears, wolves, and moose. Black bears, attracted by food or garbage, are found statewide. Wolves, mainly in the north, can be aggressive if threatened. Moose, large and potentially charging if cornered, require extreme caution when encountered. During rutting season, also give white-tailed deer a wide berth.
  • Wild camping is permitted in remote areas like the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and National Forests, but regulations must be followed, such as maintaining a minimum distance of 150 feet from trails and shorelines. Permits are mandatory for overnight stays in the Boundary Waters. State Parks allow backcountry camping only at designated sites, not for dispersed camping.
  • Best times to go are late spring through fall (May to October), with milder temperatures and optimal trail conditions. June and July bring warmth, but mosquitoes can be an issue. Late summer to fall sees fewer bugs, smaller crowds, and pleasant daytime temperatures with colorful foliage. Yet, nights get chilly by September, requiring proper cold weather gear. Avoid early spring’s muddy trails and winter’s limited backcountry access due to deep snow.

Top 5 Backpacking Trails in Minnesota

Here are the top multi-day backpacking trails to explore in Minnesota:

1. Superior Hiking Trail

This serene scene from Jay Cooke State Park in Carlton, Minnesota captures the lush green foliage lining the banks of a peaceful river under a brilliant blue sky

Length: 283.7 mi / 457 km
Type: Point to point
Difficulty: Hard
Elevation Gain: 34 530 ft / 10 525 m
Location: Jay Cooke State Park
Estimated Hiking Calorie Burn: 70 500 calories
More Details: See on AllTrails

Maintained by the Superior Hiking Trail Association, the 283.7-mile Superior Hiking Trail follows the rugged, scenic ridgeline above Lake Superior from the Wisconsin-Minnesota border to Canada, offering a challenging but renowned wilderness backpacking experience with incredible lake vistas over a roughly 116-hour journey best tackled between May-September.

2. Angleworm Lake Trail

Shrouded in ethereal morning fog, this tranquil sunrise view showcases the glassy blue waters of a northern Minnesota lake reflecting the changing colors of an island's trees in early September

Photo by Willard

Length: 13.1 mi / 21 km
Type: Loop
Difficulty: Hard
Elevation Gain: 1525 ft / 465 m
Location: Superior National Forest
Estimated Hiking Calorie Burn: 4700 calories
More Details: See on AllTrails

Ideal for solitary backpacking adventures from May-October, the challenging 13.1-mile (around 15-mile) loop trail near Ely, Minnesota leads through the scenic Boundary Waters offering spectacular views high above Angleworm Lake, gorgeous rocky terrain with potential creek crossings, downed trees to navigate, and opportunities to spot wildlife like wolf tracks and moose signs while camping at secluded sites.

3. Sioux Hustler Trail

This breathtaking autumn vista in Minnesota's Superior National Forest overlooks the mirror-like waters of Caribou Lake and Bigsby Lake reflecting the vibrant fall foliage surrounding their shores near the North Shore of Lake Superior

Photo by igorkov

Length: 31.2 mi / 50.2 km
Type: Loop
Difficulty: Hard
Elevation Gain: 2841 ft / 866 m
Location: Superior National Forest
Estimated Hiking Calorie Burn: 11 500 calories
More Details: See on AllTrails

An challenging but rewarding backpacking adventure year-round, the grueling 31.2-mile loop with frequent beaver dam obstacles, river crossings, downed trees, thick vegetation, constant elevation changes, and muddy terrain requires navigating off-trail at times to access beautiful secluded lakeside campsites like Agawato and Pageant while potentially spotting wildlife like bears, all part of the remoteness that draws backpackers seeking solitude during the 11-12 hour trek.

4. Superior Hiking Trail: Section 5

Showcasing the rugged beauty of Minnesota's North Shore

turn off your computer and go outside, CC BY-SA 2.0, via flickr

Length: 47.9 mi / 77 km
Type: Point to point
Difficulty: Hard
Elevation Gain: 6932 ft / 2113 m
Location: Schroeder
Estimated Hiking Calorie Burn: 19 200 calories
More Details: See on AllTrails

The challenging 47.9-mile point-to-point section from Temperance River to Grand Marais is a popular but relatively secluded part of the legendary Superior Hiking Trail, taking backpackers around 20 hours to traverse the rugged terrain while camping and enjoying incredible lake views during the prime April-October season, though bug protection is highly advised.

5. Kekekabic Trail

A breathtaking sunset paints the sky in brilliant colors reflected in still waters along the remote Kekekabic Trail in Minnesota's wilderness

David Grant, CC BY-SA 2.0, via flickr

Length: 38.6 mi / 62.1 km
Type: Point to point
Difficulty: Hard
Elevation Gain: 3415 ft / 1041 m
Location: Ely
Estimated Hiking Calorie Burn: 13 800 calories
More Details: See on AllTrails

Attempted only by experienced backpackers over 3-5 days, the rugged 38.6-mile Kekekabic Trail demands navigating rocky terrain, downed trees, beaver dams, steep inclines/declines, and navigating stretches with limited water sources through remote wilderness without cell service, requiring a light pack, proper footwear, downloaded maps and a compass to complete the 14-hour scenic but grueling journey.

Annual Weather Averages

The weather for backpacking in Minnesota can vary depending on the season. Here’s a general overview:

  • Spring (March to May): Spring temperatures range from chilly to mild. Trails may be muddy due to melting snow. Bugs, especially mosquitoes, become active in late spring.
  • Summer (June to August): Summer brings warm to hot temperatures, with June and July being the warmest months. However, it’s also the season with the highest chance of encountering mosquitoes and other insects.
  • Fall (September to November): Fall is characterized by cooler temperatures and vibrant foliage. Nights can become chilly, especially in September. It’s generally a pleasant time for backpacking with fewer bugs.
  • Winter (December to February): Winter in Minnesota is cold, with snow and sub-zero temperatures. Backcountry access may be limited due to deep snow, making winter backpacking more challenging.

Before making your outdoors gear selection, take a look at the weather statistics for Minnesota (Silver Bay):

High °F232737496170767464523826
Low °F6818303948545345352412
Rain/Snow (D*)435791110109865
Note: This table is approximate; weather can change with altitude.
D* – Days of rain or snow.

Alternative Backpacking Destinations

Not sure if Minnesota is right for you?

Don’t forget to check out our backpacking guides for Iowa and Wisconsin.


Can I have a campfire while backpacking in Minnesota?

If you’re backpacking in Minnesota and want to have a campfire, it depends on where you camp and the current rules. In most state parks and forests, campfires are allowed, but they must be in designated areas and fully extinguished before leaving. Check for any seasonal burn bans due to high fire danger. Contact local authorities or visit state park offices and national forest visitor centers for the latest information on fire restrictions in the area you plan to visit.

How to deal with wildlife encounters while backpacking in Minnesota?

Make noise on trails to avoid surprising animals, store food securely to discourage bears, and back away slowly if you encounter one. If charged by a bear, stand your ground and use bear spray if you have it. Coyotes usually steer clear of humans, but keep your pets leashed. Deer are harmless but easily startled, so give them space. Don’t disturb wildlife babies, as their mothers are likely nearby. While venomous snakes like rattlesnakes exist, they’re not aggressive unless threatened, so give them plenty of space if you see them on the trail.

What are some tips for fishing while backpacking in Minnesota?

Fishing is a favorite activity for backpackers in Minnesota, thanks to the many lakes and rivers. You can catch tasty fish like trout, walleye, northern pike, and bass using compact ultralight gear at remote sites. In winter, there’s even ice fishing. Remember to check licensing requirements, follow the seasons, clean up waste away from water, and consider catch and release.

What are some safety tips for backpacking in Minnesota?

Embark on an excursion through Minnesota’s great outdoors for an adventure immersed in nature, but be sure to prioritize safety. Acquire a detailed trail map before following paths through dense Northwoods forests, and inform others of your intended route. Pack brightly colored clothing, first-aid supplies, flashlights, whistles and bear-resistant food containers. Watch your footing on uneven, rocky terrain. Make noise to avoid surprising bears, moose or other wildlife. Stay hydrated and focused so you can fully revel in Minnesota’s natural splendor while keeping safety a priority. With adequate precautions taken, you can delight in the beauty of Minnesota’s backcountry wilderness. Stay alert, be ready for the unexpected, and remember prudent planning prevents poor performance on a Minnesota backpacking trip.

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At Hikinglite, we're all about helping you hit the trails with lightweight and ultralight outdoor gear that won't weigh you down. Our crew of content creators? Real outdoor enthusiasts who've logged countless miles on the trails.

Leading the pack is our editor-in-chief, Alex Jardine – an ultralight evangelist who's hiked over 10,000 trail miles across the globe. He's basically a walking outdoor encyclopedia. This dude loves testing out the latest and greatest products, so you can trust his recommendations are always well-informed and reliable.

We treat all our suggestions like advice from close trail buddies. No fluff, just real insights from folks who live and breathe the outdoor life.

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