Backpacker Magazine Boundary Waters: Pow-Wow Trail 

Scramble around beaver dams, trek through timber wolf territory, and ford countless creeks on this 30.1-mile loop that skirts 15 backcountry lakes in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

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Author: Backpacker Magazine
Date: 22 May 2008 12:22:39 AM
Activity: Backpacking
State: Minnesota (MN)
Distance: 27.43 mi  (Change units)
Survey Elevation: Total Gain: 2964 ft
Total Loss: 2991 ft
Net Change: -27 ft
Difficulty: 6 / 10
USGS Topo Map: Isabella Lake, Quadga Lake, Snowbank Lake
Tags: Boundary Waters, Britt, Minnesota
Rating:   3 rating(s) Rate it

Take two or three days to explore this 30.1-mile lasso loop in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Pine and cedar trees surround majestic lakes filled with fish, and numerous backcountry campsites dot the trail. Watch for snowshoe hare, grouse, moose, and signs of the largest timber wolf population in the Continental U.S. Be prepared to get your feet wet traversing boggy terrain and fording small streams—there’s only one maintained bridge along the route.

Note: A BWCA permit is required. Make reservations for entry point #86 by calling 877-550-6777.

-Mapped by Steffan Fay

TO TRAILHEAD: From S. 26th Ave. and N. Shore Scenic Dr./MN 61 in Duluth, head northeast on MN 61. In 57 miles, turn left onto MN 1. In 22 miles, turn right onto Wanless Rd. In 0.8 mile, turn left onto Trappers Lake Rd. In 5.8 miles, veer right onto Sawbill Landing Rd. In 2.9 miles, turn left onto NF 369. In 2 miles, continue straight onto NF 379. In 3.6 miles, turn right onto Tomahawk Rd. (toward Forest Center). Follow 1.6 miles to Lake Isabella parking lot.

Position Format: Datum:


Distance: 27.43 mi Points: 1923
Total Time: none Speed: 0.0 mph Pace: 0:00 / mi
Active Time: none Speed: 0.0 mph Pace: 0:00 / mi
Pow-Wow trail.

Points of Interest


Location: 47.801170, -91.306366
From trailhead parking lot, head west on former railroad bed.


Location: 47.800556, -91.314941
Turn right @ trail sign; head northwest.


Location: 47.801521, -91.315643
Enter Boundry Waters Canoe Area Wilderness on a straight, old road.


Location: 47.807941, -91.319679
Pass a campsite next to the Isabella River.


Location: 47.808090, -91.319534
Cross bridge over the Isabella River (the only maintained bridge on the route).


Location: 47.828171, -91.320839
Hike through a wetland on a long, narrow mound of dirt and sticks (resembles a beaver dam). The trail is higher than the surrounding marsh for about 0.25 mile. Use caution and take it slowly to avoid wet feet (especially in the spring).


Location: 47.831776, -91.321411
Turn left @ Y-junction. Hike west toward Fallen Arch Lake.


Location: 47.832664, -91.339172
Trail passes a beaver dam at the southern end of Fallen Arch Lake. Ahead, trail winds to the west.


Location: 47.833214, -91.371719
Pass a campground at Marathon Lake. The trail veers southwest for the next mile.


Location: 47.828331, -91.394554
Cross Diana Lake's outlet on these logs. Be careful; sit down or use hiking poles to avoid a fall.


Location: 47.825249, -91.439987
Head south, passing a campsite at Campfire Lake.


Location: 47.823284, -91.440498
Continue straight @ 3-way; the spur trail on the left leads to Quadga Lake.


Location: 47.820091, -91.452347
Cross Myth Lake outlet and continue hiking west.


Location: 47.828083, -91.463326
The trail traces the eastern banks of Superstition Lake past an unmarked campsite on the lake's small peninsula.


Location: 47.831974, -91.458160
Cross Superstition Creek at the north end of the lake. Next, trail veers to the northwest.


Location: 47.843098, -91.448570
The trail passes a very small campsite near Mirror Lake (it's a long walk down to the water from this site). Continue hiking north.


Location: 47.849880, -91.447884
Pass a beaver dam on Mirror Lake, then veer northeast for 0.5 mile to Path Lake.


Location: 47.853638, -91.442307
At the southern edge of Path Lake, the trail turns west and traces the lake's western shore.


Location: 47.858166, -91.441170
Walk past a large campsite on Path Lake's level, rocky shoreline.


Location: 47.862831, -91.440926
Look to the west across Rock of Ages Lake for expansive views of wooded shoreline. Next, the trail winds to the north toward Horseshoe Lake.


Location: 47.864784, -91.440659
Travel past a campsite overlooking Rock of Ages Lake. A small hill borders the site, offering great views of forest and surrounding granite hills.


Location: 47.878700, -91.438065
Skirt the southeast corner of Lake Three, then head north.


Location: 47.880215, -91.437546
Fallen trees make a rustic stream crossing.


Location: 47.881828, -91.436104
Cedar trees flank the trail around this well-used portage. Continue straight @ 4-way intersection, heading north.


Location: 47.882397, -91.430328
Savor the last views of Horseshoe Lake, then turn left and head northeast.


Location: 47.874786, -91.396637
Go straight and cross portage between North Wilder and Harbor Lakes.


Location: 47.865925, -91.389336
Cross watercourse between North and South Wilder Lakes.


Location: 47.864204, -91.386292
This campsite on South Wilder Lake is a good place to spend your second night. Ahead, trail rounds to the east, paralleling the lake.


Location: 47.860451, -91.322472
Turn right @ T-junction onto a long-abandoned logging road.


Location: 47.845886, -91.302071
Turn right @ T-junction. Ahead: Continue southwest to Waypoint 7 and turn left @ Y-junction. Retrace route to trailhead.

Trail Junction

Location: 47.800564, -91.315010
© Steffan Fay


Location: 47.801567, -91.315643
BWCA boundary sign at entry point # 86. © Steffan Fay

Isabella Campsite

Location: 47.807941, -91.319679
Campsite near Isabella River. © Steffan Fay

Isabella River

Location: 47.808094, -91.319534
Isabella River. © Steffan Fay

Isabella River

Location: 47.808094, -91.319534
Isabella River. © Steffan Fay


Location: 47.817635, -91.318718
You'll hike this section of trail in both directions. © Steffan Fay


Location: 47.828171, -91.320946
© Steffan Fay

Raised Trail

Location: 47.829670, -91.321053
This raised trail helps keep you dry, if you're careful. © Steffan Fay

Trail Junction

Location: 47.831810, -91.321480
The loop begins (and ends) here. © Steffan Fay


Location: 47.832264, -91.329163
BWCA has one of the last substantial timber wolf populations in the Continental United States. © Steffan Fay

Beaver Dam

Location: 47.832561, -91.339249
Beaver dam at southern end of Fallen Arch Lake. © Steffan Fay

Marathon Lake

Location: 47.833202, -91.371689
Marathon Lake has a campground and plenty of wide, open space. © Steffan Fay

Stream Crossing

Location: 47.828384, -91.394699
Crossing the outlet of Diana Lake. © Steffan Fay

Diana Lake

Location: 47.828598, -91.395020
Diana Lake. © Steffan Fay

Campfire Lake Campsite

Location: 47.825279, -91.440193
© Steffan Fay

Wetlands and Lake

Location: 47.820034, -91.452400
Just one of 15 peaceful lakes you'll pass on this trail. © Steffan Fay

Superstition Lake

Location: 47.828171, -91.463318
Superstition Lake. © Steffan Fay

Superstition Lake

Location: 47.831917, -91.458183
Superstition Lake. © Steffan Fay

Beaver Dam

Location: 47.849792, -91.448013
This beaver dam is part of the trail. © Steffan Fay.

Path Lake

Location: 47.853970, -91.442551
Path Lake. © Steffan Fay

Path Lake Campsite

Location: 47.858250, -91.441269
The campsite at Path Lake is a big site on level, rocky shoreline. © Steffan Fay

Rock of Ages Lake

Location: 47.862640, -91.440948
Westward view from the trail above Rock of Ages Lake. © Steffan Fay

Rock of Ages Lake

Location: 47.863068, -91.441376
Panorama video of Rock of Ages Lake. © Steffan Fay

Rock of Ages Campsite

Location: 47.864780, -91.440628
Campsite on Rock of Ages Lake.

Lake Three

Location: 47.878696, -91.438164
One of the largest lakes on the route, Lake Three is peppered with islets large and small.

Stream Crossing

Location: 47.880196, -91.437843
These fallen trees make a rustic stream crossing.


Location: 47.882015, -91.436127
Cross this portage between Lake Three and Horseshoe Lake.

Horeshoe Lake

Location: 47.882442, -91.430458
This will be your last glimpse of Horseshoe Lake.


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