Planning. When planning a trip there are a number of factors to account for here is a short list of things to consider when beginning to plan for a trip in the BWCA.
When will you go?
Where will you put in?
How long will you be in for?
How many people are you planning to go with?
What gear do you need?
When will you go?
Depending on what month you’re going to The Boundary Waters you are likely to have a very different experience in each.
If you are a hardened outdoors person who isn’t afraid of being stuck in the rain when it is 33° outside then maybe a perfectly good time for you to go. However, even if it is warm down south that time of year it is worth considering that some lakes will still have ice on them in May. My wife and I planned on a 6 day trip for 60 miles in May but did the whole trip in three. We cranked out 32 miles in one day just to stay warm.
June gets a bit nicer however it often fluctuates in temperature quite a bit still with cold nights cool mornings and warm evenings June often still gets a fair bit of rain the bonus here is that the worst of the bug season has not yet begun.
July is a month typically of beautiful weather broken up by intermittent violent thunderstorms. Very hot on its sunny days less so with the cloud cover on others some of the most violent storms I’ve experienced in my life have been in the Boundary Waters in July. This is definitely when the traffic on the lakes starts to jump up a bit. Towards the end of the month, you start to get berries.
August is often the gem of the year to go to The Boundary Waters it can still be quite hot but the weather becomes more consistent and the bugs sometimes are less dramatic than in July. Competition for campsites at this time can be fierce. Start looking to find a good spot before 2:00 in the afternoon to settle into, otherwise, you get the leftovers. Not all campsites are created equal, not by a long shot. This is also when berries can be the best, particularly the blueberries and the raspberries.
September, though a bit cooler, is also a lovely time to experience the Boundary Waters with fewer bugs than July and August. Traffic for this time usually dips because families with kids are back to school so the demographics shift. Fishing can be harder because of the pressure from the summer and consistently warm temps. By the end of the month, things definitely drop off for temperature though. The fall colors sometimes pop this time of year up north and it is SPECTACULAR to see in the Boundary Waters.
I have also had the Good Fortune to experience the Boundary Waters in October. Minnesota has a break for school in October and my wife and I with a couple of friends made a short John out just a few miles. It started pleasant enough in pants and long sleeve shirts but after our first day concluded and the next morning broke upon exiting the tents we experienced a couple of inches of snow. Fortunately, we went on with our day and left early the next however we found out later that another group had swamped their canoes on snowbank lake and needed to be rescued likely all experiencing hypothermia.
Final Thoughts on Boundary Waters Planning
It is also important to note that when you go makes a difference as to when you will want to get your permits in the nicer months of the summer permits will be snapped up quickly. This also makes a difference as to where you are looking to go in which leads us to the next question you should answer: Where will you put in? (Check out our article on 3 best entry points in the BWCA)