Vectorized map of moose lake

Easy BWCA Routes from Moose Lake (entry point 25)

Moose Lake is the most popular entry point into the Boundary Waters. One major draw is that it allows deep access to the BWCA without a lot of portages. In fact, it’s a popular choice for paddlers headed all the way toward Canada’s Quetico wilderness.

Plus, being located in the Kawishiwi Ranger District, the nearest major town is Ely—BWCA mecca—just 30 minutes away. Williams and Hall Outfitters are the closest outfitters, located right there on Moose Lake.

It’s a popular entry point for good reason. It kicks off several straightforward and enjoyable paddle routes — with good fishing.

At the entry point, you’ll find a large paved parking lot as well as bathroom facilities. Since Moose Lake allows motorboats, there are several outfitters that provide canoe towing services out of the lake as well.

Boundary Waters permit quota

To understand its popularity, you have to understand how permitting works in the Boundary Waters. More than other wilderness areas I’ve encountered, the Forest Service manages traffic into the Boundary Waters.

Everyone who enters the BWCA needs a permit. The Forest Service manages how many permits are given out per lake per day. That means only a certain number of paddle parties (up to 9 paddlers per party) can enter a given lake on a given day. This ensures that there are ample campsites available and so that portages aren’t damaged by overcrowding.

At 27 parties per day, Moose Lake allows the most entrants on a daily basis. There’s much to enjoy, but as with most things in the wilderness area, a little advice goes a long way.

Moose Lake, BWCA Entry Point #25

Entry PointMoose Lake (#25)
Permits issued per day27
Closest OutfitterWilliams and Hall Outfitters
Motors AllowedMotors allowed
MapsMaps: Fisher F-10, F-31; McKenzie #17, #116

BWCA routes starting at Moose Lake

Since so many people enter the Boundary Waters via Moose Lake every year, the rest of this article will outline the best, beginner-friendly BWCA routes from entry point 25.

Newfound Lake and beyond (no portages)

Paddling Moose Lake offers some great, low-key route options. You could easily spend 2-5 days exploring different lakes without a single portage.

Paddle to the northeast end of Moose and find yourself in Newfound Lake with its 13 campsites and even some island camping on the northeast end of the lake. From there, Choose a base camp and swim, fish, and explore the surrounding lakes.

Or keep going into Sucker or Splash lakes for even more options.

If your aim is to avoid portages, Moose Lake is a great entry point to consider. Just know that your route options will be out-and-back rather than a loop if you don’t want to portage. Ample opportunity to explore many different campsites on a handful of connected lakes!

Moose Lake / Basswood Lake Loop (4-5 days)

Basswood Lake is a huge lake on the border between the US and Canada. Exploring its campsites and making your way back to Moose Lake would make a great loop.

You’ll get a good taste of Boundary Waters travel, with a few portages (including a bigger, 188-rod portage).


Depending on your start time, I’d plan to camp somewhere on the chain of lakes, perhaps Newfound or Sucker lake. And gear up for a short portage and big paddle day on Basswood the following day.


Take the short portage into Basswood and start your exploration! You’ll have lots of paddling today. Seek out a desirable campsite. You’re headed toward Wind Bay which is on the southeast end of the lake.


Make your way around the southern edge of Basswood toward Wind Bay where you’ll meet a 188-rod portage into Wind lake.


Spend a night on Wind and portage 162-rods back into Moose Lake for pickup.

Explore Moose Lake, entry point 25

Moose Lake is a popular entry point in the BWCA for great reasons. Try out one of these routes for a beginner-friendly experience in the Boundary Waters.