The Grand Portage Trail connects the town of Grand Portage on the Western shore of Lake Superior to the Pigeon River and the inland lakes and rivers of the Boundary Waters and beyond. The town is named after the trail and means “great carrying place.” A portage is a path between lakes or rivers that is typically a few hundred yards long. This portage is 8.4 miles long and bypasses the unnavigable rapids and waterfalls on the lower 21 miles of the Pigeon River. It was a key link in the fur trade in the 1700s. The voyagers would gather at the town of Grand Portage each summer coming from as far away as Montreal and Alberta and Saskatchewan.
The entire trail is a National Monument and is managed in cooperation with the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. The trail itself isn’t particularly scenic although the fall colors in September and October are spectacular. The shore of Lake Superior in this area is very hilly, especially going north into Canada. The trail is taken very good care of with several boardwalks and a few bridges. There are opportunities to camp at the west end at the Pigeon River in the location of historic Fort Charlotte. There is about 1100’ feet of gain going west from the shore of Lake Superior, but only about 400' of gain in the other direction. You can park at the visitor center a few hundred yards south of the eastern terminus.