Features: Deep clear lakes, hiking opportunities, large lakes, Johnson Falls
Day 1: After the long drive up the Arrowhead Trail most groups will make today a short travel day. Luckily you get into a great area shortly after beginning this route. I recommend spending your first day on East pike. If it is open try for the site about ½ miles west of the portage coming into East Pike. East Pike is a great fishing lake known for producing large Northern Pike and lots of Smallmouth Bass. It used to be stocked with Muskie. It is no longer stocked but there has been some natural reproduction, so a very small population of Muskie remains. This is one of the only lakes in the Boundary Waters with the possibility of producing Muskie.
Day 2: Although it makes for a short travel day I recommend spending night two on West Pike. It is a very pretty lake that offers multiple great campsites. My two favorites are the Island site and the site directly north of the island. West Pike offers good fishing for Smallmouth and Lake Trout. It has very few Pike in it, but they tend to be quite large and often found deep feeding on Cisco. If you are feeling ambitious you can access the Border Route Hiking Trail from the portage between East and West Pike. This will give you a new prospective of the vastness of the area as you look out over the lakes.
Day 3: Eat a good breakfast because today will contain the two longest portages on this route. First a 214 rod into Clearwater Lake, followed Shortly by a 200 rod portage into Caribou. After another short portage you will reach Little Caribou Lake. The one and only campsite on this small lake is a great spot. It is set up high on a rock outcropping and provides good views of the lake. If you can get this site I would do so, unfortunately this site can be tough to get. If it is taken continue onto Pine Lake. Whether you make it to Pine Lake today or tomorrow the trip is not complete without visiting Johnson Falls. This iconic Boundary Waters spot is located deep in the woods and offers great swimming in the lower pool. Access to the falls is by a hiking trail along the creek that is located on the western most part of Pine Lake.
Day 4: On your last full day of travel you will be on the biggest lake yet. Crossing Pine Lake is about a 7 ½ mile paddle. The lake offers good fishing for Smallmouth Bass, Walleye and Lake Trout. Many groups will choose to spend their last night on the east end of Pine. This makes for a short final day of the trip and usually allows groups to make it off the water even if they experience strong winds on their last day.
Day 5: With any luck you will have high water and be able to avoid a portage on the last day by floating your canoe through the narrows to McFarland. Worst case scenario you will have a 2 rod portage into McFarland. After a couple miles on McFarland you will arrive back at your vehicle and will have completed a memorable and scenic Boundary Waters Route.