SnowTech Magazine - Minnesota-Ontario Cross-Border

Minnesota-Ontario Cross-Border Circle Tour  Courtesy SnowTech Magazine

Here's a great circle tour for adventurous trail riders; a three to five day run around the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Minnesota and Quetico Provincial Park in far western Ontario. This is some of the most remote riding one can find in the lower 48, and for Canadians the far western section of Ontario is very wild and the trails are uncrowded, to say the least.

The circle tour gives you nearly 500 miles of pristine and awesome trails. You will go for many miles and not see another sled. Yet, gas stops, small communities and friendly resorts along the way are close enough to keep you comfortable and keep your gas tank full.

On the U.S. side, you can start anywhere you would like all the way from Crane Lake to Gunflint Lake, all you need is somewhere to park your trailer. Generally this would be at a lodge, motel or resort where you plan on starting and ending your trip, and there are many along the way (Crane Lake, Buyck, Tower, Ely, Isabella, Grand Marias are all great start points).

A counter-clockwise route is suggested, as the only U.S. Customs office for re-entry into the U.S. is at Crane Lake. Ontario and Minnesota trail permits would be required; as you enter Canada from Gunflint Lake, the first resort on the Canadian side is Northern Lights Lodge (807) 933-5025 and they can sell you a three day ($90) or seven day ($120) OFSC trail permit, or you can just get the season trail permit for ($230). You can also get an OFSC permit ahead of time. You will want to check both Canadian and U.S. Customs requirements, and you will also need Canadian Remote Border Crossing Permits. Links for this can be found on the Aitikokan snowmobile club website.

The northern Canadian loop starts at Gunflint Lake, 35 miles by trail Northwest of Grand Marias, MN. From Gunflint Lake North to Kashabowie it is about 65 miles on the L902M club trail. At Kashabowie take OFSC "A" trail West about 81 miles to Aitikokan. Then take club trail L601M West 15 miles to Perch Lake, where you take club trail L901M Southwest about 70 miles to Crane Lake, MN. Here you will enter the U.S. and clear customs, taking Voyager Trail 203 and Arrowhead State Trail 62 about 75 miles to Tower, MN. From Tower it is about 28 miles on Taconite State Trail 61 to the fine town of Ely, MN. From Ely you take the Tomahawk Trail 155 to the snow capital of Minnesota, Isabella, a 56 mile run. Isabella to Grand Marias continues along the Tomahawk Trail 155 and then takes the Northshore State Trail 60 East for a total of 91 miles.

Seasoned riders can do this easily in a couple of days. Start at Grand Marias, MN and it's about 100 miles to Kashabowie, ON. Gas up and continue another 80+ miles on to Aitikokan and spend the night. Day 2 continue West and South almost 90 miles to Crane Lake, gas and chow and it's just over 100 miles to Ely. Spend the night and you have about 100 miles to go back to Grand Marias. The possibilities are endless. It's not quite 500 miles, so you could make it a couple of days or take as many as five days, its all good.

SnowTech Magazine riders have ridden this area many times over the years and can testify to the remote riding experience and great trails that you will encounter. Extra gas and a tow rope are smart to have, but the wide open expanses and very few riders on the trails makes for some great riding. For more information on this circle tour, visit the website for the Atikokan Sno-Ho snowmobile club and plan your route today.

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