Pack it in, Pack more out

Pack it in, Pack more out–and Where Does it Go? Trash on the Trail.

Trash happens when more than 150,000 people visited the BWCAW last year. Thousands more who recreate along the 57 miles of the Gunflint trail produce even more waste and recycling. 

So, where does it all go?

Wilderness visitors generally have a “pack it in and pack it out” philosophy. Most of them will also pack out the rubbish left behind by the inconsiderate. 

They follow the old golfer rule to make a place better than you found it, “Fix your divot, and two more.”

Visitors to the wilds and even the resorts may not know that the State of Minnesota has prohibited trash burning, including paper and plastics.

Resorts and outfitters can guide you in the best way to dispose of the trash you’ve accumulated during your wilderness adventures, but we want to give you more information.


Don’t burn it. Bring it out.

If you work with an outfitter, they can help dispose of your trash.

Otherwise, the best place to bring your trash, if you don’t want to haul it home, is North Shore Waste in Grand Marais. They are open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

All the trash collected by North Shore Waste in Cook County is hauled 120 miles to a landfill just east of Superior, Wisconsin, known as the Moccasin Mike Landfill. Moccasin Mike is nearing the end of its useful life, although it has a reprieve of sorts to accept trash for a few more years.


Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle is the mantra for efforts in the Gunflint Trail area of Cook County to bring down the amount of solid waste transported to landfills over 100 miles away.

At the Loon Lake Public Boat Access and Voyageur Canoe Outfitters at 189 Sag Lake Trail, Cook County has set up what they call “Green Recycling Trailer Locations.” 

Green recycling trailers have separate bins to accommodate certain recyclable products. If there is no designated bin for specific materials, the county asks that you drop those items at the  Recycling Center in Grand Marais.

All material brought to a recycling trailer must be cleaned and removed from bags or boxes before being placed in the designated bin. Glass, steel cans, aluminum cans, magazines, and newspapers have marked containers in the trailers. Plastics, but only those with a recycling logo with the number 1 or 2 can be accepted.

What Can You Do To Reduce Waste

Packing out what you pack in, and a little bit more, is a brilliant way for you to help keep the BWCAW the pristine environment we all want to see.

To give you some good ideas on reducing waste, you may check out this fantastic article by Laura Durenberger-Grunow of Boreal Community Media, a local online news aggregator in Grand Marais.