Backcountry Camping


Ft Charlotte Camping

Wooden decks at Fort Charlotte campgrounds for tents.
Fort Charlotte Backcountry Campground

NPS Photo

Backcountry Camping at Grand Portage National Monument

The Grand Portage is a nearly nine mile portage/trail that connects Lake Superior to the Pigeon River over land. The hilly, rocky, rutty route challenges even experienced hikers. When making your camping plans please take into consideration your group’s physical condition and experience. Know your limits.

  • A free backcountry permit is required for all camping at Fort Charlotte. Allow two weeks for permit processing.
  • Camping at Grand Portage National Monument is limited to two remote campsites at Fort Charlotte available by walking in on the Grand Portage Trail or paddling from points west and north on the Pigeon River.
  • Campsites are equipped with tent pads and must be used to protect the delicate topsoil at Fort Charlotte.
  • Campsites are limited to nine people, so make camping reservations well ahead of time.
  • Applications for camping permits can be submitted any time of year.


  • Under the Archaeological Resource Protection Act of 1979, it is illegal to dig in, or to take, purchase, sell, receive, or transport materials from a site on federal land without a permit. Similar laws protect state and private lands, and Native American burials. Damage to a site on federal lands that exceeds $500 is considered a felony and can result in the seizure of any vehicle (car, truck, fishing vessel, plane, RV) used in the crime, fines of up to $250,000, and up to five years in prison.

If You Inadvertently Discover Artifacts

  • Record the location with your GPS, on a map, or make a sketch referencing prominent landmarks. Estimate the size of the site.
  • Photograph the artifacts in place. Include a common object for scale, such as a pencil or coin. Photograph the site area and the surrounding landscape.
  • Note any disturbances, human or natural, to the site.
  • Do not remove the artifact from where it is. Context is everything for park staff to determine the item's history.
  • Call Park Headquarters at 218-475-0123 or e-mail

Trail Conditions

  • The Grand Portage is often wet and muddy during late spring, summer, and early fall.
  • Terrain is uneven and there are exposed rock surfaces and tree roots.
  • Board walks have been constructed over some of the wettest places, but large areas of standing water frequently remain throughout the year.
  • Freezing night temperatures can make boardwalks very slippery with frost. Sturdy, waterproof footwear is recommended.
  • Please stay on the portage trail. Old logging roads and animal trails crisscross the Grand Portage and may lead you astray.
  • Biting insects and ticks can be prevalent from June to September. Wearing long pants and long sleeved shirts will provide some protection from mosquitos, flies, and ticks. Insect repellents are helpful.

River Conditions

  • The USGS Streamflow Duration Hydrograph provides useful information for forecasting paddling conditions on the Pigeon River from South Fowl Lake to Ft. Charlotte. After examining the current hydrographic (be sure to select the right year) you should note that very difficult paddling conditions can be expected at 100 cfs (cubic feet per second) and below. At this low water stage, you can expect exposed rocks in the river channel- especially where the English portage used to be located. The English portage is likely little used today as there is typically more than sufficient water to float through this section of river. Very good paddling conditions can be expected at 500 cfs. Conditions for paddling become more complex and difficult as discharge increases above 500 cfs.

Potable Water

  • Carry plenty of water for hiking the Grand Portage, water sources along the Grand Portage trail and at the Fort Charlotte Backcountry Campground are not potable.


  • Campfires must be built in fire rings or in grills where provided. Burn only dead, fallen wood. Cutting of standing (living or dead) trees is prohibited. Open fires will be prohibited during times of high fire danger.
  • Any remnants of a fire must be extinguished, cold to the touch, free of litter with no evidence of food remains that could attract animals. The use of portable camp stoves is permitted in designated campsites.

Quiet Hours

  • In order to insure a quality camping experience, quiet hours are enforced from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Garbage and Waste

  • All visitors must be prepared to carry their refuse out of the park. Do not dispose of garbage in toilets, do not bury it, and do not throw it in the river.
  • Where vault toilets are not provided, take care to dispose of human waste properly. Dig a hole six to eight inches deep and 200 feet from the nearest body of water. Cover thoroughly.


  • Pets are best left at home. Pet excrement must be removed if it is within 200 feet of trail, campsite or water.


  • Hunting is not allowed within the boundaries of Grand Portage National Monument. Hunting is common within Grand Portage Reservation which surrounds monument boundaries. You may observe hunting activity September through December. Please consult a park ranger for information on hunting at the time of your visit.

Bear Country Safety

Remember, you are a guest in bear country. Although bears are naturally very wary and avoid people, human-bear contacts have become more frequent when the population increases. When competition for natural food supplies increase, bears tend to expand their searching and sometimes that brings them into campgrounds. When a bear finds food left by campers, she learns that people mean food. Proper care of visitor food supplies is essential to prevent bears from being attracted to campsites and becoming "troublesome" in the eyes of a camper.

To avoid bear problems:

  • Never feed wild animals.

  • Hang food-cache away from your tent at least 10 feet off the ground, and at least 4 feet away from the tree trunk.

  • Prepare food well away from your tent.

  • Do not eat or keep food, garbage, or unwashed dishes in your tent.

  • Do not bury or scatter food scraps.

Basic Information

Accessibility Information

Last updated: August 2, 2023

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

P.O. Box 426
Grand Portage, MN 55605


(218) 475-0123

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