The second-biggest slice of wilderness east of the Rockies – and the most primeval stretch of solitude you can find with a paddle – is the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness: 1 million-plus acres of water and woods full of moose, wolves, bears – and plenty of trout for an evening campfire. The ink-black waters are more than just a few hundred J-strokes – they're a descent into history, where 400-year-old Ojibwe petroglyphs adorn the lakeside cliffs. For a six-day run, start in Ely, an old mining town packed with outfitters: Piragis Northwoods Company is a favorite. At lunch, you can fish Alice Lake and then sling a hammock tent between the spindly pines. Snowbank Lake is where Smitty's rents cabins on a tree-studded peninsula. And when you get back to Ely, the Boathouse Brewpub is HQ for barstool camping tales; it also has the best back-to-civilization Belgian Copper Ale in town.

Getting there: From Minneapolis-St. Paul, fly to the Range Regional Airport and then drive an hour-and-a-half to Ely. Rent a canoe from Piragis for $30 per day.