Clove Lake: A Boundary Waters Beginner Lake

Check out Clove Lake to see if it’s the perfect lake to get your family out on your next camping adventure in the beautiful Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Minnesota.

So, you’ve decided to tackle a trek in the great Boundary Waters Canoe Area and Wilderness? That’s great! But where are you going? There are about 80 or so entry points to choose from. Finding the right lake can be a daunting task for a first timer. I was lucky enough to begin my adventures in the B.W.C.A as a kid, my parents made all of the plans for us! But now I’m the trip planner for my family, and I love it!!

Why Clove Lake?

If you are trying to gain the whole Boundary Waters experience in one go, Clove is probably the lake for you. This is the perfect lake to begin your Boundary Waters career! It’s a lake that you can return to again and again and never tire of it. We’ll go over what makes this lake so great, our experiences and a few pointer on getting out there.

Wide Variety of Scenery

I’m not kidding when I say this lake has it all. There is such a vast amount of different terrain in one area. There are beaver dams, marshes, rapids, large hill sides, a sandy beach, thick forest, rocky terrain and so much more. On one of our trips there had been a fire the year prior. The regrowth after that devastation was inspiring. It is a really great introduction into the Boundary Waters, with sites to make your jaw drop.

Easy Campsites

There are three camp sites on Clove Lake. One has a wonderful little beach that is perfect for younger kids to play on, it’s on the northern most bay of the lake on the U.S. side. My daughter, Sandy, had a blast at this campsite when she was 4! She spent 90% of the weekend on that beach during her first trip. We have also stayed on a campsite just off to the left as you enter the lake from Larch Creek. This one has a more rocky/boulder filled terrain. If you have older kids or are traveling with adults, this one has really pretty views. The best is at sunrise when the lake looks like glass. We have not stayed at the third campsite, but I’m sure it is just as breathtaking as the others, but it does look smaller.

Some may worry about getting a good campsite, or a campsite at all. This isn’t really a big concern for this location. Even though Clove only has 3 campsites, we have never had trouble landing one. With only one permit issued per day for the Larch Creek entry point, you don’t have to rush to get a site. And even if you have the misfortune of finding all sites taken, there are 3 more back on Larch Lake and one more just a portage away on the Pine River.


With this being a lower trafficked lake, the wildlife has been disturbed less. This makes for some unique encounters. On my husbands first trip with my family, he saw a moose swimming across the lake. What a sight to see on a first trip! On another occasion at this lake, my friend, Melissa, and I were paddling along the shore and witnessed a beaver give a warning smack with his tail on the water. That was such an incredible experience, it must have worked because we didn’t see any more beavers that day.

Some of our smaller critter encounters are quite comical. We brought our dog, Oreo, along for an adventure on several occasions. She sat and stared at the same red squirrel for hours. We have had a squirrel try to get into our food bag while we were sitting right by it in camp. Bold little buggers! At certain times of the year, there is an abundance of butterflies, they add a little whimsy to camp life.


If you have a fisherman in your camping party, this lake is a dream. My dad and brother are avid bass fisherman. Along with South Temperance, Clove is among my dad’s favorite B.W.C.A. lake. It is because of the amazing bass fishing on this lake. My dad saw the largest small mouth bass that he has ever seen on this lake. He has returned to this lake time and time again, particularly in June, for the fishing.


Like I had mentioned earlier, Larch Creek (entry point 80), only allows 1 party to enter per day. This is a huge factor in keeping this area quiet. If you are searching for solitude without a long voyage in, this is the prime spot for you. You won’t have other paddlers cruising along in front of your campsite all day and there will be no waiting for the perfect fishing spot. Even though it is a small lake, the campsites are spread out enough that you won’t even notice them. Solitude is hard to find, but not on this lake.

Our Experiences

Obviously we have a thing or two to say about this lake. It has left an impact on our family and we are rather fond of it. I’ll share some of our experiences with you, so you can see why we are so attached.

Our First Timers

We have had several members of our family make this their maiden voyage. Among them; my husband (Scott), daughter (Sandy), friend (Melissa), and one of my nephews. When our son, Killian, is a couple of years older he’ll go to this lake too. It won’t be his first trip, but he should experience it all the same.

Repeat Trips

My dad has made the trip back to that lake 5 times now, it’s about to be 6, in order to share this amazing lake with all of us. His hope is to bring two of his grandchildren along who have not yet experienced Clove. I’ve been to this lake 3 times, once each with Scott, Melissa, then Sandy. It hasn’t been everyone’s first trip, but so many of us have experienced it thanks to my dad. My brother is actually taking his family to Clove Lake as I compose this post.

Day Trips

When we camp at this lake, we use it as a base camp. Others use it as part of a route. We like the base camp method as it leaves more time for adventuring the area and less time packing, tearing down and setting up. With that said, there are some good day trips from this location. One in particular that I would like to mention is on the Pine River. A short portage on the east side of the lake leads to the Pine River. We paddled south a short ways to a falls, it’s on the east side of the river. There is a small area to tie your canoe off, so you can get out and explore. After hiking along the rapids up a ways, there is a marker that marks the U.S. and Canadian border. That’s a pretty fun find for a four year old! The falls is pretty neat and worth the trip to it. You can also go a little farther down for a good swimming spot. Wear your life jackets!

Navigating Larch Creek & Clove Lake

When you choose Clove Lake, you are not just choosing a destination but a journey as well. I wouldn’t say that it’s a hop, skip and a jump to get to Clove from the Larch Creek entry point. It’s more like a beaver dam, a log, and a portage.


The launch point is right off of the road with a rather small space to park your vehicle. Good thing there is only one permit per day! The great news is that you put your canoe into the water and load up right by the truck. The bad news is that you will need bug spray immediately. It’s pretty thick vegetation and a little creek means bugs galore. It’s not so bad once you get moving, but while loading up, definitely have the bug spray ready.

The Creek

This is one of the highlights for me. You are immersing yourself farther into the wilderness with each stroke of your paddle. The creek is so calm and serene. It is not a race, so enjoy the paddle in. The creek has a multitude of twists and turns to navigate around. Keep an eye out for turtles! They can be seen basking on a log here and there.

Beaver Dams

Along the way to Larch Lake there are several beaver dams, I hope you packed your muscles. The only way around these is to pull the canoe over it. There are no places to put gear, so your canoe will be fully loaded when you pull it over. It’s really not as hard as it sounds once you get the hang of it. And when the water is higher, it’s a breeze! A note of caution: Be careful when stepping on the dams, on the downstream side there will be a significant drop off. My brother-in-law, Jon, experience this first hand and got very wet!


There is one short portage going from Larch Lake to Clove Lake. It’s pretty rocky, but not nearly as tough of a portage as some of the others in the BWCA. After paddling down that long and winding creek, you’ll be thankful for a chance to stand up and stretch your legs. It also gives you a chance to refuel with a snack and wet your whistle.

Book Early

I know I’ve mentioned this a few times already, but once again, there is only 1 entry permit granted per day at Entry Point 80, Larch Creek. Book this entry point early if you have a specific date that you need to enter on. This one fills up fast. On our last trip up to the Boundary Waters we had to choose a different lake. Which I’m okay with, we like to try new places. If your dates are flexible that makes it easier, but you’ll still want to stay on top of this one. Check out “Why Plan Your Summer BWCA Trip in January

As you can see, this lake has a lot of potential for great memories on your next adventure. It hasn’t let us down yet! If you choose this lake as your first destination in the B.W.C.A. you won’t be disappointed. Happy camping!

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