Minnesota is known as the Land of 10,000 Lakes, a majority of which lie in the northern portion of the state, a place called the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA). Home to more than 1,500 miles of canoe routes with more than 2,000 campsites, the BWCA allows one to experience the North Woods the way it was long ago: no motor boats, no houses, no electrical lines and no indoor plumbing. It is one the best places in the United States, if not in the world, for canoeing, camping, hiking and fishing.
Part of what makes the BWCA so secluded and such a natural wonder is that they don't make it easy to get in and out of the lakes that make up the area. People going in for a camping trip have to carry their boats and gear from place to place. There are no convenience stores, so anything you're going to eat and the method for cooking it has to be carried, sometime upward of a mile from one lake to the next. It's why canoes or kayaks are really the only forms of transportation that can be used.
Surrounded by so much water, you would think hiking would be at a minimum, but that's not the case. The BWCA certainly has a lot of water, but what's not water is North Woods, and it's beautiful for how untouched it is. Unless you camp on a island with water on all sides, there are great trails leading off all the campgrounds that can take you deep into the rugged, untamed terrain. One word of caution: Bring a map and compass. Minnesota, including the northern portions near the hilly Canadian border, tends to be fairly flat and devoid of landmarks. Maps can be purchased at outfitters in Ely, Two Harbors or Grand Marais.
Because you are going to a primitive area, you're going to run across species that are native to Minnesota. Animals like beavers and white-tail deer are harmless and will run at a moment's notice. But don't get overly confident around a moose should you see one standing on the shoreline. If they feel threatened, they'll be as inclined to attack you as to turn and run. Then there are the black bears. Luckily, the BWCA is not brown bear country, but black bears attack people every year and when you're staying in a tent, sleeping on the ground, they've got a clean shot at your head. But most of the time, they don't see you as dinner ... they see your dinner as dinner. Because they'll get into your packs and can smell a pound of hamburger from a mile away (even in a cooler) you'll want to hang what you can from a tree so the bear can't get at it.