Before 9/11 crossing the U.S./Canada border wasn’t that big of a deal. You still needed to be be officially checked in but in a lot of places (like Beebe Plain, VT) residents could easily cross without too much hassle. Now crossing the border can be a complex process, unless you’re just looking get on Canadian or U.S. soil temporarily and then there are some loopholes that let you do that without going through customs.
How you say? Well let’s just start with the fact that in all of these cases you’re entering the other country and then coming right back. You’re not staying and going that far. If you did, then you’d be breaking the law. However, you are technically in another country at that moment. So here’s 10 places you can legally cross the U.S./Canada Border without going through Customs. We’ll go from the east to the west.
The Aroostock Valley Country Club
The parking lot for the country club in Fairfield, ME is located in the U.S. but the club and the greens are in Canada. For U.S. residents you are allowed to play in Canada and technically be in Canada as long as you return to the U.S. This allows you to enter Canada, play a round of golf, interact with some Canadians and not have to go through customs. How many people can say they’ve played golf in two countries on the same day?
Escourt Station, Maine
This is one of the places for Canadians looking to be technically in the U.S. without going through Customs. If you happen to be in eastern Quebec, you can head to the town of Pohenegamook. At the northern end of the aptly named rue de la Frontière you will find the again aptly named Parc de la frontière. There is an obelisk marking the border making it clear which side is Canada and which side in the United States. There’s a picnic table with a view of the river so you can spent time in both countries! There’s also a bathroom so they have thought of everything here.
Pittsburg, NH – Fourth Connecticut Lake Hiking Trail
This one is a little trickier and you literally just walk past the Customs station and cross into Canada – several times! Care needs to be taken to park in the right parking spots across from the border crossing checkpoint. Walk along the fence and follow the signs to the hiking trail. You might even feel like you’re sneaking into the country just walking past the border patrol like that but don’t worry. Lots of people do this hike and it affords you the opportunity to be technically on Canadian soil while the trail meanders north and south of the border on it’s 1.2 mile journey to The Fourth Connecticut Lake which is the head waters for the 400+ mile long Connecticut River.
The Haskell Free Library and Opera House – Derby Line, VT
This is probably the most famous place on our list. The towns of Derby Line and Rock Island sit next to each other, each on either side of the border. They’ve probably been more affected by the increased border security than any other place. It literally divides the same town. But, it gives us a unique opportunity in the Haskell Free Library. Park in front of the library (if there’s a spot available) and walk right in. Cross the black line on the floor and you’re in Canada. Literally just walk right in.
East Richford, VT
This one is as easy as driving in. East Richford Slide Road in Richford, VT crossing the border for a decent stretch. There’s even the East Richford Cemetery where you could stop and take a walk around in Canada before returning back to the U.S.
Province Point, Lake Champlain
Here’s a second place for Canadians looking to be in the United States but it’s also one of those “can’t get there from here” type places. It is part of the United States that is only accessible by land from Canada. You need to cross private land to get there so this might be the hardest place to access on the list. According to reports, you can get there by walking but it’s not recommended. Visit at your own risk.
Sault Ste Marie, MI
We jump west to Michigan for our next opportunity to cross into Canada without going through Customs. This is a water crossing and you’ll have to boarding a boat tour. The tour will take you out on the Saint Mary’s River and through both the American and Canadian locks. That means you’ll be in Canada while you go through the Canadian lock.
Dunseith, ND – International Peace Garden
This one is a little different from all the others on the list. The International Peace Garden in Dunseith, ND gives people a unique opportunity to experience the border as an open garden. You can wander back and forth as you wish. It’s accessible from either Canada or the United States. To get there, you do have to pass by a Customs station and the entrance to the park is between the two. Once inside, you are free to roam about as you wish. If you want to be in Canada, be in Canada. Want to be in the U.S.? Go there! There are no Customs stations required. However, when you do leave, you will have to stop at Customs and report that you went to the Peace Garden so while you can cross the border without Customs, you eventually do.
Portal, ND – Gateway Cities Golf Club
Here’s another opportunity to enter Canada, do some recreation and not have to go through Customs. It’s the second golf course on our list and let’s you tee off in the U.S. and putt in Canada. In fact, most of the course is in Canada but the club house is in the United States. Canadians will need to go through Customs to get to the clubhouse but American’s can play through!
Peace Arch State Park – Blaine, WA & Peace Arch Provincial Park – Surrey, BC
This crossing is almost an honorable mention because unlike all the others there is police and Border Patrol presence in this park. You’ll also need to check ahead and verify that both sides of the park are open. The Washington and British Columbia parks are operated separately and have their own rules. When both sides are open you can cross from the U.S. into Canada and Canada into the U.S. without going through Customs. On the U.S. side you just need to cross the road to get to the Peace Arch at the border. Both parks do charge and admission fee.
There’s some other quirky locations that are bits of land accessible only from one country or the other. I think they are worth mentioning to make this a comprehensive list of places where you can technically be in one country or the other without going through Customs.
- Elm Point, MN – An exclave of the U.S., this spit of land is only accessible by land near Buffalo Point, Manitoba. There are no trails and the land is private. There’s also a small bit of marshy land to the west that is also technically in the U.S. but only accessible by water.
- Hyder, AK – This is Alaska’s southern most town and it’s only accessible from British Columbia. You can enter without going through Customs but you’ll still need to check back in with Canadian Customs on the way out. So you can get there without Customs but not all the way
- Niagara Falls, NY – It’s a shorter and more crowded version of the Sault Ste Marie Locks tour mentioned above but you can board a Maid of the Mist tour and be taken into Canadian waters.
Crossing the border is a big deal. You’re entering a foreign country. We’ve listed 10 (12 if you count the honorable mentions) places where you can technically cross the border and be on foreign soil without going through customs. However, your visit is very limited and not official. These are fun trivial places but you still need to follow the law if you plan on visiting either country. We have a great relationship with our neighbors and we should keep it that way!
Did we miss any places where you can cross the U.S./Canada Border without going through Customs? Email us! We’d love to hear from you. Check out our other Guides for helpful and fun information!