Isle Royale Trails

Isle Royale Trails

There are 165 miles of hiking trails that intersect the 133,782 land acres of Isle Royale.  Each trail is very different from another  and range from very easy to very difficult. Trails are rated from from easy to difficult.  There are both long and short trails that people can hike.  The trails themselves are marked fairly plain on the island map that is provided by the Rangers when you arrive on the island.  However, it is very important when you are planning your trip to Isle Royale to consider the difficulty of the different trails as your hike will be significantly altered as the trail’s difficulty increases. The degree of difficulty for each trail is not on the island map but is provided below by Mike Tremblay.

Click on the maps below to enlarge different sections of the Isle

Sunset at Isle Royale

West End Isle Royale Hiking

Feldtmann Ridge Trail

East End of Isle

Middle of Isle

Long Trails of Isle Royale

For a description of the 7 Long Trails (Feldtmann Ridge Trail, Greenstone Ridge Trail, Indian Portage Trail, Ishpeming Trail, Island Mine Trail, Minong Ridge Trail, and the Rock Harbor Trail) make sure you click on the link above for long trails. For individual miles for these and other trails check the mileage chart provided by the Park which will be in the information package your receive when you get to the Park.  The long trails are difficult to accurately rate as rating depends often whether you are climbing the steep hills or coming down.  The Greenstone Ridge, in many places, is very easy, but can quickly change to being very difficult.  In heavy prolonged rains, trails which are relatively easy can quickly turn into mud and become treacherous.  Trails can also pool up quickly in places making dry feet difficult.  What can make the Rock Harbor Trail difficult is the rain and water on all the lake shore rock over which much of the trail passes.  When dry, great footing.  When wet, slippery and because the rock is often angled, footing can be tricky.  Good boots, patience, and being in good walking shape are necessary ingredients for any of the long trails on Isle Royale.

Feldtmann Ridge Trail

Location: west side of the Isle. Total miles for main trail: Map=19.0 miles / GPS=19.9 miles    Average Difficulty: 6.5

The Feldtmann Ridge trail is easily done from Windigo around to Windigo in either direction in 4-6 days.  It provides a good cross section of the island.  You will be in lowland areas with wetlands, lakes with good moose viewing, a ridge with magnificent vistas, a bay on Lake Superior and, via the Island Mine Trail, up to the Greenstone Ridge.  It is a good first time trip for people with backpacking experience.

Section 1: Windigo dock to Feldtmann Lake

Miles from Windigo dock to the east sign at Feldtmann Lake: Map=8.8 miles / GPS=9.2 miles Difficulty: 6    Hiked: 2000,2001

The trail leaves Windigo along the shore of Washington Harbor.  When immediately leaving from the dock heading west, the trail reaches a fork.  You want to stay on the trail near the harbor.  The other fork leads to the ranger station and the Windigo Nature trail.  The trail follows Washington Harbor until it cuts south away from the harbor just after Beaver Island.  It then begins an ascent of around 100 feet up a hill.  It continues a moderate ascent with flat areas between the hills until it reaches a ridge it follows for awhile.  From this ridge, looking south, you can see some wetland areas, Grace Creek and Lake Superior in the distance.  It tends to be windy up here but, if the weather is nice, it’s a great place to plan lunch or at least a stop.  This completes the hardest part of this section.  From here the trail heads down to lowland areas towards Grace Creek.  Grace Creek is a footbridge and the flow through the creek depends on the time of season you go but, is a dependable source of water if needed.  Once past Grace Creek the trail passes through some small hills until it almost levels out and becomes quite straight heading almost due west.  At this point, you are approaching Grace Harbor.  In the springtime, it and Lake Superior are easily seen as you approach it.  In the fall, I could not see either.  Once past Grace Harbor the trail turns inland and you pass through some wetland areas.  In the spring,  this is a definite source of water.  In the fall, it is questionable.  Once through the wetlands, the trail turns due east and follows along an old beach line.  In the springtime, from here, you can see Lake Superior.  In the fall, I couldn’t.  It follows the old beach line from here and is relatively flat all the way to Feldtmann Lake Campground.

Section 2: Feldtmann Lake to Siskiwit Bay

Miles from the east sign at Feldtmann Lake to the post at Siskiwit Bay: Map=10.2 miles / GPS=10.7 miles    Difficulty: 7  

The trail leaves the campground and passes Rainbow Cove Trail.  It is relatively flat until you come to a series of pretty steep climbs taking you up the Feldtmann Ridge.  There are some magnificent views of Feldtmann Lake and Lake Superior.  If coming from Windigo, you can see the area you have walked so far.  If going the other way, you’ll see what you have ahead.  It’s a great place to take a few minutes, pull out your map and take some pictures.  The trail continues along this ridge which meanders up and down a little but, mostly up until you came to a long uphill.  If you look ahead, you should be able to see the Feldtmann Ridge Tower.  The tower is 4.9 miles (GPS) from Feldtmann Lake Campground.  After leaving the tower, you proceed along the ridge only, in a general downward direction.  0.5 miles (GPS) from the tower, you will pass the original wooden tower.  To the left of the trail, opposite the wood debris on the right, is the old cement footings.  Siskiwit Bay is 5.2 miles (GPS) from this point.  You remain on the ridge going downward for a short period when the trail passes a small stream that, I’ve been told is a spring.  It was flowing heavy in the spring but, just a traickle in the fall.  It should be a reliable source of water though.  You then continue to descend until you reach the bottom and the trail generally levels out to a road grade with lots of spruce and grasslands around.  You will see several clearings in here with grass growing that was most likely from the days when it was a logging then, a CCC camp.  It is like this until you reach Siskiwit Bay Campground.

Common foot bridges found along Isle Royale Hiking Trails

Greenstone Ridge Trail

Total miles for main trail: Map=40 miles / GPS= n/a   Average Difficulty: Easy, Moderate, Difficult

The Greenstone Ridge trail is the longest and perhaps, the most popular trail on the island.  It runs almost the entire length of the island on a ridge that forms the backbone of the island.  Being that it runs along the highest points on the island, it offers magnificent views of Lake Superior on both the north and south shores.  The time of year you go determines how often but, you can see both shores at various points along the trail.

Section 1: Hidden Lake dock to Lane Cove Trail / Mount Franklin Trail

Miles: Map=5.7 miles    Difficulty: easy, moderate  

Most people start the trail from the point where the Mt. Franklin trail cuts in at the Greenstone trail but, to do the entire trail, you must really start at Lookout Louise.  This can be done by hiking from where the Mt. Franklin trail cuts in, walking to Lookout Louise and doubling back or, by getting someone in Rock Harbor with a boat to drop you off at the Hidden Lake dock in Tobin Harbor.  The dock at Hidden Lake is ? miles from Rock Harbor across Tobin Harbor.  The dock is right by Hidden Lake, a small lake with lots of wetlands around it.  

After leaving the lake you immediately begin the climb up to the ridge.  The climb is relatively short and not very steep at this point in the ridge.  At approximately the .6 mile mark you will pass “Monument Rock”.  Continuing for another .3 miles you reach the Greenstone Ridge.  At this point, if you go straight for .1 miles you will come to “Lookout Louise”.  The view is worth the short trip. Once on the ridge, you go down hill a bit then, pretty much level off.  You pass a portage trail between Duncan Bay and Tobin Harbor at 1.4 miles.  Just past this point you begin to start the ascent up to, what will become, more of the “normal” level of the ridge.  You are at this level when you reach the Lane Cove Trail and the Mt. Franklin trail.  They are 3.4 miles from the Duncan Bay portage.

Section 2: Lane Cove Trail / Mt. Franklin Trail to Chickenbone East Campground trail

Miles: Map=8.8 miles/ GPS=8.22 miles    Difficulty: 5  Hiked: 1999,2001

   Walking west from the Mt. Franklin trail, at the .3 mile mark you will come to Mt. Franklin.  There is no sign or anything but, you will know when you are there.  There are huge rocks forming a ledge overlooking the entire north-east end of the island.  Plan on spending/loosing some time here, it is well worth it.  It’s a great place to drop the pack and bask in the beauty.  Leaving Mt. Franklin, you continue along the ridge in a slight ascent till you come to Mt. Ojibway and Mt. Ojiway tower at 2.3 miles(map) or 2.5 miles(GPS).  After leaving the tower you begin a slight descent and come to the Daisy Farm trail at ? miles(map) or 4.2 miles (GPS). etc.


Section 3: Chickenbone East Campground to Chickenbone West Campground

Miles: Map= miles / GPS=? miles    Difficulty: ?   Hiked: 1999,2001

Section 4: Chickenbone West Campground trail to Hatchet Lake Campground trail

Miles: Map=7.2 miles / Post at Hatchett 7.2 miles / GPS=? miles    Difficulty: ?    Hiked: 1999,2001

   The trails etc.  At .8 miles (GPS) you come to the portage between Chickenbone Lake and ? Lake.  This portage runs north/south and the trail runs east to west but, when you come to the portage from the east it is hard to see that the trail continues straight because it goes down over a small creek.  The trail then etc.  You come to the


Section 5: Hatchet Lake Campground trail to Lake Desor South trail

Miles: Map=7.3 miles / GPS=? miles    Difficulty: ?   Hiked: 1999,2001


   After leaving the post marking Hatchet Lake trail, you immediatly climb a hill.  After that, the trail climbs another hill at .25 mile mark.

   You come to Ishpheming Tower at 3.8 miles (map and post at Hatchett) or 3.7 miles (GPS).


Section 6: Lake Desor South trail to Island Mine Campground trail

Miles: Map=4.8 miles / GPS=5.2 miles    Difficulty: 5   Hiked: 1999,2001

[WT RATIO .052]

Section 7: Island Mine Campground trail to Washington Creek Campground

Miles: Map=6.2 miles / Post at Island Mine=6.5 miles / GPS=6.49    Difficulty: East to West=? / West to East=?    Hiked: 1999,2000,2001

Short Trails of Isle Royale

The 15 Short Trails are Daisy Farm Trail, Chickenbone East Trail, Hatchet Lake Trail, Huginnin Cove East Trail, Huginnin Cove West Trail, Island Mine Trail, Lake Richie Trail, Lane Cove Trail, Mt. Franklin Trail, Mt. Ojibway Trail, Rainbow Cove Trail, Stoll Trail, Tobin Habor Trail, Washington Creek Trail, and the Windigo Nature Trail. Again consult the mileage chart for the specifics of each of these trails.  When the rating on each short trail is given, believe it, as some of these short trails are very difficult and some very easy.

Although Isle Royale has 100+ miles of shoreline, the mainland is quite narrow with the Greenstone Ridge running right down its back.  Ascending or descending this ridge is what makes the majority of the trails difficult.