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Backpacker Magazine – January 2014

Isle Royale National Park Loop

See our readers’ top spot, from lakeside to mountaintop, on a two-day loop.

by: Kim Phillips

 Dock 47.122540, -88.564375; 411 miles from Minneapolis on 5th St. Ferry Ride the Ranger III to Rock Harbor Lodge ($53-$63;, then take the M.V. Sandy to Hidden Lake dock ($41; Gear Up Dockside Store next to Rock Harbor Lodge; (906) 337-4993 Season April to October Permits Free; pick up aboard the Ranger III or at Rock Harbor. Contact (906) 482-0984; Website
 Greenstone Ridge to Rock Harbor

Picture an island isolated in the expanse of an ocean-like lake. Add moose, loons, and a couple packs of timber wolves. Top it off with wooded bays, fragrant conifers, and crested ridgelines. The result: Isle Royale. “Plus,” says David Crites, “the island’s remoteness filters out all but those who really want to be there, which means it’s rarely crowded.”
See some of the best of the island on an 18.4-mile track that explores grassy ridges and waterside caves. Start at Hidden Lake dock
(1), skirting Hidden Lake (a popular hangout for moose), then climb past Monument Rock, an inland, ancient sea stack. About a mile in, take the .1-mile path to Lookout Louise (2), a bluff-top vantage point 900 feet above fjord-like Five Finger and Duncan Bays. Back on the Greenstone Ridge Trail, the next 5.1 miles trace the grassy ridgeline dotted with thimbleberry bushes (ripe in late July and August) and watery views in every direction.
At mile 6.2, top Mt. Franklin’s 1,080-foot summit
(3) for panoramas stretching to Canada. Continue southwest along Greenstone Ridge another 2.5 miles to the lookout tower on 1,133-foot Mt. Ojibway (4) to see the island’s interior lakes—like holes punched clean through to Lake Superior. Take the Mt. Ojibway Trail south toward the Rock Harbor shoreline, set up camp at Daisy Farm Campground (six tentsites and 16 shelters) (5), then wander neighboring trails for photo ops.
“I was out looking for wildlife one evening in fall, and I could hear moose moving through a nearby marsh,” Crites recalls. “As I put my pack down to grab my camera, I saw a wolf standing about 50 feet behind me. It was gone in an instant.” The next day, hike east on the Rock Harbor Trail, looking for old stone foundations from the abandoned Siskowit copper mine, which operated in the 1850s.
Roughly 4 miles past the mine, visit Suzy’s Cave
(6), an inland sea arch sculpted by Superior’s waves. Close the loop with a 1.8-mile stretch back to Rock Harbor (7) that crosses a series of outcrops with near-constant views of the waterfront.

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