Isle Royale National Park: Greenstone Ridge Trail

Go high above this tiny Lake Superior island for solitude, views, and one of Michigan's most incredible ridge hikes.
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Go high above this tiny Lake Superior island for solitude, views, and one of Michigan's most incredible ridge hikes.

Here’s an equation we like: One seven-hour ferry plus a 42-mile trail equals zero crowds. Thanks to boat-only access, the Greenstone Ridge Trail, which bumps along the view-draped spine of Isle Royale National Park, dishes up Alaska-style solitude. Jump in at either end (usually done east to west, Rock Harbor to Windigo) and emerge having snarfed thimbleberries by the handful, swum in remote lakes, and walked grassy heights with lookouts sweeping to shores 50 miles distant. Most GRT hikers skip the five miles from Lookout Louise to Mt. Franklin. Big mistake. Arrange at the Rock Harbor Visitor Center for a water taxi ($45) to Hidden Lake Dock. The views on this stretch are tops. (906) 482-0984; nps.gov/isro

Season Mid-August through September for the first blush of fall color and few bugs

Guidebook and map Foot Trails and Water Routes, by Jim Dufresne ($13,mountaineersbooks.org); Trails Illustrated Isle Royale National Park ($12,natgeomaps.com)

-Text by Jim Gorman; GPS data courtesy of National Parks System

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 64.1

Waypoints

GRN001

Location: 47.911847, -89.157741

Western trailhead: Windigo Visitor Center at Washington Harbor

GRN002

Location: 47.917824, -89.149504

Turn left onto the Greenstone Ridge Trail, one of the best ridge treks in the country.

GRN003

Location: 47.93385, -89.055117

Summit of Sugar Mountain

GRN004

Location: 47.93505, -89.043328

Junction with the Island Mine Trail. Turn right for a campground, or continue on to the Greenstone Ridge.

GRN005

Location: 47.955746, -89.011701

Eastern (and higher) summit of two-tipped Mt. Desor.

GRN006

Location: 47.966093, -88.970744

Turn left for camping at the South Lake Desor Campground.

GRN007

Location: 47.994346, -88.915426

Ascend the lookout tower at Ishpeming Point. The Ishpeming Trail leads south to Eagle Harbor and the Malone Bay Camground at the islands south side.

GRN008

Location: 48.017345, -88.843939

Junction with the Hatchet Lake Trail (with camping at the lake).

GRN009

Location: 48.047058, -88.76414

Moose (1,187 ft.)

GRN010

Location: 48.062204, -88.722377

Turn left for a quick spur to the West Chickennbone Lake Campground.

GRN011

Location: 48.066528, -88.709379

Footbridge.

GRN012

Location: 48.072766, -88.693436

Hike .1 north at this junction to the East Chickenbone Lake Campground.

GRN013

Location: 48.085911, -88.653931

Sargent (934 ft.)

GRN014

Location: 48.098467, -88.629646

Bear left at the junction with Daisy Farm Trail.

GRN015

Location: 48.10839, -88.607417

Mt. Objiway (1,133 ft.) with a lookout tower.

GRN016

Location: 48.128057, -88.561799

Isle Royale East (1,074 ft.) to the northeast

GRN017

Location: 48.152805, -88.502043

Continue straight.

GRN018

Location: 48.161734, -88.485171

Prehistoric mine

GRN019

Location: 48.163502, -88.481281

Turn southeast with the Greenstone Ridge trail and begin the final descent.

GRN020

Location: 48.162201, -88.478944

Monument Rock

GRN021

Location: 48.158908, -88.471938

Trailhead