Access Special Backpacker.com Features, Register Now!

Secret Hikes: Isle Royale National Park

Trek to shoreline campsites through woodlands rife with moose, birds, and wolves.

Lake Superior acts like a 31,800-square-mile moat that keeps the sightseers away—this island park gets fewer visitors in a year than Yosemite gets on a busy midsummer day. And the precious few who make it here and actually go backpacking tend to target Greenstone Ridge, the backbone of the island and home to its highest landmark (1,365-foot Ishpeming Point). Traverse adjacent Minong Ridge instead, hiking 37.3 miles from McCargoe Cove to Windigo. You’ll snap pictures of all the same scenery—perfect lakeside campsites, dense northern forest, wildlife galore—and never have to worry about another human accidentally walking through the frame. And if you’re lucky, you’ll notch a rare sighting of wolves (see p. 40 for tips). You’ll also pick blueberries by the fistful (in August, between McCargoe Cove and Todd Harbor), pass by an 1890s-era copper mine, and enjoy craggy ridgetop views over a carpet of spruce. And did we mention the birds? One of our contributors counted 50 species on his Minong traverse. Camp at Little Todd Harbor, Lake Desor, and Hugginin Cove. Plan a layover day at Lake Desor to wade into the chilly waters on a sandy spit, then lounge on sun-warmed slabs. Avoid black-fly and mosquito season: Go in early spring or fall.

›› Magic Moment Stepping off the ferry at McCargoe Cove, you are so taken by the scene, you alter your itinerary to add a night here. In the evening, a bull moose walks by like he owns the place—because he does.

›› Local knowledge Posthike, in Windigo, rent a canoe or kayak and paddle protected Washington Harbor, where you’ll see mergansers and otters during a circumnavigation of Beaver Island (dock there for lunch).

›› Do it Get to the island via the Voyageur II ferry from Grand Portage, Minnesota: isleroyaleboats.com.

Contact
(906) 482-0984; nps.gov/isro

Buy the PRO MAP for the Traverse East, Traverse West, or a Wall Map.

Leave a Reply

W3 Total Cache is currently running in Pro version Development mode.