Quick Fix: Apostle Islands

You don't need a boat to see this spectacular national lakeshore. Here's how to explore the best of its bluffs and beaches by foot (and paddle).

2 Hours | 6 Hours | 10 Hours

2 Hours

Hike to Instant Solitude

Wisconsin’s Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is a world-renowned kayaking destination, but you can savor the islands’ sea caves, bluffs, and beaches from the mainland, too. Tour the park’s highlights on a five-mile hike on the Lakeshore Trail: From the Meyers Beach kayak launch, west of Bayfield, follow the sandstone path along a cliff and across a 60-foot ravine to the first of several viewpoints, two miles in. Over the next half-mile, gaze back to the mainland from headlands jutting into the lake. The honeycombed network of striated sea caves looks like the canyons of Zion National Park. Go in the early evening when the sunset paints the west-facing rocks red and orange.

2 Hours | 6 Hours | 10 Hours

6 Hours

Trek High Above Lake Superior

Five-thousand-acre Oak Island has a dappled hardwood canopy, white-sand beaches, and the highest bluff on Lake Superior’s Wisconsin shore. Experience them all on this 10.3-mile loop. Take a ferry from Bayfield, then hike northeast, scanning for signs of black bears (look for berry-filled scat). Veer left at mile 1.7 onto the Overlook Trail. Walk 1.8 miles to a 200-foot cliff with center balcony views of 11 other islands and the blocky red sandstone that forms the Hole-in-the-Wall sea arch. Retrace your steps and hang a left on the Loop Trail, passing a sand spit that once hosted a 19th-century logging camp. Ferry info: Apostle Islands Cruise Service (800-323-7619, apostleisland.com)

2 Hours | 6 Hours | 10 Hours

10 Hours

Paddle to Island Sea Caves

Experience an Apostles classic by launching at Little Sand Bay for a two-mile open-water crossing to 2,950-acre Sand Island. From the island’s southeastern tip, it’s a two-mile paddle north to the Swallow Point sea caves that dot the eastern shore’s peninsula. Calm waters? Explore tight squeezes, barely big enough for a boat, to caves the size of ballrooms. From Justice Bay beach, just past the caves, paddle two miles to the five-story Sand Island Lighthouse; volunteers lead tours to the top for sweeping views of Devils Island and Minnesota’s piney north shore. Turn back here to finish the 12-mile roundtrip before dark. Contact Living Adventure for rentals (866-779-9503; livingadventure.com).

Contact NPS.GOV/APIS; (715) 779-3397

When you buy something using the retail links in our stories, we may earn a small commission. We do not accept money for editorial gear reviews. Read more about our policy.