Grand Traverses: Greenstone Ridge

Tackle 40 miles of an island ridge above Lake Superior.

Table of Contents | Pfiffner Traverse, CO | Roan Highlands, NC/TN | Sawtooth Ridge, WA | Ruby Crest, NV | Great Northern Traverse, MT | Sierra High Route, CA | Monroe Skyline, VT | Superstition Ridge, AZ | Guadalupe Ridge, NM/TX | Teton Crest Trail, WY | Greenstone Ridge, MI | Franconia Ridge, NH | Great Range, NY

Distance 42.2 miles

Gain 3,300 feet

Difficulty 5

Why it’s grand
Score a long weekend of solitude on the Greenstone Ridge Trail—the jewel of Isle Royale, the Lower 48’s least-visited national park—with a trip tagging six peaks along the length of the island. The trail’s higher elevation promises more sweeping lake views and fewer bugs than the park’s lowland areas.

Do it T
ake the Isle Royale Queen IV ($130/person round-trip; 906-289-4437) from Copper Harbor to the Rock Harbor Visitor Center. Pick up a permit (plentiful) for two or three nights and grab a water taxi ($62; to the Hidden Lake dock. Climb 450 feet to the rocky, tree-framed summit of Mt. Franklin, the first of six peaks you’ll tag along the ridge as it fluctuates between 280 and 800 feet above Lake Superior’s deep blue waters. Pass in and out of thick woods, around swamps, and up and over stony ridges to big, watery views. For your best chance of seeing moose, spend a night at Chickenbone West Campground (mile 14.5) and/or Hatchet Lake (mile 21.4). End at the Windigo Visitor Center, and take the Voyageur II ($62/person; back to Rock Harbor, and then the Isle Royale Queen IV back to Copper Harbor. 

Isle Royale is the only known place in the world where moose and wolves coexist without bears.

Contact (906) 482-0984;

Trails Illustrated Isle Royale ($12;

Season August and September (fewer bugs)

Required; free