Backpack 5 Nights on the East Side of Isle Royale

Rock Harbor

Looking to get acquainted with the least-visited National Park but most re-visited? Hike many of the trails on the eastern side of the island, see moose, maybe even a wolf, and spend four magnificent nights under the stars that you can only see in the middle of Lake Superior.

The trip starts with a ferry trip to Rock Harbor. Depending on where you are coming from there are a few options. The ferries generally run from May through September and they are weather dependent. Other options include chartering a plane or private scow.

Ferries come from Copper Harbor, MI, Houghton, MI, and Grand Portage, MN. Once to Isle Royale (Rock Harbor), you will receive a short orientation from a Ranger. Afterward, you will pay for your permit and then get on your way. Make sure you have a map!

Day 1: Rock Harbor to Lane Cove. Take the Tobin Harbor Trail to the Mount Franklin Trail. Go right at the intersection. Hike up to the intersection with the Greenstone Ridge Trail and continue straight to descend down to Lane Cove on the Lane Cove Trail. Distance: ~ 7 miles. Lane Cove does not have shelters.

Day 2: Lane Cove to Moskey Basin. Take the Lane Cove Trail back up toward the Greenstone Ridge Trail. Turn right on the Greenstone Ridge Trail. Once to Mount Ojibway (where there is a dilapidated lookout tower), turn left onto the Mount Ojibway Trail. This will take you to Daisy Farm. Once to Daisy Farm, you will go right on the Rock Harbor Trail. The Rock Harbor Trail will take you to Moskey Basin. Distance: ~ 10.8 miles. There are shelters at this site along with a campfire ring.

Day 3: Moskey Basin to McCargoe Cove. From Moskey Basin, take the Lake Richie Trail. Once to the intersection with the Indian Portage Trail, go right. The Indian Portage Trail will take you all the way to the other side of the island to McCargoe Cove. *Optional: Instead of going straight on the Indian Portage Trail, once you reach the Greenstone Ridge Trail you can go right on the Greenstone Ridge Trail. Then take a left at the first trail intersection to take you down to McCargoe Cove. Distance: ~ 10.1 miles. There are shelters at this site. The Minong Mine is a fun place to explore after camp is set up. It is 0.8 miles from McCargoe Cove on the Minong Trail.

Day 4: McCargoe Cove to Chippewa Harbor. Take the Indian Portage Trail (or the optional other trail to the Greenstone Ridge Trail and then to the Indian Portage Trail) back across the island. The Indian Portage Trail will pass a couple other campsites but ends at Chippewa Harbor, arguably one of the most beautiful campsites on the island. Distance: ~ 13 miles. There are shelters at this site.

Day 5: Chippewa Harbor to Daisy Farm. Take the Indian Portage Trail back toward the Lake Richie Trail. Go right on the Lake Richie Trail, pass Moskey Basin, and continue on the Rock Harbor Trail. Take the Rock Harbor Trail to Daisy Farm. Distance: ~ 9.6 miles. There are shelters at this site.

Day 6: Daisy Farm to Rock Harbor. The journey home begins with a scenic trail along the shoreline of Isle Royale. Continue from the day before on the Rock Harbor Trail and keep an eye out for Moose. Pass Threemile campsite and continue to Rock Harbor. Distance: ~ 7.8 miles. If you leave early enough, you may have time to explore Scoville Point or grab breakfast at the lodge before the ferry departs.

Pack List

  • Backpack (50+ L)
  • Tent or hammock
  • Sleeping bag (and pad)
  • Hiking boots or hiking Shoes
  • 2+ pairs of socks (preferably merino wool)
  • Hiking pants and shirts
  • Rain jacket
  • Separate camp clothing
  • Headlamp or flashlight
  • Water Filter (sawyer water filters are fantastically light, simple, cheap, and durable)
  • Water bottles or water bladder (you can buy an adapter to hook the Sawyer water filter directly to the bladder so it never needs to come out of your pack)
  • Food (this will be different for everyone but dehydrated food is often easy to make yourself and it packs very light)
  • Stove and fuel (to rehydrate food, make coffee, etc)
  • Knife
  • Camp towel
  • Toilet Paper or dried baby wipes
  • First Aid
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map
Show More
RT Distance 58 Miles
Activities Camping, Photography, Backpacking, Hiking
Skill Level Intermediate
Season Spring, Summer, Autumn
Trail Type Loop


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Go To Isle Royale

This is a great itinerary. The east side of the island allows you to see many unique and different areas of the island and truly take in its solitude. Lane Cove is my favorite spot to camp on the island.

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