Ready for some solitude in one of America's most beautiful, but least visited National Parks? 3 day, 2 night backpacking trip along the untamed trails of Isle Royale. Listen for wolves howling, see moose and foxes, see pristine lakes, untouched forests, and diverse wildlife abound. The total elevation gain is over the course of 3 days...not bad.

While it is only accessible by boat or plane, Isle Royale National Park is well worth the added travel arrangements. We took the Ranger III Ferry out of Houghton, MI, but there are a few other options depending on where you depart from (www.nps.gov).

Upon arrival at Rock Harbor, the first day is a fairly flat 7 miles following the Rock Harbor Trail, which heads West along the southern coast of the island. Beautiful views of Lake Superior accompany you for this day of hiking. The Daisy Farm campsite has about 12 wood shelters, so grab one of these if you can.

Day 2 is an easy 3.7 miles along the same trail, with a slight incline, following signs to the Moskey Basin campsite (about 10 shelters). From here, you can unload your heavy packs and take one of numerous day hikes to Lake Richie, Lake Lesage, Lake Mason, or a few others. The views from your campsite at Moskey Basin are about as good as it gets, so I recommend staying here as opposed to one of the other nearby campsites.

Day 3 is the most ambitious, hiking a total of 13 miles back to Rock Harbor. Follow the same trail back to the Daisy Farm campsite, then turn north to follow the Mount Ojibway trail 1.7 miles to see the lookout from one of the highest points on the island. From there, follow the Greenstone Ridge trail East about 3 miles to Mt. Franklin. Once you pass Mt. Franklin, you'll turn South and work your way back down the last 4.5 miles or so following signs to Rock Harbor.

Once back at Rock Harbor, you'll have to set up camp one last night and wait for the ferry to depart back to the mainland in the morning.

Pack List

  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
  • Stove
  • Water filtration
  • Backcountry permit from the National Park Service to camp overnight
  • Headlamp
  • Camera
  • Food
  • Hiking shoes
  • Hiking socks (and extra socks)
  • Down jacket or fleece
  • Waterproof / rain jacket
  • Knife
  • First Aid Kit
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RT Distance 24 Miles
Elevation Gain 1200 Feet
Activities Camping, Photography, Backpacking, Hiking
Skill Level Intermediate
Season Summer
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Features
Forest
Lake
Scenic
Wildflowers
Wildlife

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

Beautiful Hike!

Moskey Basin is one of the most beautiful spots I've visited. Shelter #1 has a private trail to a rocky outcrop and overlook of the dock and islands. There is a friendly otter that makes the rounds as well. Be careful if it's raining. The Rock Harbor Trail is very rocky and extremely slippery when wet.

Great Route

This is a great route to take if you are looking to explore the scenic rocky shorelines of Isle Royale. Be careful if it is raining because the rocky terrain gets very slippery!


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