Backpack Windigo to South Lake Desor, Isle Royale NP

Eagle Harbor Township, Michigan



11.3 miles

Elevation Gain

1400 ft

Route Type



Added by Mike Quine

Getting to the island is half the fun but once your there the options are endless. Backpacking across the entire island can be accomplished dozens of different ways if not more. This adventure focuses on one segment of those numerous possibilities. A 11.3 mile stretch of backpacking paradise that stretches from the shores of Windigo Port Visitor Center to the South end of Lake Desor on Isle Royale National Park.

This guide assumes that hikers have already made their journey by either float plane or charter ship to the Windigo Port on the West end of the island of Isle Royale National Park.

As mentioned above, this section hike of the Greenstone Ridge Trail partitions off one of the NUMEROUS options one can take when planning a backpacking route across the island. If you don't have multiple days to hike across all 50 miles of the island, this also serves as a great there and back trip for shorter backpacking weekends.

Starting at the Visitor Center of Windigo Port, the trailhead for the Greenstone Ridge Trail can be located just outside and a bit to the north of the visitor center itself. Within the first mile you will already begin to ascend up towards the ridgeline. Depending on the season, you have the opportunity to immediately witness the entrancing green colors of this island forest.

For the first hour or so, elements of National Park Service infrastructure (such as planks and signs) will be available for your convenience in navigating through the thick forest. However, before long, the wilderness becomes just that.

While making your way along the Greenstone Ridge, avoid the side trails for Huginnin Cove/ Wendigo Mines. While these are great options for alternative routes across the island, this adventure focuses on the leg towards South Lake Desor. The trail will continue to climb until you reach Sugar Mountain. As the trail continues to ascend, the view begins to open up as you are able to get a better elevated view of the mighty Lake Superior.

Pressing on, avoid the side trail of Island Mine (another option! See I told you there were numerous), and continue on passed Mount Desor - the tallest point along the entire stretch of the island. You will probably have noticed that the trail has been fairly straight forward up to this point and you probably should not expect it to change. The trail is directionally very simple, with the only minor changes being in the occasional dips and climbs in elevation (once reaching the ridge that is). The stretch from South Lake Desor may become rather tiresome - depending on experience and stamina. However, remember you've come this far and the prize is well worth the pain. As glimpses of the lake provide you with much needed boosts of hope, the next intersection you come across will be the break from the Greenstone Ridge Trail to South Lake Desor. In less than 0.5 miles you will be marching passed a series of designated  backcountry sites.

All the sites are fantastic. The sites that you first pass by will be the closest to a nearby beachhead. The sites further down will be closer to a small lake access point where you can fetch some much needed water for filtering.

You've made it! Kick off the bag and enjoy the view. Trust me...the confusing march to the beach is SO worth it!

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Leave No Trace

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