• Activities:

    Swimming, Backpacking, Hiking

  • Skill Level:


  • Season:

    Spring, Summer, Autumn

  • Trail Type:


  • RT Distance:

    5.2 Miles

Picnic Area

Wisconsin's northern secret, a remote island park with miles of hiking trails surrounded by Lake Michigan. A great adventure for beginners. 

Getting to Rock Island is the first part of the journey. Driving to the tip of Door County, drive to the Northport Pier and grab your first ferry to Washington Island. Once there, drive across the island to Kafri Ferry dock. This ferry does not allow vehicles, so you'll be carrying anything you'll want to bring to the island. There are carts available for rent, and are easy to use for the closer camping sites. (See www.wisferry.com for pricing and ferry schedule)

There are two camping options once arriving to the island. First, there are 35 standard and two group sites just south of the dock area. These are walk-up sites, however, there are carts available for rental to haul gear. Second, there are five remote sites, anywhere from one to two miles from the boathouse docks down the eastern portion of the Thordarson Loop Trail from the docks. The trails are wide and easy to navigate to the sites. Once there, all sites include a fire-pit and a picnic table. There is some select spots for lakeshore hiking near the remote sites, with safe walkways down available at #C and north of #E, and access to the southern peninsula from campsite #21 and #23. 

Continuing on the loop, roughly 2-3 miles hiking north, there is a northern lighthouse with limited hours for tours. The tours are free and offered by docent volunteers staying at the lighthouse during summer months. Also, there are three small graveyards throughout the island. The eastern-most one is the home to Chester Thordarson, a wealthy inventor from Chicago who owned the island from 1910 to 1965. You can see some of his electrical transformer inventions in the boathouse towards the southern end of the island right next to the pier, roughly 1.5 miles from the lighthouse heading south. 

There are water sources near the lighthouse and the boathouse, so water filtration is not needed for the trip (quickest route is Havamal Trail 1.0 mile from the remote sites). Firewood is available for sale on the island, see the ranger for details. Along the eastern side of the island near the normal campsites, there are beaches for swimming and relaxing.

Pack List

If Camping Overnight:

  • Normal Overnight Backpacking Supplies
  • Daypack for Hiking

If Dayhiking the Island:

  • Daypack
  • Sunscreen
  • Water Bottle(s)
  • Hiking Shoes

Extras Recommended:

  • Swimsuit & Towel

Washington Island and Rock Island Ferry Info

Read More

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

Community Photos

+ Add Photos


Overall rating:  Rate this Adventure

Leave a Review

Have you done this adventure? Leave a review!

Matt Johnson

Executive Director, Solutions Recovery Inc. - Program Director, Recovery In The Wilderness

Are we missing something? Suggest an edit

Nearby Adventures

Backpack the Europe Bay Trail at Newport State Park

Ellison Bay, Wisconsin

Hidden on the northeastern side of Door County, Newport State Park offers 16 secluded, hike-in only campsites throughout its 20-plus miles of hikable terrain.

30 Saves

Explore Cana Island Lighthouse

Baileys Harbor, Wisconsin

You will arrive at a parking lot that is on the mainland. Once parked, you will need to walk across the land bridge to Cana Island where you will come to a small building to pay an admission fee.

166 Saves

Climb Eagle Tower in Peninsula State Park

Fish Creek, Wisconsin

From Highway 42 in Door County, WI, there are two entrances into Peninsula State Park, on the south and north ends of the park.

72 Saves