MI – Isle Royale Lodge and Hiking

Rock Harbor Lodge:  Advance reservations at the lodge and especially for one of the cottages are recommended. But you can often get last-minute accommodations because of cancellations. You cannot make advance reservations for the MV Sandy tours or drop-off service, rather they are booked once you are at the Island. The water bus service is standby only.

For more information, pricing or reservations contact Isle Royale Resorts (866-644-2003; 906-337-4993 in the summer; www.rockharborlodge.com). For more on transportation to the island, other trails or park fees click here.

Here’s are seven great hikes from Rock Harbor Lodge:

Albert Stoll Memorial Trail: There are three loops that begin and end at Rock Harbor without having to arrange special transportation. The 4.2-mile Albert Stoll Memorial Trail is ideal as a warm-up for the rest of your adventure on the island. This easy loop begins practically at the doorstep of Rock Harbor Lodge and heads 2 miles east to rugged Scoville Point. The scenery is classic Isle Royale as the trail winds back and forth between the forest and the shoreline. Craggy bluffs and sharp cliffs testify to Lake Superior’s power and persistent erosion. Lunch at the end of Scoville Point is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon.

Suzy’s Cave: This cave, an inland sea arch created when Lake Superior was at a higher level, is the destination for a 3.8-mile loop that combines a portion of Rock Harbor and Tobin Harbor Trails. The hiking is easy, the views of both harbors are constant, and it’s not uncommon to see moose hanging around the cave.

Mount Franklin: You can combine the same trails – Rock Harbor and Tobin Harbor – along with the Mount Franklin Trail for a 10-mile loop from the lodge to the impressive views from the top of Isle Royale’s beloved “mountain.” Mount Franklin Trail is a bit of a climb to the crest of the Greenstone Ridge, so it’s best to plan lunch or an extended break before heading back.

Greenstone Ridge Trail: The other way to sneak into the backcountry for a day is to utilize the water taxi service that is offered in connection with the cruises on the MV Sandy, the concessionaire-operated tour boat. For a reduced fare day, hikers can join the tours and skip the return ride by hiking back to Rock Harbor.

Twice a week, the boat makes a run to Hidden Lake and Lookout Louise, another stunning vista. From there, it’s a 10.3-mile trek back to Rock Harbor that begins with a scenic portion of the Greenstone Ridge Trail that most backpackers skip due to the need for boat transportation to reach the trailhead. Include the Mountain Franklin vista, and it’s a 10.9-mile day but well worth it.

Rock Harbor Trail: The MV Sandy also provides drop-offs at Daisy Farm Campground allowing day hikers to return along the Rock Harbor Trail. This 7.2-mile portion of the shoreline trail back to the lodge is one of the most scenic hikes in the park. There is very little climbing, and you are reward with views of the inlet and the many islands that protect it from the rolling surf of Lake Superior almost every step of the way.

Mott Island:  You can rent canoes and kayaks at Rock Harbor for a day or half-day and then enjoy a paddle-and-hike adventure paddle. The most common trails are Lookout Louise and Raspberry Island, short hikes reached by less than a mile of paddling in very protected water.

For more adventurous paddlers, a full day can be spent kayaking from Rock Harbor Lodge to Mott Island and hiking the beautiful Mott Island Circuit Trail, a 2.6-mile loop that hugs the coast and winds through a handful of small coves. Mott Island is the site of the park headquarters, and during the summer a bustling place as rangers, maintenance people, and trail crews pass through. But you’ll often have the Circuit Trail to yourself to enjoy the views of Rock Harbor and nearby islands before heading back. In good weather conditions, plan 2 to 3 hours for the 4-mile paddle from Rock Harbor.

The Ultimate Day Hike Adventure: In the past, the MV Sandy has run day trips to the copper mine ruins at McCargoe Cove, and if it is, you can undertake the ultimate day hike; a 14.4-mile trek back to Rock Harbor Lodge. That’s a lot of miles on Isle Royale, and the outing is definitely for experienced hikers who are in good shape and properly equipped with water, rain gear, food, flashlight, etc. But the route would include 8.4 miles of the Greenstone Ridge Trail and the beautiful vistas at Mount Ojibway and Mount Franklin before finishing on the Rock Harbor Trail.

Map: Greenstone Ridge Trail