Pets allowed
Not Allowed
Trail type
Shuttle
Distance
42.70 mi (68.72 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

The Greenstone Ridge Trail is 42.7 miles that traverses Isle Royale from Rock Harbor to Windigo. The trail can be hiked in either direction. If you will be hiking east to west, the majority of the views will be on the first half of the trail with a long decent into Windigo; however, the ferry arrangements are the primary factor in determining direction, and either option will provide an excellent experience. 

Most backpackers hiking east to west pick up the trail 0.3 miles east of Mount Franklin at mile 4.8. To get to mile 0.0 requires either backtracking from the intersection of the Mount Franklin Trail to Lookout Louise or arranging boat transportation to the Hidden Lake Dock. Hikers who don’t wish to backtrack can head east out of Rock Harbor on the Rock Harbor Trail; 0.2 miles east of Three Mile Campground they can head north on the Mount Franklin Trail for 2.0 miles to the intersections with the Greenstone Ridge Trail.  

At mile 5.1, Mount Franklin provides excellent views to the north on Lake Superior and is the first major overlook for hikers coming up from Three Mile Campground. For the next the next 2.5 miles the trail to Mount Ojibway provides amazing views over the inland lakes of the island as well as Lake Superior. Once the hikers make it to Mount Ojiway they can walk up the observation towers for an even better view. The trail interchanges between exposed ridgeline and forest for majority of the way to Chickenbone Lake.  

The East Chickenbone Lake (0.2 miles north of the Greenstone Ridge Trail) provides an excellent place to camp for an evening as it is right on the shores of Chickenbone Lake. For the 7.2 miles between Chickenbone Lake and Hatchet Lake one will experience the most significant elevation gains (though there are only three sets of switchbacks on the entire trail). 

The final sweeping views of Lake Superior and the inland lakes come between Hatchet Lake and Lake Desor. Lake Desor also provides an excellent place to camp, and a short walk from the tent sites leads to the shores of the lake. After Lake Desor the trail falls below the treeline and gradually descends to Washington Creek Campground and Windigo. 

This is a wonderful park to explore as there are limited amounts of people due to the complicated access.  There are no advanced reservations for groups of six or less people for backcountry camping, and even after getting backcountry permits it is permissible to change campgrounds as needed throughout the hike.  All but one of the campgrounds in the park is on a either an inland lake or Lake Superior, so there are plenty of reliable water sources. Note that the park is closed from November 1 through April 15, and there is no access to the island. Also, the island runs on Eastern Standard Time, but be mindful that the ferry from Grand Portage, Minnesota, operates on Central Standard Time.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Spring
Summer

Congestion

Low

Parking Pass

General Day Use Fee

Pros

Solitude. Great views of Lake Superior. Wildflowers. Inland Lake Camping.

Cons

Overgrowth on the trail.

Features

Backcountry camping
Big Game Watching
Wildlife
Big vistas
Old-growth forest
Wildflowers
Shelters
Fishing
Big Game Watching

Location

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