Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Best trails to see Isle Royale NP's highlights

Moose at Isle Royale National Park.
Photo courtesy Michigan DNR.
Though Isle Royale National Park often is thought of as an overnight destination due to its remoteness, there are a number of day hiking trails available to enjoy its highlights.

Each Grand Portage, Minn., ferry stays four hours at the island, which allows time for most day hikes from the Windigo region, though you may have to hurry (Unless noted, all trails described here are from Windigo.). An International Biosphere Reserve consisting of 209 square miles of islands in Lake Superior, Isle Royale is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and depending on the weather, a few days on either side of the holiday.

Moose and wolves
At any given time, about 25 wolves and a thousand moose inhabit the island, though these numbers swing greatly each year. The first two miles of the Greenstone Ridge Trail, which runs from the Isle Royale’s western harbor at Windigo to the eastern harbor at Rock Harbor, offers the best chance of spotting these shy, reclusive creatures.

Copper mining site
For centuries, Native Americans and later European settlers mined copper on the island. The 19th century Wendigo Mine ruins are about 6-miles round trip along the East Huginnin Cove Trail.

Lake Superior view
Though not the highest point on the main island, the Minong Ridge Overlook offers a better view year-round. The Minong Ridge Trail with connecting paths runs 6 miles round trip. The overlook provides views of the main island’s north shore looking toward Minnesota and Ontario on the mainland.

Suzy’s Cave
How’s this for spunk: More than a century ago when the family of a young girl named Suzy Tooker summered on nearby Tooker Island (Her father was a fisherman.), she’d canoe to the main island to play in a cave. Today, you can hike the Rock Harbor Trail from Rock Harbor (accessible from either Houghton or Copper Harbor, Mich.) to that cave on a 6-mile round trip.

Read more about day hiking Northeast Minnesota in my Headin’ to the Cabin: Day Hiking Trails of Northeast Minnesota guidebook.