Trip Idea

Backpack the Greenstone Ridge Trail

Multiple Parks

A forest at the beginning of autumn, Lake Superior, and the Canadian shoreline.
Duration Multiple Days
Topic(s) Trails, Scenic Views, Wilderness
Activities Backcountry Camping
Type Active, Solitary/Remote, Outdoors, Group Friendly
Parks Isle Royale National Park

A person with a backpack stands on an exposed rocky ridgetop overlooking shrubs, forest, and a lake.
Lake Superior causes changing weather conditions. Make sure to pack layers for your backpacking trip.

NPS / KATIE KELLER

About the Greenstone Ridge Trail

  • Mileage: Over 40 miles (including spur trails to campgrounds)
  • Rating: Intermediate backpackers
  • Duration: Five to eight days
  • Essential Reading: Isle Royale's newspaper, The Greenstone

Start at Rock Harbor

  • Night 1: Rock Harbor Campground

    • Take a zero day and soak in the island atmosphere.

  • Night 2: Daisy Farm Campground
    • Via Tobin Harbor/Rock Harbor Trails, Mount Franklin Trail, Greenstone Ridge Trail, and Mount Ojibway/Daisy Farm Trail (more than 9 miles)
  • Night 3: East or West Chickenbone Campgrounds

    • These campgrounds are 1.6 miles apart.
    • Via Ojibway Trail or Daisy Farm Trail and Greenstone Ridge Trail (about 8 miles)
  • Night 4: Hatchet Lake Campground
    • Via Greenstone Ridge Trail (about 8 miles)
  • Night 5: South Lake Desor Campground
    • Via Greenstone Ridge Trail (about 8 miles)
  • Night 6: Island Mine Campground
    • Via Greenstone Ridge Trail (about 5.5 miles)
  • Night 7: Washington Creek Campground near Windigo
    • Via Greenstone Ridge Trail (about 6.6 miles)

Start at Windigo

  • Night 1: Island Mine Campground

    • Consider taking a zero day and staying at Washington Creek Campground near Windigo instead.
    • Via Greenstone Ridge Trail (about 6.6 miles)

  • Night 2: South Lake Desor Campground
    • Via Greenstone Ridge Trail (about 5.5 miles)
  • Night 3: Hatchet Lake Campground
    • Via Greenstone Ridge Trail (about 8 miles)
  • Night 4: West or East Chickenbone Campground
    • Via Greenstone Ridge Trail (about 8 miles)
  • Night 5: Daisy Farm Campground
    • Via Greenstone Ridge Trail, Daisy Farm Trail, or Ojibway Trail (about 8 miles)
  • Night 6: Rock Harbor Campground
    • Via Greenstone Ridge Trail, Mount Franklin Trail, Tobin Harbor Trail, or Rock Harbor Trail (about 9 miles)

Start at Hidden Lake

Hidden Lake is only accessible by private boat or water taxi.

  • Night 1: Rock Harbor Campground

    • Take a zero day and secure arrangements to get to Hidden Lake Dock via water taxi from the Rock Harbor Lodge
  • Night 2: Three Mile Campground
    • Get dropped off at Hidden Lake Dock in the morning by a water taxi
    • Via Tobin Harbor Trail or Rock Harbor Trail (about 8 miles)
  • Night 3: East or West Chickenbone Campground

    • These campgrounds are 1.6 miles apart
    • Via Mount Franklin Trail and Greenstone Ridge Trail (about 10.5 miles)
  • Night 4: Hatchet Lake Campground
    • Via Greenstone Ridge Trail (about 8 miles)
  • Night 5: South Lake Desor Campground
    • Via Greenstone Ridge Trail (about 8 miles)
  • Night 6: Island Mine Campground
    • Via Greenstone Ridge Trail (about 5.5 miles)
  • Night 7: Washington Creek Campground near Windigo
    • Via Greenstone Ridge Trail (about 6.6 miles)

Transportation

  • Planning a trip to Isle Royale can feel complicated. Figuring out your transportation is the first step. 
  • Isle Royale is only accessible by seaplane, passenger ferry, or private boat. There are no roads or cars on Isle Royale.

Permits

  • Permits are required, regardless of group size or method of travel, for all overnight stays at campgrounds, cross country sites, docks, or at anchor. 

  • Traveling with a group of 7 or more? You will need advanced reservations to camp. Learn more about group camping at Isle Royale. 

Entrance fees

  • There is no camping fee. There is a daily entrance fee of $7 per day. Plan ahead and pay your fees before your trip. 

Help Isle Royale Stay Wild

  • Isle Royale is isolated. Services are limited in the park. Be conservative and self-sufficient during your trip.
  • Cell phone service is unreliable. Do not depend on it.
  • A State of Michigan fishing license is required to fish Lake Superior; you do not need a license for interior lakes and streams.
  • Check current conditions in the park before your trip.
  • Stay hydrated.

  • Watch the weather. Conditions deteriorate quickly and unexpectedly.

  • Basic emergency services are available on the island, but response and evacuation take time. Self-reliance is the only immediate option in an emergency.

  • Leave what you find. Removing, possessing, or disturbing park resources is prohibited. 

  • Pack it in, pack it out. All trash and leftover food must be packed out of the backcountry.

  • Store food properly by securing in a hard sided, scent proof container, or doubled zip-lock bags.

  • Campfires are permitted only at a handful of campgrounds. A backpacking stove is recommended.

  • Respect wildlife. Observe from a safe distance. It is illegal to feed, touch, tease, or intentionally disturb wildlife, their homes, nests, or activities. 

  • Dogs, cats, and other mammals are not allowed, including pets on boats within park boundaries.

  • Mosquitos and black flies peak in June or July and can continue into August. Wasps are common. Bring an epinephrine kit if allergic to stings.

Trail Sections
    • Activity Fee: No (Entrance fees may apply)
    • Reservations: No
    • Activity: Backcountry Camping
    • Pets: No
    • Location: Lookout Louise on Isle Royale National Park
    • Duration: 1 Day
    • Season: Spring, Summer, Fall
    • Time of Day: Day
    The forested islands of Isle Royale National Park surrounded by Lake Superior.

    This secluded section of the Greenstone Ridge Trail reaches to the northeastern tip of Isle Royale. Mileage: About 5 miles

    View Details
    • Activity Fee: No (Entrance fees may apply)
    • Reservations: No
    • Activity: Backcountry Camping
    • Pets: No
    • Location: Mount Franklin at Isle Royale National Park
    • Duration: 1 Day
    • Season: Spring, Summer, Fall
    View from Mt. Franklin looking north to the Canadian shoreline.

    Travel from one scenic viewpoint to another starting at Mount Franklin, a picturesque overlook along the Greenstone Ridge. Mileage: About 2.8 miles

    View Details
    • Activity Fee: No (Entrance fees may apply)
    • Reservations: No
    • Activity: Backcountry Camping
    • Pets: No
    • Location: Mount Ojibway at Isle Royale National Park
    • Duration: 1 Day
    • Season: Spring, Summer, Fall
    View from a ridge top. Lake Superior and the Canadian Shoreline can be seen in the distance.

    Take in the stunning vistas from the eastern Greenstone Ridge, including views from Ojibway Tower. Mileage: About 5.7 miles

    View Details
    • Activity Fee: No (Entrance fees may apply)
    • Reservations: No
    • Activity: Backcountry Camping
    • Pets: No
    • Location: Chickenbone Lake at Isle Royale National Park
    • Duration: 1 Day
    • Season: Spring, Summer, Fall
    Ridgetop view with cloudy sky at Isle Royale National Park.

    Begin this trek with scenic views near Chickenbone Lake then travel through a variety of forest types to Hatchet Lake. Mileage: About 7.2 miles

    View Details
    • Activity Fee: No (Entrance fees may apply)
    • Reservations: No
    • Activity: Backcountry Camping
    • Pets: No
    • Location: Hatchet Lake at Isle Royale National Park
    • Duration: 1 Day
    • Season: Spring, Summer, Fall
    View of Lake, island, and lighthouse in the distance.

    Discover scenic views, an old fire tower, and the hardwood forest on Isle Royale's west end. Mileage: About 3.8 miles

    View Details
    • Activity Fee: No (Entrance fees may apply)
    • Reservations: No
    • Activity: Backcountry Camping
    • Pets: No
    • Location: Isle Royale National Park
    • Duration: 1 Day
    • Season: Spring, Summer, Fall
    View of interior lake surrounded by forest on an island in a lake.

    This rolling trail through hardwood forest offers an opportunity for self reflection. Mileage: About 3.5 miles

    View Details
    • Activity Fee: No (Entrance fees may apply)
    • Reservations: No
    • Activity: Backcountry Camping
    • Pets: No
    • Location: South Desor at Isle Royale National Park
    • Duration: 1 Day
    • Season: Spring, Summer, Fall
    View of Lake Desor in the autumn on Isle Royale National Park

    Unknowingly trek over the highest peak on the island—Mount Desor—on this section through hardwood forest. Mileage: About 5.2 miles

    View Details
    • Activity Fee: No (Entrance fees may apply)
    • Reservations: No
    • Activity: Backcountry Camping
    • Pets: No
    • Location: Greenstone Ridge Trail at Isle Royale National Park
    • Duration: 1 Day
    • Season: Spring, Summer, Fall
    A trail weaves through a forest during the fall as the sun peaks through the trees.

    Walk along an old mining road on the western end of the Greenstone Ridge then descend to Windigo. Mileage: About 6.5 miles

    View Details

Last updated: April 7, 2022