The Greenstone Ridge Trail is sometimes called the Green tunnel because it crosses so many forested areas across the spine of the main island. The island is some 45 miles long, so the trail is of similar distance, traversing the Greenstone Ridge from Windigo to the Hidden Lake Dock. Many people choose to hike the Greenstone Ridge Trail from Windigo to Rock Harbor, get dinner at the hotel and then take the Voyageur II back to Windigo. Those starting in Rock Harbor hop to Windigo and hike back. The diligent hike to Windigo on the Greenstone Ridge Trail and hike back along the Minong Ridge Trail. To join a hike with us, click Guide Services in the Menu.
From Windigo, the Greenstone Ridge Trail is a six-mile plus uphill hike to the first campground along the route at Island Mine. Island Mine is perched onside a spring-fed creek a half mile off the main trail. This creek slows to a trickle during the summer and serves as the water source for the campground. Island Mine has a fire ring at each campsite, and it is a jump-off point to explore the ruins at the mine site which is about a mile from the the campground.
South Lake Desor campground is the next stop along the trail heading east from Windigo toward Rock Harbor. From Island Mine, you ascend about four miles to crest Mount Desor, the highest point on the island at 1394 feet. The trail descends another couple of miles into campground, to the sandy shores where swimming is the preferred activity. This lake has ribbon leaches which do not affix to the skin. They merely cling and catch ride and can be pulled off without issue.
The tent sites at South Lake Desor Campground are sandy, with thimbleberry and raspberry bushes for delicious snacking in mid to late summer.
Wise Old Man of Isle Royale Guide Services recommends this campground highly.
Each of the tent sites have logs arranged for seating, and the group sites border the lake most closely for the best swimming opportunities.
On the inland lakes, fox, hare, and other wildlife are plentiful. It is not uncommon to see the work of beavers alongside the trail, both as they fell trees for their dams. There are active dams between Windigo and Island Mine and, as of 2020, an inactive dam between Island Mine and South Lake Desor. Active dams are also seen at other points along the way.
The trail from South Desor to Hatchet Lake ascends the spine of the island, providing views both of Lake Superior and offshore islands to the north and Siskiwit Lake and Lake Superior’s Malone Bay to the South.
The ridge has been likened to a grey whale’s back as the bedrock is exposed at higher elevations, and the path weaves in and out of the trees and across the open spaces atop the ridge.
Hatchet Lake requires a descent of a half mile off the Greenstone Ridge to the beautiful clear water where many hikers enjoy fishing. The campground extends along the shores of the lake with secluded tent sites among the tall trees. The shores are rocky and steep, not well-suited for swimming.
Pike and whitefish are plentiful, but fishing is done with barbless hooks and artificial bait. Brook trout must be released to support the rebound of the native population.
From Hatchet Lake, the Greenstone Ridge Trail ascends upward again, providing views of Lake Superior and the next stop at Chickenbone Lake, a bit more than 7 miles from Hatchet Lake.
The rock ledges and ridges are moss-covered with trees clinging to their rugged surfaces. Very often, the trail winds among the boulders and cliffs, meandering along the ridge as it heads to the north and east.
At the Ishpeming Tower, between South Lake Desor and Hatchet Lake, is the trail junction to Malone Bay. Each time we have come through this junction point, we have done so in the rain.
The Tower itself has become overgrown with trees so that it no longer provides a view of the surrounding landscape. In fact, one is startled to come across the tower as it emerges in the green tunnel before you.
From Mount Ojibway, the Rock Harbor Lighthouse is visible in the harbor entrance at Middle Islands Passage. On a clear day, Park Headquarters on Mott Island is discernable to the naked eye.
The trail into Daisy Farm is well worn, more so than the inner island trails, because of day hikers coming out from Rock Harbor and on the boats that come into the Rock Harbor waterway.
The Daisy Farm Dock juts out into Rock Harbor at the head of Moskey Basin, another must-see for many people. The water is remarkably cold and clear. Daisy Farm is a crossroads for private boaters, day hikers taking Sandy tours, dingy rentals, kayak rentals, and backpackers, each with their different needs and interests, but almost all climbing up to Mount Ojibway for that dramatic view from the top of the Greenstone Ridge Trail toward Lane cove, Rock Harbor, and Mott Island.
Like Daisy Farm, some Lake Superior campgrounds have a number of shelters that are available on a first-come first-served basis. Daisy Farm has 16 shelters, 3-Mile has 8 and Rock Harbor has 9. Washington Creek has 10. In addition to shelters, there are individual tent sites at each campground and some have group sites.
Potable water is available at Windigo and Washington Creek as well as Rock Harbor. All other campgrounds require filtering and treatment of water.
The Rock Harbor Trail is one of the most rugged on the island as it crosses bedrock escarpments, roots and rocks, swampy areas with boardwalks and sometimes none. This trail follows the rugged shoreline from Moskey Basin through Daisy Farm, past Three-Mile Campground and into Rock Harbor. Some hikers choose to cut up at Suzy’s Cave to the Tobin Harbor Trail, to avoid part of the ruggedness of at least three of the seven-plus miles the trail traverses.
Arriving at Rock Harbor from Windigo is no small feat. To do so, one has traversed the rugged terrain from one end of the island to the other, about forty-five miles, climbing over rugged ridges and slick whalebacks, traversing deciduous forests and through evergreen woods, past two towers, many inland lakes, several trail junctions to other loops for other visits, and finally along that last grueling waterfront trail into Rock Harbor. The Lighthouse Restaurant and Greenstone Grill beckon with their delicious food and gifts, but perhaps the most appreciated will be the hot shower and clean towel available from the Rock Harbor store.