The hike from Malone Bay to Rock Harbor in six days and five nights is an advanced itinerary. This hike can also be done as an intermediate hike, with shorter distances after the first grueling hike up Ishpeming Point to the Greenstone Ridge Trail and down into Hatchet Lake. As an intermediate hike, the itinerary takes nine days and eight nights and allows for many more sites and experiences.
This is a regular itinerary for us at Wise Old Man of Isle Royale Guide Services. If you want to join a hike with us, click on Guide Services in the menu.
On either itinerary, this hike requires a ferry hop to the Malone Bay dock via the Voyageur II. On Day One, arrival is at 11:30 AM Saturday morning in Rock Harbor on the Isle Queen IV, for an overnight stay to catch the Voyageur II at 8:00 AM for a Sunday morning departure on Day Two, arriving at approximately 11:30 AM in Malone Bay, depending on the Voyageur’s scheduled stops.
The group can hike to Siskiwit Falls for exploring and a stop at the Malone Bay Visitors Center and Ranger station, if it is occupied, on the afternoon of Day Two.
On Day Three in the Advanced and Intermediate Hikes the 12.3 mile hike out of Malone Bay to Hatchel Lake, passing the Ishpeming tower, begins. The trail follows alongside Siskiwit Lake for almost four miles. In midsummer, hikers on this stretch will need mosquito repellant and perhaps netting.
Leaving the shore, the trail rises from about 625 feet to 1377 feet, about 750 feet in another four miles. On this section, the route meanders through forests and over rocks, sometimes cool and shaded, and other times exposed on baking rocks in the afternoon sun. At best, it is a mixed trail experience. If it rains, the rocks can be slippery and treacherous.
At Ishpeming point, the hike takes the Greenstone Ridge Trail for approximately five miles to the Hatchet Lake campground. From the Greenstone Ridge Trail, the hike descends 250 feet in a half-mile, a steep grade to drop into the first en route campsite at Hatchet Lake.
Advanced Hike – Days Six and Five Nights
On the Advanced Hike, on Day Four, you will take the Greenstone Ridge Trail from Hatchet Lake to the West Chickenbone Lake Junction and south on the Indian Portage Trail to Lake Ritchie, for a daily total of 11.1 miles. You will scale the ridge and descend again, over humpbacks and escarpments. Lake Richie has four tent sites and two groups sites only. There are no shelters.
On Day Five, the hike progresses on the Lake Richie Trail to the Rock Harbor Trail, through Daisy Farm, and on to Three Mile Campground for the night, for a total of 10.2 miles over rocky escarpments and boulders, boardwalks and swamps. At Three Mile, the Lake Superior beach is readily available to soak sore feet and to wash off trail grime.
On Day Six, hikers take the Rock Harbor Trail, stopping at Susy’s Cave, and continuing along the Tobin Harbor Trail to Rock Harbor. There is time still to visit the Visitors Center, the Rock Harbor Store, and the Rock Harbor Lodge Gift Shop for souvenirs. There is will be a short time available for hikers to have lunch at the Greenstone Grill prior to boarding.
Intermediate Hike – Nine Days and Eight Nights
On Day Four, the intermediate hike traverses 2.5 miles of the Hatchet Lake Trail to the Minong Trail for another 1.6 miles on to Todd Harbor for the night. This hike crosses some marshy areas and a few small ridges, crossing some boardwalks that may be soggy. The trail is generally forested. Todd Harbor has only one shelter, but there are five individual campsites and three groups sites. The water is sheltered from the open expanse of Lake Superior so it may be pleasant to wade or even swim, but be wary of swimmer’s itch and towel off. The sunsets on Todd Harbor can be exquisite. Moose and otter both enjoy the sheltered shore.
On Day Five, the intermediate hike continues along the Minong Ridge Trail for 6.7 miles to McCargoe Cove, passing the Minong Mine site (on the Historical Registry), about three-fourths of a mile from McCargoe Cove. From Todd Harbor, this trail climbs steadily until it crests the ridge, where it stays until descending into MCCargo Cove. While this cove is sheltered from the open lake, the water is rarely warm. The cold water proves inviting for many to jump off the dock and wash off trail dust and grime. McCargoe Cove has six shelters, three individual tent sites, and three group sites. Sunrises here are awesome, and many anglers land northern pike and whitefish at the dock.
On Day Six, the intermediate hikers progress from McCargoe Cove 6.7 miles on the Indian Portage Trail to the Lake Richie Trail and 2.1 miles on to Moskey Basin. The trail from MarCargoe follows the shore of Chickenbone Lake, through the West Chicken Campground, and abruptly climbs up and over the Greenstone Ridge, descending downward past Lake Livermore and Lake LeSage to arrive at Lake Richie.
At Lake Richie, the trail skirts the shoreline, via the Lake Richie Trail, over a few rock escarpments to the Rock Harbor Trail into Moskey Basin. Moskey Basin itself extends westward from Rock Harbor, where at Daisy Farm it extends, a shallow bay, sheltered on three sides by rock formations. Like McCargoe Cove, Moskey Basin witnesses magnificent sunrises. It is one of the must-see stops on the island. Moskey Basin has 6 shelters, 2 individual tent sites and 2 groups sites. The shelters are perched on rock ledges on the shore, providing great views of the rising sun.
On Day Seven, this intermediate hike continues on the Rock Harbor Trail through Daisy Farm and on to Three-mile Campground. This trail hugs the rugged shoreline, meandering over and around boulders, abruptly changing direction and crossing board walks over beaver dams and swamps. Crossing the exposed escarpments that seem to disappear into nowhere can be difficult if the cairns have been knocked over, so hikers need to be mindful of staying on trail to avoid having to backtrack. Only three miles from rock harbor, the Three-Mile Campground has 8 shelters as well as 4 individual sites and 3 group sites. There is a small dock as well as an accessible beach to access Lake Superior for a soothing swim.
On Day Eight, the hike progresses the three miles from Three Mile Campground into Rock Harbor, with a quick stop at Susy’s Cave. At Rock Harbor, hikers can enjoy an evening of visiting at the Greenstone Grill, taking a stroll along the Stoll Trail, out to Scoville point, and spending an evening of relaxing under the stars. They might even choose to purchase a shower token and a towel for the first hot shower in a week, prior to dinner.
On Day Nine, hikers have time to enjoy a leisurely breakfast at the Greenstone Grill, and ensure they have purchased the mementos they desire from the gift shop. They assemble at the dock to prepare to board the Queen IV at 1:00 PM, having the guide snap the final photos of them leaving the island.
Advanced or Intermediate hiking depends on individual needs.
Whichever you choose, be sure that you plan to meet your needs and your abilities as a hiker. There is always the tension between how far you want to hike and how you want to enjoy what you find when you get there. If every day is spent going as fast and as far as you can, there is little time to notice the lady slippers, or moose, or camp fox, or red squirrels.