An itinerary to hike from Chippewa Harbor to Rock Harbor can be a moderate hike within the capability of beginners. It is a six-day and five night excursion. The longest span between campgrounds is 6 miles, but the days in the north country are long in the summer, creating more than 16 hours of daylight to hike those 6 miles, which is very doable. You can do the hike independently or join us as you wish.
We offer this hike in a tailorable itinerary in June and also at a leisurely pace for photographers in July at Guide Services here: https://wiseoldmanofisleroyale.com/guide-services/.
The Chippewa Harbor to Rock Harbor hike is one of our favorites because of its leisurely pace, which allows for time to explore attractions on the way. We get to tour along the coast of the island by ferry for spectacular views of the rugged shore from the boat and then hike back along the bays and shorelines, through the forests and over the rocky escarpments for stunning views of the water. To join our hike, reach out to us via Guide Services from the menu.
For this excursion, we stay overnight in Copper Harbor to depart on the Queen IV in the morning, landing in Rock Harbor at approximately 11:30 ET. At Rock Harbor, we take in the Park Service safety briefing and set up tents in the campground, leaving the rest of the afternoon for exploring independently or as a group.
The group can hike to Scoville Point via the Stoll Trail (views below).
Weather permitting, individuals may choose to rent watercraft at their own expense (not included in the package) from the marina:
- a kayak or canoe for a half-day paddle in Tobin Harbor
- a small motorboat to visit the Edison Fishery and the Rock Harbor Lighthouse
The next morning, we board the Voyageur II and depart at 9:00 AM ET, traveling past the Park Headquarters on Mott Island, with a possible stop at Daisy Farm, then across the harbor and through the Middle Islands Passage, past the Rock Harbor Lighthouse, around the peninsula where Mount Saginaw stands, along the southern shore of Isle Royale past Mine and Saginaw Points, and into Chippewa Harbor.
Chippewa Harbor is the base camp for day hiking to the Johnson Schoolhouse, the ridge that overlooks Chippewa Harbor, Lake Superior, Lake Mason, and Lake Theresa. Chippewa Harbor has four shelters, two individuals tents sites and one group site. It is one of the few campgrounds with standing grills at the shelters and campfire rings at the tent sites. The tent sites are a short hike from the dock area along the trail that leads to the schoolhouse and the ridge.
The hike from Chippewa Harbor to Moskey Basin is 6.2 miles. It meanders through the forest and over smoothly worn exposed rocks on the Indian Portage Trail alongside the river that connects Lake Richie with Chippewa Harbor. We have opportunity to stop at Lake Richie for lunch. The campground is perched on the shore of the lake. Oddly, this lake has had some of the earliest algae blooms of the season in 2021, and it is wise to scrutinize the water prior to using it for drinking or wading. Filtering does not remove toxins caused by algae blooms, so their presence renders the water unusable.
From Lake Richie, it is 2.3 miles on the Lake Richie Trail to Moskey Basin. The campground at Moskey sits at the base of the basin that extends westward from Daisy Farm, sheltering loons, Mergansers, Mallards, and other waterfowl. Within the basin, beaver sometimes paddle about from their new dam at Daisy Farm to the sheltered environs within the basin.
It’s a short 3.9 miles from Moskey Basin to Daisy Farm on a small ridge away from the water on the Rock Harbor Trail, which intersects with the Daisy Farm Trail and the Mount Ojibway Trail. With the short hike from Moskey Basin, there is plenty of time to set up camp at Daisy Farm and day hike the 1.7 miles to Mount Ojibway Tower, 3.4 miles round trip, for views from and of the tower.
At Daisy Farm, you will see how the beaver activity has impacted the campground with their beaver dam flooding the area and splitting the campground in two. While this act of nature caused the park service to reroute trails, it has also provided grazing opportunities for moose within the campground itself. Daisy Farm does have 16 shelters, 6 individual tent sites, and 3 group tent sites. On our last excursion, there were two moose grazing near the swollen river within the campground, a few feet from our shelter.
Following the path along the water from the dock at Daisy Farm will lead away from the campground to the Ranger Residence. Taking the Daisy Farm Trail directly toward the Greenstone Ridge Trail leads to the handicapped outhouse to provide access to those with limited mobility.
Lake Superior waters at Daisy Farm are lovely and appear inviting with their clarity that reveals the rock- and sand-covered bottom. After a long hike, the frigid waters refresh as they steal the breath of bathers who dive from the dock. Generally, bathers jump in twice because that’s as much of the cold as they can endure. Even in August, the water at Daisy Farm is not warm. Still, the dock will be lined with thawing but refreshed bathers soaking in the sun.
From Daisy Farm, the Rock Harbor Trail extends 4.4 miles along the mixed swampy and rocky shoreline, past the Mount Franklin Trail, to Three Mile Campground. Three Mile is surprisingly beautiful. Its shore is rugged, and it provides access to Lake Superior for swimming or wading. There are 8 shelters, 4 individual tent sites, and 3 group tent sites. Two of the shelters are on the waterfront, one of which has an old dock that allows for sun bathing and swimming.
Three Mile Campground provides a jumping off point to scale Mount Franklin via the Mount Franklin Trail for a 2.5 mile one-way hike and a 5-mile total. The other option for viewing both Mount Ojibway and Mount Franklin is to scale the Mount Ojibway Trail from Daisy Farm, taking the Greenstone Ridge Trail to Mount Franklin, and descending the Mount Franklin Trail past the Tobin Harbor junction and onto the Rock Harbor Trail into Three Mile Campground. This loop totals 6.7 miles, as opposed to 4.4 miles directly on the Rock Harbor Trail between Daisy Farm and Three Mile. Taking the Greenstone Ridge Trail also affords stunning views of both the north and south shores of the island.
From Three Mile Campground, the Rock Harbor Trail is a rocky three-mile hike along the shoreline. While there are no real elevation changes, the trail is a rugged one. From Three Mile Campground, Susy’s Cave is approximately half way to Rock Harbor on the Rock Harbor Trail. From Susy’s Cave, we can cut over a short 0.2 miles to the Tobin Harbor Trail which is an alternate route into Rock Harbor. Either trail from Susy’s Cave to Rock Harbor is the same distance to the destination.
Tobin Harbor is the home of Merganser ducks, loons, and other water creatures. Isle Royale Sea Planes land in Tobin Harbor, and rental kayaks for use within the shelter of the harbor are located there. The rental cottages offered by the Rock Harbor Lodge overlook Tobin Harbor.
Many hikers choose to hike directly from Daisy Farm into Rock Harbor for the final night in “town” where they can get a shower, eat at the restaurant or grill, and visit with other hikers and share stories and images of their adventures on the island. It is also one last opportunity to view a moose, as the elusive Bruce the Moose treks through the downtown in the evening.
Whichever route taken into Rock Harbor, the gift shops at the Rock Harbor store, the Visitors Center, and the Lighthouse Restaurant at the Rock Harbor Lodge are places to stop to purchase your Isle Royale mementos. The Queen IV casts lines at 2:45 PM ET, with boarding starting at 1:00 PM ET for gear storage. Its best to bring a snack and beverage on board, too, for the journey home.
The Chippewa Harbor to Rock Harbor hike is one with many options to create a memorable adventure that includes close views of the island by water and close views of the water from the land. It allows for viewing broad vistas, landscapes, wildlife and their habitats. It allows for multiple options and mid-hike adjustments to tailor the journey as it unfolds.