This trail creates options.
Malone Bay is located at the end of the Ishpeming trail which you access from the Greenstone Ridge Trail at the Ishpeming Point or by Voyageur II if you come by boat. It is a favorite of fishermen who dock with their own vessels. It is also popular with people traveling by canoe or kayak because they can get there through the inland lakes and waterways, and it provides close access to Lake Superior for fishing. For hikers, Malone Bay is interesting because it opens up many different ideas about how to experience Isle Royale.
The three-night stay limit also supports base camping from Malone Bay. It has five shelters and two group sites, but no individual tent sites. The group sites have fire rings and the shelters have stand-up grills. Malone Bay also has a waterfall, halfway between the ranger quarters near the dock and the campground. The campground abounds with raspberries and thimbleberries, too. From the shore, the Menagerie Lighthouse is visible, so you’ll want a zoom lens for your camera or binoculars for best viewing.
As I said, there are a few ways to experience Malone Bay. Let’s look at what opens up when we explore each. First, you can hike into Malone Bay via the Ishpeming Trail. Start in Rock Harbor, go to Daisy Farm and then West Chickenbone Lake. Then stop at Hatchett Lake. From Hatchett Lake to Malone Bay, you climb out of Hatchett Lake and up to the Ishpeming Tower. Then you descend into Malone Bay. Regardless of what the maps say, Duane and I hiked the route and it is 13.1 miles from Hatchett Lake to the campground at Malone Bay. To verify, Duane did it again, and it was the same. Then he took a different route by taking the Voyageur II into Malone Bay and hiking out to Hatchett Lake, and it was 13.1 miles as recorded by his Garmin. It was 13.1 miles by my Garmin as well.
I stress the distance because there is no place to get water between Hatchett Lake and the Malone Bay campground, unless you want to filter out of a beaver pond four miles out of Malone Bay. Also, you can see Siskowit Lake and walk along the shoreline cliff for about the last three miles, but you can’t get to the water. There is bridge that goes over a muddy stream in a swampy area a half-mile after the beaver pond, but there doesn’t appear to be a point to access it without wading thigh-deep in mud. We invite comments from anyone who has further insight on this stream. In any case, the distance and the lack of access to water add to the strenuousness of the hike, especially after climbing out of Hatchett Lake and along the ridge to the tower prior to descending into Malone Bay.
Climbing out of Malone Bay can be a challenge, too. It is 8.1 miles up to the Ishpeming Tower at the Greenstone Ridge Trail, so after the hike in, you might choose to hop out to Windigo via the Voyageur II. From there, other options open up. You can hike back to Rock Harbor via the Greenstone Ridge Trail or opt to hike back via the Minong Ridge Trail. You can also do a Feldtmann Loop prior to progressing back to Rock Harbor by picking up the Greenstone Ridge Trail at the Island Mine Junction. Yet another option is to hop again via the Voyageur II to McCargoe Cove and from there hike back into Rock Harbor.
If you want to hike out of Malone Bay, you have two choices. You will hike the 8.1 miles up from from the Malone Bay Campground to the Ishpeming Tower. If you go left on the Greenstone Ridge Trail, you go to South Lake Desor Campground, for a total milage of approximately 11.5 miles toward Windigo. From there, you would hike to Island Mine six miles distant or straight into Windigo for a total of 12 miles. If you go right at the Ishpeming Tower, you head back to Hatchett Lake for that total of 13.1 miles. Then you can choose to go to Todd Harbor, only four miles, or continue an additional 7 miles to get to McCargoe Cove. From there, the east end is available.
If you climb out of Malone Bay and end up at Hatchett Lake, you can proceed the next day to Todd Harbor which is four miles and head an additional seven miles to Little Todd Harbor on the Minong Ridge Trail, instead of heading east toward McCargoe Cove. After Little Todd, you continue westward to North Lake Desor, which traverses arguably the six most grueling miles on the island, along the Minong Ridge Trail. Last is the 13 miles from North Desor into Washington Creek campground at Windigo where you can hop back to Rock Harbor via the Voyageur II or think of even more hiking options.
In summer 2022, Duane hiked out of Malone Bay and into Hatchett Lake campground and shared the highlights on video. On this excursion, he ended up getting over the ridge and into Hatchett Lake just prior to a thunder storm. The next morning, he hunkered down in his tent with lightning flashing, illuminating the sky, as the rain pelted his tent. He had an extremely late start on the eight miles into West Chickenbone Lake campground.
The ways to do Malone Bay are many. The three-night stay limit allows for time to enjoy the views of Lake Superior and Siskiwit Lake as well as time to splash in the waterfall. It also creates avenues for thinking about itineraries that expand on the customary ways to experience the Greenstone or the Minong Ridge Trails. In all of these, though, the Voyageur II is the vehicle to accommodate the distances in a limited timeframe.