Too Old to Hike? Probably Not

4 Considerations for Senior Hikers on Isle Royale

Isle Royale is a great place to hike and backpack, and it’s not only for the young. Backpacking is about endurance and preparation, not speed. Our national parks are for all of us, seniors included.

You should check with your healthcare provider to make sure you are in good physical health. If you have health conditions, heed doctor’s advice for planning your hike or even going at all. With the okay from your health care provider, let’s talk about getting out to Isle Royale National Park.

Huginnin Cove
Beth at Three Mile

Once your health checks out, these four primary considerations for senior hikers who want to experience the back country on Isle Royale:

  1. Preparation: Clearly, you can’t get off the couch and get into the woods without some preparation. With a backpack on with some weight in it, you should be able to hike three to five miles. You don’t have to do this in one stretch, but you should be able to accomplish it in an afternoon. I say this because you don’t have to hike continuously on the island. You have long days to get where you are going.
  2. Planning: Next, plan within your abilities. Isle Royale is a rugged island. The trails are tough. This means that you should choose excursions that fit with your comfort level. If hiking distances is a problem, choose a short hike suitable for novices. That would mean, from Rock Harbor, going out to Daisy Farm and back, taking four days. On the first day, you hike three miles, on the second four, on the third four, and on the fourth three miles. You will have opportunity to scale the ridge–if you choose–at Mount Franklin as well as experiencing the stunning shoreline. From the Windigo end, this means choosing to hike to Huginnin Cove, remaining for a day, and hiking back. You would use the west trail out and the east trail back for optimum variety. It’s about four miles one way, and six the other, but you have a whole day to accomplish each trail. If you don’t want six miles, stay on the west trail out and back.
  3. Distance: You can choose longer hikes, such as the one hopping out from Rock Harbor to Chippewa Harbor on the Voyageur II and hiking back if you are comfortable with hiking about six and a half miles in a day. Remember, you don’t hike six and a half miles in one go. You hike a mile or two, take a break, hike another mile, take a break, and so on. Days on Isle Royale in the summer are long, so you will have ten or twelve hours to accomplish the milage you plan for the day.
  4. Assistance: If you worry about getting lost or needing guidance along the way or even before you leave, consider a guide service that can focus on needs of senior hikers. You want guides who can help you make wise choices, check ferries, tailor the hike to meet your needs, keep you on the trail, and help you to get set prior to departure.
Duane on board
Yearling Twins at Huginnin Cove

Wise Old Man of Isle Royale Guide Services can help you to plan whether or not you book with us. Both Duane and Beth are in their 60s, so you won’t feel as though you have to sprint to keep up. They also have hundreds of miles logged on the island so they won’t get lost. They have gear and weight tips to help you pack correctly, and they understand the need to take breaks. If you don’t have all the stuff you need, they have rental and loaner gear. Reach out by email to, check our website or give us a call at 906-201-1588. If you choose to book with us, ask about our senior discount.

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