Backpacking Isle Royale National Park, Michigan – Day 2


Rock Harbor Trail and Tobin Harbor Trail – 3 Mile Camp to Rock Harbor & the Stoll Trail – Isle Royale National Park, Michigan
Days – Day 2 of 2 days (plus a third day to day hike)
Distance – Day 2 – 4.4 miles backpacking and a bit over 3 miles of hiking.
Total for trip – 8 miles of backpacking (Rock Harbor to 3 Mile Camp and back), plus another 8 miles of hiking (mostly Stoll Trail)
Type – Back part of an out-and-back, with a loop at the end.
Difficulty: 4 of 10
Total score: 9 of 10

Website – Isle Royale National Park
Open – April to November, 24 hours a day.

Terrain – hills, swamps, forests

Trailhead – 48° 8’45.96″N, 88°29’10.77″W (No need to look for it, the ferry will drop you right off there. This day started at 3 Mile Camp – 48° 7’26.16″N, 88°31’48.28″W

Markings – Painted blazes

Map – If you’re planning on going, I can’t recommend enough getting the National Geographic trail map. I’ve used these on all my non-AT national park adventures, these maps are accurate (I mean, it is National Geographic) and durable, the two things that you need in a map.

Day 2 – Rock Harbor Trail & Tobin Harbor Trail – 3 Mile Camp to Rock Harbor Campsite (4.4 miles), plus a bit of the Stoll Trail

Description – Day 2 dawned bright and early.  We ate some breakfast, broke camp, and started backpacking down the trail.

We only had one more night on Isle Royale, so we opted to do the safe thing and backpack back toward the ferry.  This way, we wouldn’t be stuck in a race our last day to make the ferry before it departed.


We opted to start the day by backtracking down the Rock Harbor Trail about 1.8 miles.


At this point, a side trail leads a short distance to Suzy’s Cave, a small cave in the tiny ridge between Rock Harbor and Tobin Harbor.  We headed up that trail to check the cave out.

Since we were headed this way anyway, we continued over the ridge and down to the Tobin Harbor Trail.  This trail started off very nice.

First time backpackers are having a great time!
Taking a break by the cave.
Realizing that I hate carrying four people’s worth of gear, but love an entire island free of cars.

Once on the Tobin Trail, we quickly ran into the bane of Isle Royale visitor’s existence… biting insects!  Luckily, being from Jersey, we’ve had a lot worse.  Some bug spray on each of us took care of the problem, and we continued on down past Tobin Harbor.

Nap on the way.

We knew we were getting close to the lodge when we watched a seaplane take off from the harbor.  A bit of a further walk found us at the side trail to the seaplane dock.  Of course, we had to take a peek.


We didn’t find any planes (we had just missed the one that had taken off), but there were some nice boats down there that folks had taken over to Isle Royale.

From here, the trail became a surfaced pathway, which looped back to the dock where we had first come onto the island.  It was then a short walk down the Rock Harbor Trail to the campgrounds.  We had our choice of a small leanto or a campsite.  We opted for the campground (not very popular, only one other person camped in a site that night!) to keep the kiddos as far away as possible from the other backpackers.

Even though it was very early afternoon, we figured on being done for the day.  Then The Pres and Tree Rider spent 45 minutes riding “horsies” (our hiking poles) around the campsite at top speed.  We decided maybe it was time to do some more hiking.

So we did a 3 mile hike out on the Stoll Trail, which was on the opposite side of the Rock Harbor Lodge from where we’d backpacked the last two days.  The Pres went slow, checking out lots of things alongside the trail along the way, so we did a partial loop instead of the whole trail.  Tree Rider and I would hike this whole trail tomorrow morning, so I’ll save the pictures for that post.

We ended up back at the National Park Service Ranger Station at the dock.  There, we got some treats from the small store there (ice cream!) to celebrate the end of our backpacking miles, then got some pictures at the park sign.

Great day!

Nearby – Nothing.  Beautiful nothing.  It’s amazing.

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