Backpacking Isle Royale National Park, Michigan – Day 3

Stoll Trail – Isle Royale National Park, Michigan
Days – Day 3… day hiking with Tree Rider in tow
Distance – Day 3 – About 6 miles total for the day, the heart of which was the 4.3 mile Stoll Trail.
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 – Once on the trail, a loop
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, very clear trail.

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 3 – Stoll Trail and Ferry back to civilization!

Description – Our third and final day on Isle Royale, we woke up less than a half mile from the ferry.  Which wasn’t coming until 2 PM.  Adventure time!

My wife stole a march on us, waking up with the sunrise and taking Tree Rider on a hike down the Rock Harbor Trail, which is supposed to be the best spot to spot moose.  She managed to see one, although he was making a run for it when she spotted him.

Early morning hike selfie.
Early morning hike selfie.

The Pres and I got up and had a little breakfast just before the Wife got back.  The Pres was pretty tired from two days of backpacking, so we swapped.  My wife hung out with The Pres, and I took Tree Rider for a ride on the Stoll Trail.

We’d done a little bit of this trail (about 1 1/2 miles) the day before (hence, the photos with different light), but I set out to do the whole thing.  We headed around the harbor, past the hotel complex, and onto the trail.

Day 2 - glad we aren't leaving today.
Day 2 – glad we aren’t leaving today.
Day 3 - much better day for a boat ride.
Day 3 – much better day for a boat ride.
Old first aid station.
Old first aid station.


At the trailhead.
At the trailhead.

Once on the trail, it heads 0.8 of a mile along the shore.  There, a 0.1 cross trail (which we’d taken the day before) will shortcut you for a shorter loop.  This was a new day, so we stayed right.  After another 0.7 miles, the trail to Stoll Point becomes a straight out and back of about a half mile.

All along the way, keep an eye out for moose, which sadly Tree Rider and I didn’t see.  You’ll duck into and out of vegetation cover, past some old copper mines, and get some great views of the water.  We were out early enough that the folks at the hotel area weren’t out yet, so Tree Rider and I didn’t see anyone until our way back.  Nothing like your own private National Park!


Old copper diggings.
Old copper diggings.


Your reward for your long walk is the solace of Stoll Point.  Tree Rider and I really enjoyed ourselves admiring this view.  At least until we ventured all the way down to the water, where we were viciously mauled by biting flies.  We made a run for it, and outpaced them in about 30 seconds.  Only remotely negative part of this great morning hike.

stoll18Our way back was also lovely, a great way to end our stay on the island.

Tree Rider and I headed back to camp.  We broke down the tents, loaded up the backpack, and the whole family headed down the landing to await the ferry.  It was a painless 3 1/2 hours back (the kids both took good naps).

As we pulled into the harbor, we passed the lighthouse, and headed for the pier.  A Boy Scout gave us a heads up that something was going to happen, but he wouldn’t tell us what.  We found out soon enough, as the staff of a German restaurant poured out of that building as we passed by, waving, and then dancing.  Good advertising if ever there was any!

The Wife and I took the kids to a real restaurant (alright… pizza, but they had beer too!) to celebrate a successful conclusion to the most daring part of our trip – backpacking with two small children.  Well done to The Wife and Tree Rider on finishing their first ever backpacking trip and to The Pres for finishing his second!

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