Isle Royale NP: Minong Ridge Trail
And that's the way the park staff intends to keep it. The Minong Ridge Trail was cut in the mid-1960s as a "fire manway," a route fire fighters could use to access the isolated northern half of the island. Almost from the beginning, backpackers began following it, and eventually the National Park Service decided to maintain the route as a primitive trail with as few markers, bridges, and boardwalks as possible.
That’s the appeal and the challenge of Minong Ridge.
Part of the challenge is the amount of time needed to hike it. The trail itself is a three to four-day walk from McCargoe Cove Campground to Windigo. But most backpackers also need another two days to reach McCargoe Cove from Rock Harbor. Carrying six days worth of food and fuel makes for a heavy backpack on a trail where you want to be as light as possible.
Minong Ridge is also an up-and-down hike that, at times, will have you wondering if you’re headed in the right direction. Portions are a path in the woods but much of it is a route along a rocky ridge where the only indication of the trail is an occasional rock cairn. No other trail in Michigan uses cairns so extensively. Along many open stretches you are simply hiking from cairn to cairn and at times it’s easy to miss the next one. If you become temporary turned around on the ridge, pause and search for a cairn or backtrack to the last one you passed and start again.
Minong Ridge Trail is best hiked from east to west, leaving the long 12.6-mile portion from Lake Desor to Windigo for the end. If you’re following the trail at the peak of summer from mid-July to mid-August, start the day early and carry two quarts of water per person. It can be hot on the open ridge, and water can be hard to find at times, particularly between Little Todd Harbor and North Lake Desor.
|Difficulty - Challenging|