Birding · Commonly Backpacked · Views · Wildlife
This beautiful, historic island is nestled off the tip of the great upper peninsula. This is a great route packed with tons of beaches and a lighthouse, amazing cliff side views, and diverse flora and wildlife.
Need to Know
You'll need to take a ferry - grandislandup.com
Once on the island there are multiple opportunities for running water near Williams Landing and group camp sites. Please see official park map for information on water sources. For backpackers and campers, filter, boil and treat your water. Also, just because you see a creek on the map, does not mean you can get to it. I found out the hard way at Gull Point. There are more opportunities on the east rim then there are on the west.
The island has a healthy population of black bears. Protect these bears and yourself by following proper bear protocols.
Mosquitoes, black flies, deer flies, horse flies and stable flies. Make sure you have enough bug spray/bug butter for your entire trip. Make sure you have a head net. Bugs are especially prevalent after rain and increased humidity. North Beach can be VERY bug heavy.
You'll arrive at Williams Landing by ferry. Take a moment to check out the visitors station. It's a nice little building filled with tons of history about the island. There is also a well water source here - take a moment to fill up!
Head west to mile marker 1:
As you venture west towards mile marker 1, you'll pass a channel marker and beach access. A perfect stop for the day runner. There is a great photo op there as well.
Head north to Waterfall Beach Overlook:
Venture 2.9 miles along a moderately wooded trail until you reach Juniper Flats Group site. There is a vault toilet here. There is also another well water source. It is your LAST chance for water (except for a few streams) until you reach mile 11 where you'll have beach access.
Waterfall Beach is a beautiful area providing great photo ops!
Cliff-side run to Gull Point Campsite:
The next 6-mile stretch is a beautiful section with amazing cliff-side views, though the ability to see them will depend on the season and tree coverage. Gull Point Campsite is a beautiful place to call it a day. It is a very spacious site that has plenty of room for tents and hammocks. The site is set up in a triangle allowing you to properly maintain bear protocols and there is a pole to hoist your food and pack. It is remote and peaceful; you can easily hear the water crash the cliff-sides while you sleep.
Head east to North Light Creek Bridge:
Watch your step as the ground can be uneven. There are many photo ops as you climb to 775 feet to overlook the lake. You'll then have a steady descent as you approach North Light Creek Bridge. This is your opportunity to refill on water from natural water sources including lake access and various creeks.
Many side trips (alternate routes):
You'll notice some unmarked paths along the way - this can be confusing at times. Use this Trail Run Project mobile app
to stay the course. There is an alternate route at Shelter Ridge Campsite that takes you south into the thick of the island. The path is four miles cutting the outer loop by one mile bringing you to Roads End Campsite at mile 16.5.
Continue east the South Cliff Side:
As you turn the corner at Firefighter View Campsite to head south, you'll see some beautiful unobstructed views. Get out your camera at mile 11. Continue along the beautiful cliff sides until mile 15.4 where you'll have a strenuous climb up to 831 feet. It wont be long before you start your descent to Trout Bay Overlook.
Here you have an option to turn west into the island or stay the course to a nice little park area with picnic tables and and a bathroom. There is a water source here as well. From here at mile 17, you can continue on back to Williams Landing passing many campsites, Duck Lake, the Stone Quarry and more.
Flora & Fauna
Black bears, rabbits, chipmunks, birds, mosquitoes, black flies, deer flies, horse flies and stable flies
A trek around the island will take you through many types of forests. Lush greens, pines, ferns and ivies.
History & Background
The first settlers came to the island in the early 1800's when trading for furs was the prime industry. Evidence of this activity is still apparent. The first permanent settlers arrived in 1846, setting up a trading post to trade with the Ojibwe Indians.
In 1990, the Forest Service purchased Grand Island from the Cleveland Cliffs Iron Co and it became part of the Hiawatha National Forest. The historic homes that remain on the island are now over 100 years old and are impeccably maintained by their summer residents.
Since acquiring the island, the Forest Service has been improving camping sites and creating mountain bike trails throughout the island. The East Channel lighthouse, however, is only accessible by boat.
There is a great welcome center at the entrance of Williams Landing where there is a very cool boat on display as well as plenty of history about the island.
Shared By: Michael Zorko