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Minong Ridge Trail

 2.5 (2)

A very challenging trail that provides some of the most stunning views available on Isle Royale.

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1,053' 321 m


620' 189 m


2,313' 705 m


2,276' 694 m



Avg Grade (2°)


Max Grade (12°)

Dogs No Dogs

Features Birding · Commonly Backpacked · Fall Colors · Lake · River/Creek · Spring · Swimming · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife

Isle Royale National Park is closed from November 1 through April 15.

Runner Notes

Rocks/roots are particularly dangerous on this trail. Leave early, be wary of daylight. Don't be surprised if you have to traverse small rivers and many creeks/bogs or climb over obstacles, as the trails are not cleared regularly. The trail is often a consistent climb followed by a drop. You'll be hot in the heat of the summer; on the descents, you'll cool off and occasionally come across a good filtering source to refill your water.

This trail is no joke. The last trail you want to get injured on is Minong. There is no easy access for NPS to come help you and unless you have a radio/long-range walky-talky, you won't be contacting anyone. BE CAREFUL. You need to keep a strong pace on this route as it is not for the faint of heart. If you choose to traverse Minong from Windigo Nature Trail to North Lake Dessor, or McCargo Cove to North Lake Dessor, expect a 12-14 hour outing. If you are traveling from Little Todd Harbor or Todd Harbor you should expect 6-8 hours. Enjoy!


The Minong Ridge Trail is typically traveled from east to west. This allows for a lighter pack on the trail, especially on the later, more strenuous segments. Visitors are also treated to the most spectacular views on the later days. For an added challenge, runners could begin in Windigo and head towards McCargoe Cove.

The journey out of McCargoe Cove is quite strenuous, but once you are up on the ridge, the trail is not too difficult. Much of the path leads through forested areas, and is well marked and easy to follow. There are segments on the exposed rock ridges marked by cairns. Some of the ridges have some challenging climbs. At the .8 mile mark, you come to a spur to the Minong Mine. This is one of the largest mining site on the island and is worth exploring. Budget some time here to explore the area. There is also some shelter at the mine if the weather is bad.

Continuing on, the next segment is fairly easy. There are a few short challenging climbs, but the day is not too strenuous. The descent into Little Todd Harbor is quite steep. The trail crosses some marshy lowlands on the approach to Little Todd Harbor. Be prepared for soggy socks! There is also a very challenging log crossing. Trekking poles are a near necessity here.

The section of trail to North Lake Desor is shorter but the demand is significantly higher. Do not under-estimate the challenge of this short day. There are several sections of tough ascents with technical scrambling. This segment also provides some of the first great views of Isle Royale and Lake Superior from the ridge.

This final stretch is nearly 12 miles with a net descent making the going a bit easier. That being said, the trail does have quite a few ups and downs so don't expect this section to be easy. Some of the uphills to the ridges are steep, and there are some sections where the trail can be a bit overgrown. The views from the high points are very scenic though so you'll be rewarded for your efforts. The trail eventually ends near the Washington Creek Campground. You can choose to spend another night here or take a ferry back to the mainland.

Flora & Fauna

Wildflowers and plants grow in abundance. There are hundreds of unique species of fungi and lichen on the island and many are seen along the trail.

Almost all of the lakes support a pair or two of loons. (REMINDER: Loons are very territorial, and do not like to be too close to humans. Respect their space, and enjoy them from a distance!)

You can also see the ever-present red squirrels, some rabbits, moose, bald eagles, foxes, and ducks.

There are many species of fish on the inland lakes, but there are no fish in Lake Desor, so keep that in mind if you are planning on fishing for food.


Shared By:

Aaron Levine

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  2.5 from 2 votes


  2.5 from 2 votes
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in Michigan


6 Views Last Month
690 Since Dec 28, 2018



Lake Superior from the Minong Ridge Trail
Apr 22, 2015 near Isle Ro…, MI
McCargoe Cove
Apr 22, 2015 near Isle Ro…, MI
Washington Creek from the bridge.
Jul 14, 2016 near Isle Ro…, MI
Family hiking trip on Isle Royale, Michigan.
Nov 12, 2015 near Isle Ro…, MI



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Sep 28, 2019
Charly Jackson