OverviewThe Minong Ridge runs along the northern edge of Isle Royale National Park. There is a 23 mile trail along the ridge and it is considered to be a much tougher trail than the more popular Greenstone Ridge Trail, even though Greenstone Ridge is higher. The Minong Ridge Trail starts at McCargoe Cove in the northeast and ends at Windigo in the southwest. It generally takes 4 days to hike this trail with the campsites Todd Harbor, Little Todd Harbor, and North Lake Desor being utilized.
The trail follows rocky ridges with spectacular views but also crosses forested and swampy areas. There are few boardwalks, signs, or other things that would make the trail easier to traverse. There is a lot of up and down hiking so don't let the relatively low high-point of the ridge fool you.
The trailhead is located in the center of McCargoe Cove Campground. The first leg of Minong Ridge Trail stretches between McCargoe Cove and Todd Harbor, a scenic and oftentimes bug-free area thanks to the wind coming off Lake Superior. The first half-mile of trail offers historians several spur trails for a look at Isle Royale's largest copper mining site which experienced its heyday back in the late 19th century. The next four miles of trail cross an extensive ridge line, dipping and falling continually. Rewarding views are scattered along this leg including a photogenic view of Otter Lake where moose can be seen feeding at water's edge. The last two miles to Todd Harbor fall into lowlands where more wildlife viewing opportunities wait. The distance from McCargoe Cove to Todd Harbor is 6.6 miles.
As the trail continues westbound from Todd Harbor, the easy terrain pleasantly surprises hikers. At about 1.4 miles, a southern trail junction affords access to Hatchet Lake and the Greenstone Ridge Trail. The main trail begins a gentle climb before leveling out nearly half a mile then reverting back to a continuation of forested ascents and lowland descents marked by slender streams and wide swamps; the perfect moose habitat. The trail ultimately comes to a large open swamp area where Greenstone Ridge serves as the backdrop. From here the path veers north, drops, then heads east while challenging hikers to unaided stream crossings. At about 6 miles a spur trail is offered to Little Todd Harbor where backpackers find lakeside individual sites with little privacy. There is no group camping at Little Todd Harbor. Hiking distance from Todd Harbor to Little Todd Harbor is almost 7 miles.
The most difficult stretch of Minong Ridge Trail lies within this section between Little Todd Harbor and North Lake Desor. The open ridgeline affords spectacular views of Lake Superior to the north and Greenstone Ridge to the south. Occasionally the trail dips into a mixed birch and aspen forest where trail markers change from rock cairns (stacks) to orange tree blazes. At about 5 miles a trail junction intersects from the south leading weary walkers to the North Lake Desor Campground about a half-mile south of the main trail. North Lake Desor Campground has individual sites and pit toilets. Keep cameras handy for this campground is known for moose sightings. Distance from Little Todd Harbor to North Lake Desor Campground is a difficult 5.7 miles.
Leaving North Lake Desor Campground the trail continues west to its terminus at Washington Creek Campground, 12.6 miles away. Anticipate a full day of hiking to complete the trail. Easier than the last segment, the trail still challenges hikers with numerous climbs to scenic ridgetops and drops to lowlands and dense stands of hardwoods. This final stretch crosses ideal beaver-viewing habitat before reaching a trail junction to East Huginnin Cove where a campground lies 3.3 miles north. As with the beginning of Minong Ridge Trail, history buffs have another opportunity to view an island mine site just 0.3-mile up East Huginnin Cove Trail. Ahead the trail merges with Greenstone Ridge Trail then makes its final decent to Washington Creek Campground where group sites, individual sites, shelters, and water are found. The ranger station, visitor center, and ferry dock are just beyond the campground.
First you have to get to the island, via ferry boat, either to the Windigo side, being dropped off at McCargoe Cove, or being dropped off at Rock Harbor and hiking connecting trails to get to McCargoe Cove. Boats leave from Grand Portage, MN or Houghton or Copper Harbor, MI. Directions from Rock Harbor or Windigo: From either visitor center, make arrangement to begin Minong Ridge Trail from McCargoe Cove Campground, accessible by foot, paddle, or water taxi. The campground is located in the northeastern area of the island along McCargoe Cove, northeast of Chickenbone Lake.
- Ranger III - National Park Service, Houghton, Michigan +1 906-482-0984.  165 ft vessel. Travel time: 5 hours. Operates-first Tuesday in June thru mid-September, departing Tu/F and returning W/Sa. Adults $54 one-way, children under 12 $24 one-way, canoes/kayaks $21-$55 one-way, motorboats $80 and up one-way.
- Isle Royale Queen IV - Isle Royale Ferry Service, Copper Harbor, Michigan +1 906-289-4437.  100 ft vessel. Travel time: 3.0-3.5 hours. Operates mid-May thru September; daily mid-July thru mid-August, but progressively less frequent earlier and later in the season. Adults $64 one-way ($57 off-peak), children under 11 half price, canoes/kayaks $25 one-way. Single-day round-trip fares were recently introduced and vary in price, depending on availability.
- Wenonah - Grand Portage Isle Royale Transportation Line, Grand Portage, Minnesota +1 651-653-5872, toll-free: +1 888-746-2305 Nov. through Apr, 218-475-0024 May through Oct.  65 ft vessel. Travel time: 2.5-3.0 hours. Operates July thru Labor Day. Adults $59 one-way, children $39 one-way, canoes/kayaks $30-$34 one-way, Adults $49 children $27 single-day round-trip.
- Voyageur II - also GPIR.  60 ft vessel. 1-888-746-2305 & 651-653-5872 Oct-May 218-475-0024 May-Oct. Travel time: 2.0-2.5 hours. Operates May thru mid-October,is the only vessel providing pick-up&drop-off service around the entire island, departing M/W/Sa and returning Tu/Th/Su, but with less frequent service before Memorial Day and after mid-September. $59 one-way ($69 for destinations beyond Windigo), canoes/kayaks $30-$34 one-way. US Mail and parcel service to Isle Royale.
Advance reservations are strongly recommended for all ships, especially in late July and early August. Whether you're traveling across the depths of Superior from Michigan, or on the ferries from nearer Minnesota, take precautions for motion sickness if you're not a seasoned sailor. In the uncommon event of dangerous weather, crossings may be delayed, but they're almost never canceled. The Queen and Wenonah and Voyageur II both offer discounted fares for day-trips to the park, which give you about 3-4 hours on the island. Note that Isle Royale is at the western extreme of the Eastern time zone, but the Minnesota-based ferries operate on Central time.
Floatplanes also service Windigo and Rock Harbor - do be aware that they are more dependent on calm weather than the boats are in order to operate.
- Royale Air Service, Houghton County Memorial Airport, 23810 Airpark Blvd, Laurium, MI 49913, +1 218-721-0405,  Travel time: 35 minutes. Operates M-Sa, mid-May thru mid-September. $285/person round-trip, $180/person one-way, reservations required.
Wilderness permits are required! They can be obtained from the Windigo or Rock Harbor visitor centers. A fee of $4 per calendar day on the island is charged for visitors 12 years and older, and to save time upon arrival is collected en route by the services providing transportation to and from the island. America the Beautiful Interagency passes do not cover this fee.
Isle Royale National Park
My Trip Report for the Minong/Greenstone/and connecting Trails August 2010
McCargoe Cove Camp - several first-come/first-served shelters with picnic tables are available as well as individual and group campsites. Pit toilets. Filter water from cove.
Todd Harbor Camp - one shelter available, as well as individual and group campsites. Pit toilets. Fire rings and picnic tables. Filter water from harbor or nearby stream.
Little Todd Harbor Camp - no shelters, individual campsites, pit toilets, fire rings. Filter water from harbor.
North Lake Desor Camp - no shelters, 3 individual sites, pit toilets, filter water from lake
Washington Creek (Windigo) Camp - several first-come/first-served shelters with picnic tables are available as well as individual and group campsites. Pit toilets. Piped water. Store with snack food and shower/laundry services nearby.