Top 10 backpacking trails in the upper Midwest

Everyone has their favorites. I have my favorite hiking boots and my favorite backpack. I have my favorite camp food. I also have my favorite backpacking trails. In fact, I have 10 favorite trails.

These top 10 list of favorite trails or trail areas are not based on some highly scientific method of selection, nor is it a list of preferred trails identified by a group of renowned experts. It is simply my personal favorites of the many Midwest trails I have hiked over the years. My list includes those trails that offer a challenge, beautiful surroundings, unique landscapes and an opportunity for solitude and some off-trail camping.

Having grown up in Upper Michigan, I found spectacular backpacking options available to anyone wanting to carry a pack there. Although Wisconsin has 42 designated Wisconsin State Trails, the trails of my choice include those that are remote and excitingly woodsy. And although I have relatively little experience hiking in Minnesota, I found exceptional trails there, too.

1) Isle Royale National Park

On my first visit to Isle Royale National Park I saw a moose. On my second adventure there I saw seven. The history behind Isle Royale’s moose and wolf interaction is phenomenal. In its 56th year of study, the 2014 results revealed that the wolf count was lower over the past three years than ever before with only nine wolves remaining on the island, while the moose population increased, now at 1,050.

This picturesque 132,018-acre federal wilderness park that sits on a 45-mile long and nine-mile wide island in the northwest corner of Lake Superior has no roads but rather has 165 miles of trails to explore. Although the two ports, Rock Harbor on the east end and Windigo on the west, seem to buzz with lodge dwellers and day hikers, backpacking on the Greenstone Ridge can be quite a solitary experience.

After we were dropped off by water taxi on the far east- end of the island, six of us climbed to catch a magnificent view from Lookout Louise, 800-foot-high bluff. We then hiked 10 miles on the Greenstone Ridge Trail to East Chickenbone Lake without seeing another soul. We camped in our tents and in unique screened-in shelters throughout our trip.

Getting to the island is half the fun. You can take a ferry from either Houghton or Copper Harbor, Michigan, or from Grand Portage, Minnesota. The other option is take a seaplane. Go online or call 906/482-0984 for further details.

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