Isle Royale National Park: Climbing Mount Franklin

We dropped off a pair of daypacks with clean clothes at the lodge to be held until we came back for our final night. Then we lunched at the Greenstone Grill before heading out toward Lane Cove Campground.

The 6.9-mile route to Lane Cove is divided into three vaguely equal trails. Tobin Harbor Trail runs southwest on the inner side of the peninsula we were on. At the end, we would come upon Mount Franklin Trail, which runs up to the crest of the Greenstone Ridge, the island’s long backbone. Finally, the Lane Cove Trail descends the ridge to the island’s northern shore.

An alternate route from Rock Harbor to Mount Franklin trail is Rock Harbor Trail on the outer side of the peninsula. We opted for Tobin Harbor Trail, however, because we planned ultimately to return via Rock Harbor Trail on Friday.

Tobin Harbor Trail was undulating and gorgeous, alternating between meandering into the forest and hugging the edge of Tobin Harbor, which got progressively narrower as we traveled.

Berries from the blue-bead lily. Don’t eat.
Image: Sean M. Santos

Encountering these views of Tobin Harbor, we remarked on how much like “nature” they looked, that the scenery looked like something out of a mid-century great outdoors brochure. This led to a running joke about nature reels.

Imagine this declaimed in a daffy voice somewhere between FDR and Katherine Hepburn: Adam Geffen stands on a log in this 1954 wilderness reel, brought to you by Pepsodent.

Image: Sean M. Santos

Tobin Harbor Trail dead ends at Mount Franklin Trail, with the options to turn left and head toward Three Mile Campground or turn right and up the Greenstone Ridge. Turn right we did. Almost immediately, the trail descended out of the forest and crossed Tobin Creek, which feeds Tobin Harbor.

On the other side of the creek, we were momentarily back in deep forest before rising onto a steep, rocky ridge, where we rested and had a snack.

Image: Sean M. Santos

The trail took us back into the forest, skirting a wetland held between two ridges before climbing much more steeply to the top of the Greenstone and the intersection with the Greenstone Ridge Trail and the Lane Cove Trail.

Image: Sean M. Santos

Welcome to the Greenstone Ridge.

Image: Sean M. Santos

2 thoughts on “Isle Royale National Park: Climbing Mount Franklin

  1. Bob Williams

    If I may ask what year and month did you take this hike. How would you rate it’s difficulty? Is it something that could be done with several ten year olds and two forty year old men?

    1. Brandon Hayes

      Hi Bob,
      We did this hike in August of 2011. The elevation gain is about 400 feet, which comes in two pulses: first a climb up a fairly open ridge and then later on a final climb to the top. On the Rock Harbor side the climb up to the Greenstone Ridge is fairly gradual despite the two pulses. The Lane Cove side is much steeper with a series of classic switchbacks. Sean and I are 40 and 38 now respectively, and I would think nothing of our doing the hike. And I shouldn’t think the ten year olds would have much trouble either.


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