Hiking the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore Trail


The Lakeshore Trail at the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
The Lakeshore Trail at the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore Path is a 5 mile long footpath along the ridge line of a red stone cliff that has been sculpted into a visual masterpiece of sea caves by Great Lake Superior.

The first portion of this linear hiking trail is a single track boardwalk path. It becomes a dirt footpath after 1 mile and includes a few stream crossings. But, the trail is well defined up to the overlooks of the park's most famous sea caves.

Most hikers turn back at this point to make a 4 mile out-and-back which takes about one and one half hour round trip. But, some hikers and backpackers continue on for more sights. The trail eventfully leads to a secluded beach and a remote backpacker's campsite which can be reserved for an overnight.





Sea Cave from the Lakeshore Trail at the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
Sea Cave from the Lakeshore Trail at the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore


The Apostle Islands host more than 50 miles of hiking trails through pristine protected wilderness. But, without a boat, most visitors to this tourist region on the Bayfield Peninsula are unable to reach these great trails. Yet, tens of thousands of travelers find their way to the Bayfield area each peak season day with an expectation of adventuring into the great wilds of Up North Wisconsin.

The small town charm of Bayfield, La Pointe, and Washburn is the main draw to this region, but a major expectation of going Up North is to connect with nature. It verges on disappointment that much of the National Lakeshore (which is as big an area as Rocky Mountain National Park) is so difficult to access. This five mile trail from Meyers Beach is the only hiking trail in the park that is on the mainland. It is a can't-miss hiking experience in Northern Wisconsin.

The Lakeshore Trail at the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
The Lakeshore Trail at the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore


The trailhead is located at Meyer's Beach which is a hub of activity on any given weekend throughout the year. Meyer's Beach is the staging point for the most popular kayaking route in the world. Three local outfitters meet up with paddlers at the beach with kayaks and wet suits and lead guided tours of the Apostle Island sea caves.

In winter, this is also the gathering place for the world famous ice cave hike. From late January to Early march the lake is frozen to a thickness that is safe for hiking. This allows hikers to walk on the ice to the sea caves which are decorated in a glimmering display of icicles.

The lakeshore path is high above the lake, and does not go down to the sea caves, but there are a few overlooks that provide very good views of a few of the most popular caves. The trail begins at Meyers Beach parking lot and travels through a transitional boreal forest along a single track boardwalk for one mile.

After the first mile, hikers cross a dirt road and engage in a moderately difficult dirt footpath for the rest of the journey to the sea cave overlooks. there are a few easy stream crossings. The forest is dripping wet even in its driest months. The pine and birch forest is thick overhead and the forest floor is covered with ferns and moss.

Sea Cave from the Lakeshore Trail at the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
Sea Cave from the Lakeshore Trail at the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore


At about 1.75 miles in hikers encounter the first view of a sea cave. It is a large gash cut into the stone escarpment. A natural stone arch bridges over the gap while 100 feet below the waves of Lake Superior crash into the gap. The echoing of the waves in the cave are unmistakable and atmospheric. You will want to get up close to the edge to see into the gash, but be careful to stay behind the fence line - these perches have little solid material beneath them and could give way in an instant.

Most hikers will turn back after viewing this first sight. But, only a tenth of a mile further up the trail there is a second good overlook of another sea cave. While the dense forest and angle of view prevents good photography of the sea caves - in person they are actually astounding views of a unique landscape.

ea Cave from the Lakeshore Trail at the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
Sea Cave from the Lakeshore Trail at the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore


Beyond this second overlook the trail becomes faint and difficult to find. For a while you may believe that you are following a deer trail. This trail continues along the top of the escarpment for a while and then turns back into the woodlands. There are a few ravines which this trail meanders into and out of with healthy climbs. Eventually the trail turns back to the lake and ends at a long stretch of natural beach. At the far end of this beach is the hiker's campsite.

In all, this is an epic trail in Wisconsin and is a must-hike for any day adventurer or Wisconsin explorer.

The Lakeshore Trail at the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
The Lakeshore Trail at the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore




Overview: Apostle Islands National Lakeshore - Lakeshore Trail


COUNTY: Bayfield
COMMUNITIES: Cornucopia

TOTAL MILES: 5 miles linear - 10 miles out and back
DIFFICULTY: Moderate

POINTS OF INTEREST: Lake Superior, Meyer's Beach, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Sea Caves

CAMPING: Backpackers Campsite at mile 5 (Reserve at National Parks Service)


Directions and Trail Map



If viewing on a mobile device, open the trail map above to load into Google Maps App by touching the expand rectangle in the upper right corner

Address for your GPS: 90221 Meyers Beach Rd, Bayfield, WI 54814
| coordinates: 46.882741, -91.047510 |

From Milwaukee6.5 Hours
From Madison5.5 Hours
From Green Bay5 Hours
From Wausau3.5 Hours
From Minneapolis3.5 Hours
From Chicago7.5 Hours



Photos



The Lakeshore Trail at the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
The Lakeshore Trail at the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

The Lakeshore Trail at the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
The Lakeshore Trail at the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore


The Lakeshore Trail at the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
The Lakeshore Trail at the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore


Stream Crossing on the Lakeshore Trail Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
Stream Crossing on the Lakeshore Trail Apostle Islands National Lakeshore


Stream Crossing on the Lakeshore Trail Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
Stream Crossing on the Lakeshore Trail Apostle Islands National Lakeshore


The Lakeshore Trail at the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
The Lakeshore Trail at the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore









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