Hike the Thordarson Loop Trail at Rock Island State Park

Washington, Wisconsin



5.2 miles

Route Type



Added by Matt Johnson

Wisconsin's northern secret, a remote island park with miles of hiking trails surrounded by Lake Michigan. A great adventure for beginners. 

Getting to Rock Island is the first part of the journey. Driving to the tip of Door County, drive to the Northport Pier and grab your first ferry to Washington Island. Once there, drive across the island to Kafri Ferry dock. This ferry does not allow vehicles, so you'll be carrying anything you'll want to bring to the island. There are carts available for rent, and are easy to use for the closer camping sites. (See www.wisferry.com for pricing and ferry schedule)

There are two camping options once arriving to the island. First, there are 35 standard and two group sites just south of the dock area. These are walk-up sites, however, there are carts available for rental to haul gear. Second, there are five remote sites, anywhere from one to two miles from the boathouse docks down the eastern portion of the Thordarson Loop Trail from the docks. The trails are wide and easy to navigate to the sites. Once there, all sites include a fire-pit and a picnic table. There is some select spots for lakeshore hiking near the remote sites, with safe walkways down available at #C and north of #E, and access to the southern peninsula from campsite #21 and #23. 

Continuing on the loop, roughly 2-3 miles hiking north, there is a northern lighthouse with limited hours for tours. The tours are free and offered by docent volunteers staying at the lighthouse during summer months. Also, there are three small graveyards throughout the island. The eastern-most one is the home to Chester Thordarson, a wealthy inventor from Chicago who owned the island from 1910 to 1965. You can see some of his electrical transformer inventions in the boathouse towards the southern end of the island right next to the pier, roughly 1.5 miles from the lighthouse heading south. 

There are water sources near the lighthouse and the boathouse, so water filtration is not needed for the trip (quickest route is Havamal Trail 1.0 mile from the remote sites). Firewood is available for sale on the island, see the ranger for details. Along the eastern side of the island near the normal campsites, there are beaches for swimming and relaxing.

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