A first look at new mainland campsites in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

Lakeshore Trail campsite tent by moonlight

February 27, 2024

Normally, in late February, Friends board member Neil Howk would be planning cross country ski outings across the frozen lake to the old brownstone quarry at the south end of Basswood Island, to Honeymoon Rock at the north end of Basswood Island, or from Frog Bay Tribal National Park to the Oak Island sandspit. This year not only is the lake unfrozen, but there has been very little snow for cross country skiing anywhere in the Bayfield area.

Lakeshore Trail map with campsites marked - NPS map

NPS Map of Lakeshore Trail (Click to enlarge map as well as photos below)

Instead, Neil took advantage of two prematurely spring-like days to hike to the mainland campsites along the Lakeshore Trail.

Two of the campsites opened last summer. Neil says he hasn’t seen them yet and it’s been several years since he visited the original campsite. He had three good reasons to go.

He shares his experiences and photographs in hopes of inspiring you to explore the park and just maybe book one of the campsites for an adventure of your own.

No snow, no ice,

A hike might be nice.

No ice, no snow,

To the Lakeshore Trail I go.

Lakeshore Trail boardwalk and bridge

I drove to Meyers Beach on a sunny, 45-degree afternoon last week to walk to the two new campsites.

I followed the boardwalk covered section of the trail from Meyers Beach about 0.7 mile to the where the trail crosses an unmaintained portion of Mawikwe Road. There was very little snow in the woods along the trail and the wooden boardwalk was clear and dry. The stream flowing under the bridge on the trail had very little ice cover and large sections of open water.

I followed the overgrown roadway to its end. At that point, I followed a path to the two new campsites located on a bluff above the beach at Mawikwe Bay.

Path from the beach to campsite #2

Path from the beach to campsite #2

The campsites are on the site of a cottage that was removed decades ago after the property became part of the national lakeshore.

Site #2 is about 50 yards east of site #3. Both sites are equipped with a picnic table, campfire ring, bearproof food storage locker, and have access to a stump toilet or privy. Pathways lead from each of the campsites down to the beach.

Campsite #2

Campsite #2

Campsite #3

Campsite #3

The view from the sites across Mawikwe Bay towards the mainland sea caves and Eagle Island is superb.

View from Meyers Beach near the campsites toward Eagle Island and the mainland sea caves

View from Meyers Beach near the campsites toward Eagle Island and the mainland sea caves

I chose another sunny day with temperatures in the mid-50s to walk to the third campsite in the park’s mainland unit. It is located at the end of the Lakeshore Trail about 6 miles from Meyers Beach.

Campers must paddle or walk beyond the cliffs with the mainland sea caves, and past the area referred to as “Lunch Beach”, to reach the small beach below campsite #1. When getting close, hikers pass a sign noting that the “trail not maintained beyond this point” and then walk about 100 yards along the beach to a path leading to the campsite on top of a bluff. This site is furnished with a picnic table, fire ring, bearproof food storage locker, and a tent pad. The stump privy is tucked in the woods a short walk from the campsite. The site has a lovely view of the lake and Sand Island off to the northeast.

Sign at the end of the Lakeshore Trail

Sign at the end of Lakeshore Trail

Path leading from beach to site #1

Path leading from beach to site #1

Forrest Howk near campfire at site #1 in 2012

Forrest Howk at campsite #1

I did not camp there on this visit but was reminded of a trip I made to the site in January 2012. It was a mild, relatively snowless January. My son Forrest was home from UW-Madison on winter break. He got a new tent for Christmas, and we decided to try it out. It was about 40 degrees on the day we walked to the campsite, but it cooled into the 20s that night. The sky was clear, and we had a lovely sunset. The moon was very bright that night. We had plenty of firewood and we sat up late chatting by the fire. The christening of the tent was a smashing success.

Forrest Howk at site #1 in the morning

Campers must hike, paddle or snowshoe to any of the campsites in the park’s mainland unit. To camp at these three mainland campsites, campers must make reservations using the Recreation.gov website. It costs $15/night to use the campsites and there is a $10 reservation fee. The campsites can be reserved beginning one month before the start of a trip. The maximum number of campers per site is seven. Based on the relatively fresh footprints on the beach and the stack of firewood at campsite #1, it appeared that winter camping had tempted someone else in the not-too-distant past.

There is some snow in the forecast, and I still haven’t given up on cross country skiing this winter, but if these mild conditions persist, it’s nice to know that there are other good alternatives for getting outside and exploring the park.

Neil Howk began working as a park ranger/interpreter for the National Park Service in 1978. He worked at a number of different parks over the years and served as the assistant chief of interpretation at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore from 1993-2016.

He now serves as a board member of Friends of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.

Neil Howk hikes the Lakeshore Trail

You may also like…