Apostle Islands Fall Harvest and Hike
Paddling and Hiking from our Apostle Islands Base Camp
Discover Bayfield Peninsula’s astounding fall colors and bountiful harvest. Days are filled with stunning hikes in and around the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, enjoying the stark beauty of Lake Superior, and visiting with local food artisans. In the evening, prepare meals using ingredients from the peninsula while relaxing around a toasty campfire. Cap off the evening with local spirits and s’mores.
For standard meeting places and times, see Dates & Fees tab.
DAY 1: Your trip starts in early afternoon at Wilderness Inquiry's beautiful Little Sand Bay Base Camp. We'll begin to explore this area's beauty with a short hike and orient ourselves at our Little Sand Bay base camp. In the evening, we'll fashion a dinner of artisan cheeses, smoked lake fish, farm fresh vegetables, and hand-picked berries.
DAY 2: Wake to the scent of strong coffee and dig into a hearty breakfast of locally sourced foods. Spend the day enjoying hikes through majestic fall colors and visits with local food producers.
DAY 3: We’ll enjoy a wholesome breakfast before paddling hidden waterways and back channels. Enjoy a picnic lunch of local delicacies while taking in the fall colors. Venture back to camp where we will share our last meal together, that will is sure to impress even the pickiest of eaters.
DAY 4: Enjoy morning coffee, take a short hike to "School Bus Rock" and enjoy a delicious brunch. Say goodbye to your new friends before heading home mid-morning.
Note On Weather: Paddling is incredibly weather dependent. In the chance of high winds or heavy rains you may enjoy various mainland hikes or other local activities in replace of paddling.
Travel, Terrain, Etc...
TERRAIN/ROUTE: The terrain and landscape of the Apostle Islands is made up of red sandstone, covered with a mixed forest of birch, pine, oak, and maple. Except for a few cliffs, the terrain is gentle and rolling. Your time is spent along the beaches and shorelines of the Apostle Islands National Lake Shore, as well as inland waterways and hikes. We have several routes to choose from, each revealing a different dimension of this archipelago. Wind and weather largely determine the route, and storms may delay paddling.
TYPE OF TRAVEL/DISTANCE: No previous sea kayaking experience is needed to complete this trip. Much of your time will be spent hiking along Lake Superior. Weather dependent you may also travel in sea kayaks which hold 2 or 3 people plus all necessary gear. An average day's travel consists of 2-6 paddling and/or hiking hours, depending on weather conditions. Travel distances vary from 4-6 miles each day. On some days, we will travel by van or car to local farms.
WEATHER: Temperatures in the early fall range from 35 F to 65 F. Rainfall can vary, but you should expect at least one day of rain. Weather in the area is strongly influenced by Lake Superior and can change suddenly.
ACCOMMODATIONS: You will enjoy your stay at our Little Sand Bay Base Camp. At night you will sleep in comfortable platform-based tents. Typically, there are 2-3 people per 4-person tent (other arrangements can be made). Our Little Sand Bay Base Camp has very nice outdoor bathrooms and shower facilities with hot water.
MEALS: We’ll enjoy preparing our meals together in our rustic base camp kitchens using fresh, healthy ingredients for bountiful dishes. Rise to the smell of freshly brewed coffee to enjoy with your breakfast of eggs, oatmeal, or granola. We’ll pack picnic lunches with hearty snacks before heading off to explore. In the evening, we’ll prepare our dinner together over stoves and campfires, and then finish with s’mores or a glass of wine. If you have special dietary restrictions, be sure to list them on your registration.
YOUR GROUP: The group size ranges from 6 to 18 participants, plus 2-3 Wilderness Inquiry guides. Each group consists of people of various ages, backgrounds and abilities, including people with disabilities. Our trips are cooperative in nature. WI staff will assist you in whatever areas you need, however most people pitch in where they can.
EQUIPMENT AND CLOTHING: Wilderness Inquiry will provide all group equipment. You will need to provide your personal gear as outlined in the packing list. If you are new to outdoor activities, you do not need to spend a lot of money. Wilderness Inquiry can usually arrange for you to borrow most items. Also, looking into gear rental options can be a cost effective option.A note about the itinerary: Our trips are real adventures in the outdoors. While we'll make every effort to follow the itinerary listed here, elements may change due to weather or reasons beyond our control.
The Apostle Islands on the South Shore of Lake Superior and the Bayfield Peninsula are an enticing mix of rolling hills, sandstone cliffs, sand beaches and a 22 island archipelago covered with a beautiful mix of northern hardwood and boreal forest plants and trees and laced with streams, waterfalls, and wetlands.
The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore lies in the northwestern Wisconsin waters of Lake Superior, the largest freshwater lake in the world. The town of Bayfield, Wisconsin, is the jumping off point for your adventure in the Apostles.
The unique geological features, rich cultural heritage, and diverse ecological system of the Apostle Islands have attracted visitors for centuries. One story says that early Jesuit missionaries, believing that there were only 12 islands in this 22-island archipelago, named the region after the twelve apostles in the Bible.
The history of Apostle Islands National Lakeshore predates these missionaries by eons, however, as the region’s bedrock can be traced to Precambrian times. Nearly a billion years ago, sand and silt were deposited in this region via northwesterly flowing streams and rivers. Under the weight of additional layers, the sediment slowly compacted and began to bond together.
These layers eventually experienced tremendous pressure as the ice age began and glaciers thousands of feet thick covered the forming sedimentary rock. The cycle of advancing and receding glaciers continued to shape the Apostles landscape until 10,000 years ago when the last of the glaciers finally receded. Although the glacial activity formed much of what we see today, other dynamic processes continue as differential erosion alters the islands’ beautiful sandstone arches, pillars, and caves.
These geologic wonders are partly responsible for attracting the native inhabitants and present day visitors. The Anishinabe (also called Ojibwe, or Chippewa) were the most recent native people to inhabit the islands. Hunting, fishing, and maple sugaring provided food and supplies, and were eventually traded with the Europeans. During the mid-1800s the islands’ resources attracted European settlers and for 80 years these resources were seriously exploited. Brownstone was quarried and used to construct buildings and lighthouses, some of the forests were cleared and turned into farmlands, commercial fishing increased, and mills and mines were established.
By the time of the Great Depression in the 1930s, the islands’ natural resources were scarce. While unfortunate for the people of the United States, the Depression saved the archipelago as it all but stopped development of the islands.
Congress designated the Apostles as a National Lakeshore in 1970; in 2004, Congress further designated 80% of the Apostles as the Gaylord Nelson Wilderness, named after Wisconsin’s great conservationist and former Governor and U.S. Senator. The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore encompasses 69,372 acres, of which 27,323 acres are submerged lands in Lake Superior. The National Lakeshore includes 21 of the 22 islands in the archipelago, plus a 12-mile-long narrow strip of mainland shoreline. The islands range in size from Stockton Island at 10, 054 acres to the tiny 3-acre Gull Island.
Visitors can find a variety of scenic features on the islands. These include pristine stretches of sand beaches and coves; spectacular sea caves; some of the largest stands of remnant old-growth forests in the upper Midwest; a diverse population of birds, mammals, amphibians, and fish; and the largest collection of national register lighthouses and lighthouse complexes in the entire national park system.
Today, the National Park Service manages the Apostles Islands. The rare combination of remote but accessible scenery, geography, and both open and protected waters affords unparalleled freshwater sailing, boating, sea kayaking, and fishing opportunities. Ecological succession has returned this system to a natural balance and visitors enjoy abundant wildlife, heavily forested islands, beaches, and geologic wonders worthy of the Park Service’s protection.
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This trip begins at 1:30 PM at our Little Sand Bay Base Camp, near Bayfield, WI, where parking is available. The trip ends at 10:30 AM at the same location. Van transportation between Minneapolis or Duluth and Little Sand Bay is typically not available. Detailed meeting place directions will be sent to you when you are confirmed for the trip. Booking a flight? We recommend flying in the night before your trip to Duluth or Minneapolis St. Paul airports, and flying out from Duluth after 2:30 PM and from Minneapolis St. Paul after 6:00 PM. Call us at 612-676-9400 if you have questions.