You might know Isle Royale as the only national park in Michigan. You might not know that it's also the least-visited and the most revisited national park in the entire system.
- 47.9763, -88.9313
- Visit Duration
- Best time to go: Summer to early fall.
- Adventure Details
- Moderate to difficult, 120+ miles round trip, 1,394 ft. elevation gain.
- Don't Forget
- All gear and provisions needed for the duration of your stay, sturdy hiking shoes, camera, bug spray, bear spray.
And it’s easy to see why. With no airport, no roads, and no campground, Isle Royale is basically a 45-mile-long backcountry playground populated by moose, grey wolves, and the rare Calypso orchid, floating in the biggest lake on earth.
Fresh Coast Tip
Mosquitoes are always a factor on Isle Royale, and July is peak black fly season. Pack plenty of bug spray.
The adventure begins even before you get there—will you travel 3 hours by ferry from Copper Harbor, or make it a quick 35-minute journey by seaplane? (On one hand, going by water means a trip on one of the historic island ferry boats, but air travel offers a view of the 400 tiny islets that surround the main island.)
Though small in size, Isle Royale offers more beautiful views and challenging trails than you can probably pack for.
A few recommended sites include the (relatively) easy and scenic Tobin Harbor Trail, camping at Moskey Basin in shelters perched right over the water, the ambulatory history lesson of Stoll Memorial Trail, and the 1,136-foot climb up to Mount Ojibway Tower for some of the best views on the island.
End your visit at the Rock Harbor Lodge, Isle Royale’s only hotel, where you can enjoy a (much-needed) bath, an (equally needed) beer, and a view of the Rock Harbor Lighthouse, the oldest standing lighthouse on Lake Superior.
Whether you visit for a multi-day camping trip, or just a day trip to picnic, hike, or fish, you’ll be planning a return trip before you get back to the mainland.
Photo: Drew Mason / @drewmason