Northeastern Isle Royale National Park (Michigan)

DISTANCE (round-trip)

40 mi (64 km)

DIFFICULTY

TIME

4 days

SOLITUDE

A remote island oasis

Isle Royale is one of the most remote and overlooked National Parks. The island has almost no services and you're at the mercy of the local ferry to even get there.

This trek begins from Copper Harbor in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, where you catch a three-hour ferry to Rock Harbor. The trail begins from the visitor center and closely follows the shoreline. You'll get view of Lake Superior and several tiny islands along the way, with excellent views from a couple of outcroppings.

Camp at one of the designated sites (or even in the lean-to) at Moskey Basin the first night. You can stroll right down to the lake for water and even squeeze in an evening swim. Fall asleep to the tremolos and yodels of loons.

Change course the next day and head into the island's interior, hiking up and over Greenstone Ridge to reach Chickenbone Lake. The campsites there are touted as the most picturesque in the park and boast excellent views of sunrise over a misty lake.

On night three you'll camp at Lane Cove, a little off the beaten path and a favorite hangout of resident moose. Be sure to wake early enough to catch the ferry back to the mainland while you relax and reflect on your time in the wilderness.

When to go

September and May are ideal for fewer crowds, fewer bugs, and stunning fall foliage, but April and May's spring wildflower season will also give you the best conditions. The park is closed in the winter months.

Getting there

Ferry services to the northeastern part of the park run from Copper Harbor in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. The ferry runs daily in the high season and just a few times per week in the low season. Buy tickets well in advance. Note: the ferry does not run in October and April.


Know before you go

  • Isle Royale is at a very northern latitude. It's possible to see the Northern Lights low on the horizon.
  • The only way to enter the island is either by ferry, or if you have a larger budget by seaplane. In the low season ferry services run only a couple times a week--plan your trip carefully so you don't miss your ride out!
  • Summertime bugs can be very nasty. Use permethrin on your hiking clothes and bring enough bug spray.

For more information:

The island is home to a huge biodiversity of plant life. Photo: Danielle Alling

Sightings of resident moose are common. Photo: Danielle Alling

Gear Recommendations for this trail:

About the author

Danielle Alling

Just a gal that likes playing and sleeping outside. Graphic designer, yogi, aspiring photographer, and van dweller of sorts. AT 2013, PCT 2016. IG: @danigoesoutside web: www.daniellealling.com