For wilderness adventures both in and out of the water, the Isle Royale National Park is the place to go. It hosts many of nature’s best offerings in Michigan: pristine lake waters, large ridges, and a forest teeming with flora and fauna.
This lake island is the fourth-largest in the world so a visit here would be filled with surprises. Like a swimming moose, maybe. As one of the least-visited national parks in the United States, the scenery is well-protected and those who venture into this Michigan destination are in for a treat, especially those who plan on camping.
Here’s a quick guide for nature lovers seeking a guide to camping on this unique and beautiful Michigan island.
Planning A Camping Trip To Isle Royale
Ready to go? The Isle Royale is closed during the winter season from November 1 to April 15 (that explains its low visitor rates). Consider it a hiatus as the island prepares its wonders for eager visitors wanting to enjoy spring with unmatched views. Take note of the following before the journey.
There are three visitor centers located on the island's northeast (Rock Harbor), southwest (Windigo), and mainland Michigan along the Portage Canal (Houghton).
- The Houghton Visitor Center is open on weekdays (except federal holidays) from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Apr. 18 to May 9; September 16 to October 31).
- From May 30 to Sept. 15, the Houghton Visitor Center is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays.
- The Rock Harbor Visitor Center is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (June 6 to Sept. 17).The Windigo Visitor Center is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (June 6 to Sept. 18).
The park is only accepting cashless payments for entrance fees. Credit cards are accepted but not checks. However, the Rock Harbor Lodge and its store accept cash.
- Daily entrance fee: $7
- Season pass (holder plus three adults): $60
- Federal recreation passes are honored while children 15 and under are free of charge.
Where To Camp In Isle Royale
Thirty-six campgrounds are accessible via trails or watercraft. Each campsite has tent areas, outhouses, and a water source while some lakeshore camps have shelters and picnic tables. Camping permits are required, too, though groups of six are free of charge.
Campgrounds For Groups
There are 17 camping sites (five of which are inland) for large groups of seven or more people. Take note that advanced reservations are required. Here are some of the campsites to try.
- Aside from the trails, the East and West Chickenbone Campgrounds are accessible via kayaks or canoes from a portage. The nearby Chickenbone Lake welcomes fishers who want some reeling action.
- As the island's largest campground, the Daisy Farm hosts 25 sites, so expect a busy environment. It also has a ranger station.
- For those who want to rest with Feldtmann Lake as a companion, the campground on its shore is the place to be.
- Swimmers will be satisfied with Hatchet Lake Campground as the lake’s waters are inviting. Come in, the water’s fine!
Campgrounds Accessible by Trails
A total of 21 campgrounds await trekkers, all of them are perfect spots to ease the tired legs and prepare for tomorrow’s nature trip. Most of these camps are near the shore and there are portage trails for paddlers. Here are some of the camping areas to try.
- Lane Cove is one of the island’s least visited campgrounds so it’s a perfect spot to unwind.
- For moose lovers, they might get lucky seeing the hooved giant in McCargoe Cove Campground.
Campgrounds Accessible Via Lake Superior
There are 23 campgrounds available for visitors who will travel by boat. Some shelters face the water, perfect for those who want to stay until the stars come blinking. Here are some of the camping areas to try.
- For an intimate stay, the Birch Island Campground is perfect. It has one shelter and a tent site. That means tranquility, for sure.
- The chirps, twits, and songs of the birds will welcome boaters who want to relax in the Pickerel Cove Campground.
- Located on the tip of the island, the Merritt Lane Campground is for those who want to have a secluded sojourn.
- For a forest-lake combo, the Malone Bay Campground is the real deal: it is hugged by the wilderness on one side and the Superior on the other.
Other Areas To Visit
The Rock Harbor and Windigo Visitor Centers also serve as the entry points to the park and from there, the adventure starts. Hikers, boaters, and campers are sure to have a warm welcome once they step on the island.
Approaching the harbor, visitors will enjoy their first moments on the island, thanks to the boreal forest that serves as the welcoming committee. Here are some spots to check out before heading on a nature trip.
- The stone-and-brick lighthouse stands proud as it should be since it has been flaunting its might since 1855.
- The Edisen Fishery, another historic landmark, is still operational and the public can enjoy the sights of this busy spot.
- At the visitor center, there's an art gallery loaded with food for the soul like paintings, photographs, poems, music, and the list goes on.
- For those who opt for accommodation, the Rock Harbor Lodge is in service. Aside from lodging, they have sightseeing trips and fishing charters, too.
Located on Isle Royale’s southwest end, Windigo has rustic camper cabins for those who want to try a new camping experience. This ranger station has all the amenities tourists need for a satisfying stay. Windigo for the win!
Things To Do In Isle Royale
For boaters, the waters of Lake Superior challenge them for a day filled with baiting and reeling. On the other hand, those who want a mellow ride can enjoy kayaking or canoeing through bays and lakes.
Hikers just need to choose the trail and whatever they pick, they'll be in for surprises. Expect to see pines, firs, redcedars, and aspens while enjoying the sight of blooming plants. The park is also known for its population of moose and timber wolves, so everyone should keep their eyes peeled.
Travelers can also hop on a boat for a tour along the trailhead of Hidden Lake. Or how about a walk on Raspberry Island until sunset? Whatever the trip, it is bound to be memorable.
The Isle Royale has a lot to offer from the shores to its core. It’s quite a surprise it’s one of the least-visited national parks in the U.S. as it has a lot to offer. It’s worth a try and won’t disappoint. After all, it’s cared for by the Superior.