Isle Royale National Park is located in Lake Superior in the state of Michigan far past the Upper Peninsular. Isle Royale is the largest natural island in Lake Superior (and America's largest freshwater island). One can also have a perfect vacation in the stunning and wild Upper Peninsular and have a side trip visiting Isle Royale while on vacation there.

Isle Royale is stunning as it is wild. It is a unique national park in the United States. Here one is really off the beaten track. Facilities and dining options are all very limited on this island, it is a wilderness paradise. There are no roads on the island, and no motorized vehicles are permitted on the island.


Unique Wolf And Moose Relationship

Unusually Isle Royale is noted for its unique single predator-single-prey relationship. The wolves and the moose first became established on the island in the 1900s and are a matter of extensive study. It seems that both moose and wolves have an unstable population with spikes and declines. Moose have ranged from 500 to 2500 while the wolves have ranged from nearly 50 to a little as 2!

  • Established: As A National Park In 1940
  • Size: Isle Royale Is 45 Miles Long And 9 Miles Wide
  • Visitors: 25,798 In 2018 (The Least In The Lower 48)
  • Moose Population: Ranges From 500-2500
  • Wolf Population: Ranges From 2-50 (14 In 2020)

One of the problems facing the wolves is that their low population leads to inbreeding and genetic problems. Their population nearly disappeared by 2017 and so the National Park Service decided to introduce more wolves to rescue the population.

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Visiting The Isle Royale National Park

Unlike most national parks, Isle Royale is not open year-round. It is open from April 16 to October 31 and is closed for the winter from November 1 to April 15. This is due to the extreme winter weather conditions and safety of the visitors - the only people on the island in the winter are those studying the island.

  • Open: April 16 to October 31
  • Closed: November 1 to April 15

In the winter, the park headquarters move to Houghton in Michigan proper, while in the summer it relocates to Mott Island in the national park.

With no motor vehicles on the island, one's stay is going to be an immersion into nature. All visitors must come boat (private or ferry) or floatplane. The island is relatively untouched by the outside world and is today something of a living laboratory. If coming onto the land, then backpacking and fishing are the way to go. If exploring its waters by boat, then explore the many coves, bays, and even dive the shipwrecks.

Entrance Fees:

  • Adult: $7 Per Personal Daily Entrance Fee To Enter or Remain Within The Park Per Calendar Day
  • Children: Under 15 Are Exempt

The park has two developed areas. One at Windigo is the southwest docking site for the ferries of Minnesota. There are showers, campsites, rustic camper cabins, a camp store, and a boat dock. The other is Rock Harbor on the south side of the northeast end. This is the docking site for ferries from Michigan. It has a lodge, campsites, showers, a camp store, and a boat dock.

Camping is the main form of accommodation on the island. There are 36 designated wilderness campgrounds with some of them only accessible by trail or kayak. The popular basecamp locations on the island are Washington Creek Campground and Daisy Farm Campground. These are popular for people only staying overnight or to get set up on the island.

Rock Harbor can be accessed in the following ways:

  • Ranger III
  • Isle Royale Queen IV
  • Voyager II
  • Isle Royale Seaplanes
  • Private Boat or Seaplane

Windigo can be accessed by:

  • Voyager II
  • Seahunter III
  • Isle Royale Seaplanes
  • Private Boat or Seaplane

If planning to stay on the island, one should plan ahead. There are limited dining options on the island. Although the Lighthouse Restaurant and Greenstone Grill in Rock Harbor do offer breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Related: Visiting Detroit: Things To Do In Michigan's Most Well-Known City

Hiking On The Island

If hiking is what one is into, then there are a plethora of hiking trails. There is everything from day hikes to two-week circumnavigation of the island. In all the island boasts 170 miles of hiking trails with some of them being quite challenging. Some of the trails like the Greenstone Ridge Trail have a boat shuttle that carries the hikers back to the starting point. This trail also passes the highest point - Mount Desor rising to 1,394 feet.

  • Hiking Trails: 170 Miles or 270 Kilometers
  • Greenstone Ridge Trail: Longest Trail Running 40 Miles (64 Kilometers) The Length Of Island (4 to 5 Day Hike)

If one is looking for more developed islands on the Great Lakes, then Upstate New York's Thousand Islands are surprisingly underrated.

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