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Isle Royal National Park



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Isle Royal National Park

Fishing Isle Royale

Hike Isle Royal National Park

Note: Not open during the winter.

Trail Distance:

165 miles containing many loops over 210 square miles on 133,782 acres.


Ferry services operate from Houghton, Copper Harbor, and from Grand Portage, Minnesota. Seaplane service is also available in Houghton. Wheeled vehicles are not permitted on the island. However, you may transport a motorboat or canoe to the island on the National Park Service ferry.

Facilities and Opportunities:


At visitor centers, Rock Harbor Lodge, some campgrounds.


160 miles of trails; easy to difficult.


Camping permits are required for all overnight camping. 38 designated campgrounds (tent sites or three-sided shelters); first-come, first-served. Campers must stay in established campsites unless you make arrangements for off-trail, cross-country camping when you pick up your camping permit.

Visitor Center

At the mainland in Houghton, open year-round. On Isle Royale: Rock Harbor open seasonally, 8:00 to 8:00; Windigo open seasonally, 8:00 to 6:00 (check with National Park Service for dates). Minnesota’s Grand Marais Visitor Information Center, (218) 387-2524.


Rock Harbor Lodge, seasonally, early June to early September.


Rock Harbor Lodge, seasonally, early June to early September.

Drinking Water

Potable water is only available at Rock Harbor and Windigo proper. All surface water, lakes, and streams should be considered contaminated with native parasites.


Excellent fishing in Lake Superior and inland lakes. Michigan fishing license required in Lake Superior, and when transporting fish to the mainland. Fishing license not required to fish inland waters of Isle Royale.

Entry Fee

$4 per person per day. Seasonal passes area available.

Web sites for more information:

How You Can Help

Contact the park headquarters or the Isle Royale Natural History Association for a wide range of volunteer projects.

Isle Royale Scenery

Isle Royale is a pristine island wilderness area. Its rocky cliffs and jagged coastline stand in stark contrast to the flat blue surface of Lake Superior. The island is 45 miles long and 9 miles wide. It is an archipelago, with the main island surrounded by over 400 smaller islands. The vegetation is primarily forested and its forests are in transition. The aspen and white birch that followed forest fires caused by early settlers are rapidly declining due to lack of fire. Northern boreal forests of balsam fir, white spruce, and white birch occur near Lake Superior and along some interior lakes and streams where it is moist and cool. On warmer and higher interior ridges, sugar maple and yellow birch predominate. This diversity is further enhanced by dozens of inland lakes, ponds, streams, and wetlands. Nearly all of the island is officially designated as wilderness and is probably one of the most intact ecosystems in Michigan due to its isolation and lack of human influence.

Isle Royale Scenery

Wheeled vehicles are not permitted on the island, and low impact, leave-no-trace camping is required, making this site a backpacker’s dream. It contains more than 160 miles of hiking trails and nearly 40 primitive campgrounds. Numerous private ferry and seaplane services are available to transport you and your gear to the island. A modern resort, the Rock Harbor Lodge, is open the first week in June into the first week in September. Isle Royale is not the kind of site where you can just "drop in." You have to make a serious commitment of time and resources to visit the island. Getting there requires a six-hour ferry ride from Houghton. Call ahead for details and reservations, and make your plans thoughtfully.

Established by Congress in 1931, this national park was designated part of the National Wilderness Preservation System by Congress in 1976, and as a Biosphere Reserve by the United Nations in 1981.

Wildlife Viewing

Wildlife viewing at Isle Royale

A visit to this site is a special experience that will remain with you forever. The beauty of this pristine wilderness—trees, wildflowers, water, and wildlife—and the mystique of experiencing this wildness on a remote island, is difficult to describe. Isle Royale offers visitors a chance to completely immerse themselves in a unique island ecosystem.

Whether you tour Isle Royale on foot or by boat, wildlife viewing opportunities are abundant. For most visitors, moose and wolves are at the top of their wildlife viewing wish list. Moose are seen fairly commonly, and often experienced at close range. Hike slowly and quietly almost anywhere on the island for an opportunity to see one of these largest members of the deer family. Moose came to Isle Royale in the early 1900s, probably swimming from the Canadian mainland. Because they had no natural predators on the island at that time, the moose population grew rapidly until there was not enough food to go around. With nothing left to eat, the moose population crashed due to starvation. Over time, the plants that had sustained the moose slowly began to grow back. As the few remaining moose found more and more food, they again began to reproduce rapidly, and the cycle started all over again.

Wildlife viewing at Isle Royale

In the winter of 1948-49 a pack of eastern timber wolves crossed the ice of Lake Superior to Isle Royale. Wolves are natural predators of moose, but the relationship between these two species is very complex. The interactions among wolves, moose, and the island’s vegetation have been the subject of pioneering wildlife research for over 45 years; research that continues today. In the late winter of 2002, researchers estimated the moose population to be 1,100 animals. The wolves, in three packs, totaled seventeen animals. The stealthy and secretive wolves are rarely seen, but a few lucky wildlife watchers catch glimpses of them occasionally.

In addition to moose, opportunities for viewing common loons, beaver, and red foxes are excellent. Beaver activity may be seen anytime along the hiking trails and streams. The beavers themselves are mostly nocturnal, but they may be seen during the early and the last light of day.

Wildlife viewing at Isle Royale

Before making the trip to Isle Royale, visitors should do some advance reading on the wildlife and other natural resources of this special place. It will make the trip much more interesting and fulfilling, and much safer.

Isle Royale offers a peaceful, picturesque, wilderness experience. Visitation is limited to keep it that way. Yellowstone National Park has more visitors some days than Isle Royale has all year. About 20,000 visitors come to the island annually. Most of the people you encounter here—whether on the ferry, on the trail, or in the only restaurant at Rock Harbor—are seeking that same wilderness experience.

Information provided by the Department of Natural Resources

Click for Isle Royale Map

Report and View the Condition of this Trail at our Michigan Trail Report Page

Return to Isle Royale, Michigan Trails




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