Exploring Isle Royale: Michigan's Hidden Gem

Published on 18 August 2023 at 10:18


Photo by MabelAmber on Pixabay


Exploring Isle Royale: Michigan's Hidden Gem


Isle Royale National Park, located in the pristine waters of Lake Superior, is a true hidden gem in Michigan. This remote wilderness island park offers breathtaking scenic beauty, abundant wildlife, and a wide range of outdoor adventures. Whether you're a nature lover, a hiking enthusiast, or simply looking for a peaceful getaway, Isle Royale has something to offer for everyone. So grab your backpack, put on your hiking boots, and get ready for an unforgettable journey into the heart of this untamed paradise.


1. Getting to Isle Royale


Getting to Isle Royale is part of the adventure itself. The most common way to reach the island is by taking a ferry from the Upper Peninsula. The Ranger III, Isle Royale's official ferry, departs from Houghton and takes you on a scenic journey through the Portage Canal, passing under the world's largest lift bridge. The ferry ride takes approximately 6 hours, allowing you to soak in the stunning views of the Keweenaw Peninsula and Lake Superior.

Another option is the Isle Royale Queen IV, which departs from Copper Harbor and offers a shorter journey of just over 3 hours. This ferry provides a convenient way to reach the island from the Keweenaw Peninsula.

For those looking for a more adventurous experience, the Voyageur II offers Lake Superior ferry service at various ports around Isle Royale. This ferry not only provides transportation but also gives you the opportunity to enjoy the wilderness from the water.

2. Hiking Trails of Isle Royale


Isle Royale is a paradise for hikers, with its extensive network of trails that meander through the island's diverse landscapes. One of the most iconic trails is the Greenstone Ridge Trail, which stretches for approximately 43 miles from Lookout Louise to Windigo. This trail takes you through the heart of the island, offering stunning views of Lake Superior, deep woods, and pristine lakes. It's a true wilderness experience that can be completed in 3 to 5 days.

In addition to the Greenstone Ridge Trail, there are numerous other trails to explore, ranging from easy day hikes to more challenging multi-day treks. Some popular trails include the Minong Ridge Trail, Rock Harbor Trail, and Daisy Farm Trail. Each trail offers its own unique beauty and showcases the diverse ecosystems of the island, from boreal forests to rocky shorelines.

3. Wildlife Encounters


Isle Royale is home to a rich variety of wildlife, making it a haven for nature enthusiasts and wildlife photographers. The island is famous for its population of moose, which can often be seen wading in lakes or grazing in meadows. These magnificent creatures, known as the "hippopotamus of the north country," add to the enchanting allure of the island.

In addition to moose, Isle Royale is also a habitat for wolves, which have called the island home since 1948. While encounters with wolves are rare, their presence adds to the sense of wilderness and untamed beauty of the island. Other wildlife species that can be spotted include beavers, otters, snakes, and a wide variety of bird species.

4. Exploring the Lighthouses


Isle Royale is home to three historic lighthouses that offer a glimpse into the island's maritime past. The Rock Harbor Light, with its white tower and black lantern, stands as a beloved landmark on the rugged shoreline. Visitors can join guided tours provided by the National Park Service, which also includes a stop at the nearby Edisen Fishery. The Menagerie Island Light, with its unique rock and red sandstone keeper's quarters, can be admired from boat trips around the island. Although public visits are not permitted, you can still enjoy a walk around the grounds. The Passage Island Lighthouse, located at the eastern end of Isle Royale, can be reached by joining a boat tour from Rock Harbor. A 2-mile hike guided by an NPS ranger takes you to this historic lighthouse, providing a fascinating glimpse into the island's maritime history.

5. Paddling Adventures


Exploring Isle Royale by water is an incredible way to experience the island's beauty and tranquility. The Keweenaw Adventure Company offers guided kayak trips to Isle Royale, providing a unique perspective of the island's rugged coastline and pristine waters. Whether you're a novice or an experienced paddler, you can choose between single or tandem kayaks, and all gear and equipment are provided, ensuring a safe and enjoyable adventure. Canoeing is also a popular activity on the eastern half of the island, with designated routes and portages for those seeking a more traditional paddling experience.

6. Where to Stay on Isle Royale


At the end of an adventurous day, unwind at Rock Harbor Lodge, located on the northwest side of Isle Royale. This cozy lodge offers comfortable hotel accommodations and self-catering cabins, allowing you to experience the beauty of the island without sacrificing modern comforts. From your room, you can enjoy breathtaking views of Lake Superior, and the lodge's dining room serves up delicious meals featuring locally-caught whitefish and Michigan blueberry pancakes. It's the perfect place to relax and recharge before continuing your exploration of the island.

7. Camping in the Wilderness


For those seeking a more immersive wilderness experience, camping on Isle Royale is a must. The island offers several campgrounds, including Rock Harbor, Windigo, and Daisy Farm, each providing a unique setting and access to different trails and attractions. Camping permits are required, and it's important to follow Leave No Trace principles to help preserve the island's pristine landscapes. Fall asleep under a starry sky, surrounded by the sounds of nature, and wake up to breathtaking views of Lake Superior. Camping on Isle Royale is an experience like no other.

8. Exploring Isle Royale's Hidden Gems


While Isle Royale offers plenty of well-known attractions, there are also hidden gems waiting to be discovered. Moose Flats, located near Rock Harbor, is a tranquil spot where you can often spot moose grazing in the marshy areas. The beauty of this secluded spot is truly awe-inspiring and provides a unique opportunity to observe these magnificent creatures up close.

Another hidden gem is the Huginnin Cove, a small and secluded bay on the island's north shore. This picturesque spot is perfect for a picnic or a moment of quiet reflection, surrounded by the beauty of nature.

9. Planning Your Trip to Isle Royale

Before embarking on your adventure to Isle Royale, it's important to plan ahead to ensure a smooth and enjoyable trip. Make sure to check the ferry schedules and book your tickets in advance. Pack all necessary camping and hiking gear, including sturdy footwear, a map, and plenty of water and snacks. Familiarize yourself with the park's regulations and guidelines to help protect the island's fragile ecosystems. And most importantly, be prepared to disconnect from the outside world and embrace the tranquility and beauty of Isle Royale.

10. Embrace the Adventure


Exploring Isle Royale is not just about the breathtaking landscapes and abundant wildlife. It's about embracing the spirit of adventure, stepping out of your comfort zone, and immersing yourself in the wonders of the natural world. Whether you're hiking through the wilderness, paddling along the rugged coastline, or simply sitting in awe of the island's beauty, Isle Royale offers a truly transformative experience. So pack your sense of curiosity, adventure, and camaraderie, and get ready to create memories that will last a lifetime. Isle Royale awaits your discovery.


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