We’re headed for solitude in this month’s installment of the Pilot Your Own Adventure Blog series. There’s no driving to this destination, in fact there are only two ways to visit – by air or by boat. Book a seaplane flight or take a ride with a ranger on your way out to Isle Royale National Park. You’ll find pristine waters, rocky cliffs, spruce forests, and abundant wildlife. With loads of hiking, fishing, and kayaking opportunities, this is one adventure you’ll want to add to your bucket list.
It’s no secret that parks like Yosemite, Yellowstone and Zion are full of natural splendor. Every summer these parks are over populated with tourists and adventure seekers. Nothing like enjoying nature with a few thousand of your not so closest friends. While our national parks deserve all the attention they get, there are some on the list that won’t leave you feeling like you just visited an amusement park. Isle Royale is the least visited national park in the lower 48. But don’t let that number fool you. It’s not because the park lacks natural beauty or activities, it’s simply a little tougher to get to than most. To visit, you really have to want it.
There are only two ways to get to Isle Royale – by air or by water. You can book your own 40 minute seaplane flight into Windigo Harbor or go by boat, for which you have a few options: a park operated ferry or by commercial outfits (check the national parks website for more information). Once you arrive you also have two options for accommodations, you can camp in one of the many primitive campsites sprinkled throughout the island or stay in the park lodge.
For many, Isle Royale is a multi-day backpacking destination. You can travel one of the popular routes to see the whole island in its entirety within a week or less. However if camping isn’t your thing, you can stay at the park lodge or make it a single day visit by taking the ferry in the morning and once again in the afternoon.
Once on the island, there are many activities to participate in. Take a hike along one of the many trails available for outstanding views and wildlife viewing. Rent a boat or kayak in the harbor.
Take a ranger-led boat ride to explore different areas of the island. Go fishing, visit the park lighthouse or relax and watch the seaplanes land in the harbor. Be on the lookout for moose as they frequent the inner island lakes. We’ve outlined some of our favorite activities and hikes below.
Top Day Hikes:
- Scoville Point Loop – 5 miles – Loop – Moderate
- Hike on cliffs out to a point with 180˚ views of Lake Superior
- Suzy’s Cave Hike – 1.8 miles round trip – Out and Back – Easy
- Hike out to a unique cave
- Tobin Harbor – 6 miles round trip – Out and Back – Moderate
- Great place to spot a moose
- Mount Ojibway – 3 miles round trip – Out and Back – Moderate
- Nice overlook of the island
- Mount Franklin Trail – 9.4 miles round trip – Out and Back – Moderate
- Take the Tobin Harbor trail up to Mount Franklin for great views
Top Multi-Day Hikes
- Greenstone Ridge – 40 miles – Hard
- Windigo to Tobin Harbor
- Feltmann Loop – 33 miles – Hard
- Explore the western side of the island
- Rock Harbor to Moskey Basin – 20.5 miles – Hard
- Explore Moskey Basin and the shores of Lake Superior
- Ranger-led boat trips – take a boat trip to different parts of the island with a ranger. Some trips include a hiking portion.
- Rent a motorized boat – this allows you to visit other islands. Boat out to Rock Harbor lighthouse, the Edisen fishery and others.
- Go kayaking – check out some of the inner channels and lakes.
- Ranger-led evening talks – learn about the history of the island and the many shipwrecks that have happened around it’s waters.
- Hang out on the Tobin Harbor dock and watch the seaplanes fly in and take off