Explore a rugged, isolated island, far from the sights and sounds of civilization. Surrounded by Lake Superior, Isle Royale offers unparalleled solitude and adventures for backpackers. This is a guided trip that will offer a abundance of wonder, fun, awe, and leave you talking about it for years. This 4 night 5 day backpacking trip will traverse through the natural settings of the island including covered shelters with screens, docks that you sit relax and watch the sunset on, and a possibility of a Moose stopping by. But that’s not even the beginning. If you dare, don’t be so quick to go to bed. Northern Lights could make an appearance and that is when the Wildlife come out to play. We will also explore ancient copper mines that date back to early eastern cultures. Not too mention if it’s warm or you dare to feel the invigorating chill of the water, jump off one of the docks and go swimming. So much to do and see!
We have done this route multiple times dating back to 2008 and think it’s by far the best scenic route on the island.
Isle Royale, the largest island in Lake Superior, is over 45 miles in length and 9 miles wide at its widest point. The island is part of Michigan, though you will actually be physically closer to Canada than the US. Canada can be seen from the highest points on the Island. Isle Royale is a seasonal National Park and can only be accessed via boat or seaplane due to it's remote location. General access to the island is restricted to mid-April to early September.
Isle Royale's iconic Moose are abundant on the island but rarely seen. Stealthiness is key. However, we have encountered them on almost every trip so far - set your exceptions low but keep positive! We've included one campsite in our trip itinerary that might provide you a sure bet! NEVER leave gear or food unattended on the picnic table near your shelter. Fox are prevalent on both the island and campsites, likely to steal anything they can carry in a instant, trust us on this!
Generally this time of year temps will average in the low to mid 60's during the day, and mid to low 40's at night. So plan accordingly for cool nights. Weather conditions on the island can range from sun, rain, fog and high wind. It's not uncommon for gail force winds to whip the island at any given time. Our campsites will be on or very near the water front and therefore can be rather exposed to winds. Rain gear will be a MUST for this trip. Bugs may still be prevalent this time of year mainly at dusk and dawn, however they won't be a constant nuisance. This is mainly why we choose to go in September. While weather may dip down a little on the chillier side from time to time - the cooler hiking weather, less crowds and chances of witnessing the Northern Lights increase in probability. We truly feel the "uncomfortable" parts of Mother Nature are well worth it even for those not accustom to norther climates.
The Island's terrain is very unique. It may be different than anything you've encountered so far, so prepare for the following. The most prominent feature of Isle Royale topography are the parallel ridges running its length and exposure of jagged and tilted bedrock of the Superior. Often the terrain is extremely slick when wet, with deep mud pools along the shoreline. The majority of hiking on the Island is uneven, so those miles may feel just a smidgen longer. Inner lakes and wetlands are abundant on the Island. Sometimes lengthy, very narrow and slick boardwalks are the only passage way through these wetlands (you get accustom to them quickly).
Please understand not all water sources on the Island may be drinkable, due to blue-green algae forming some years within the inner lakes. This information will be readily available to you to plan your water sources accurately. Most campsites will be along the waters edge, which is drinkable once filtered. SteriPENs and other UV purifiers are NOT effective, as they do not filter common parasites found in Isle Royale waters.
As with any backpacking trip, a shelter is typically required. This route is designed to have an option for either using your own tent or to sleep in a shelter, if one is available. Due to the popularity during this time of year as well as one of our planned campsites will not provide a pre-existing structure, we require that you bring a tent regardless of your sleeping preference while on the Island. Shelter availability is not guaranteed, though each of our campsites will have several to choose from if not already occupied. Each shelter on the island can accommodate up to 8 people – there are multiple shelters available at each campgrounds we will be staying at, and an option for your use as desired. All shelters are wooden, having three walls with the front entirely screened in and a door. If we find that we are alone at the campground, you may have the option to have a shelter to yourself, though do not count on it. You may likely be sharing the shelters with others outside of our group. All members of our party will be expected to remain reasonably close together for the duration of the trip and not allowed to camp outside the boarders of the campgrounds.
Fuel of any kind will NOT be allowed on the flight and MUST be picked up once on the Island. ALL FUEL MUST BE PRE-ORDERED (specific details will be provided to our guests). This costs is NOT included and will be incurred by you - you will be responsible for purchasing your own via our instructions. You will NOT be allowed to carry any excess back onto the plane, so purchase according to your needs. ONLY Isobutane fuel will be available.
The Dockside Store and Rock Harbor Lodge will be closed. There will be no provisions allowed for purchase on the Island. Please come prepared accordingly.
Sea Plane travel is subject to weather and weight restrictions to maintain safety of their passengers. Therefore, while we do not anticipate any adjustments to our travel itinerary, we may be required to adjust flight times slightly to ensure safe travel. Please leave ample flexibility in your travel plans for if the Sea Plane is unable to fly during our scheduled time slot. It can potentially cause delays out of our control.
PLEASE MAKE IMPORTANT NOTE OF SEAPLANE COSTS and REFUNDS. Due to COVID-19 related restrictions in transportation to the Island, we have equally been required to make unexpected adjustments to this Adventure Trip. We both sincerely still want to offer this trip to our listeners and adventures. While the Seaplane offers an unbelievable and EPIC adventure to/from the Island, it brings significant CHANGES to our refund policy in 3rd party costs. We have chosen NOT to increase the original price of the overall adventure trip, because of our written promise and the chance of a lifetime at an affordable cost to YOU! Therefore, if you book this trip with us and you cancel at any point in time the following strictly applies. Our Refund Policy remains as normal with the following exception. The total costs at $330 for a Round-Trip flight will NOT be refunded back to you, but rather turned into a credit for you to partake in for up to 3 years. This is a fixed cost from a 3rd party, in which their policies are strict and out of our control. Please understand this BEFORE booking. We are more than happy to answer any questions you have about this adjustment prior to booking.
Please note, the Itinerary listed below is subject to change route based on Trip Leader discretion.
Sea Plane travel is subject to weather and weight restrictions to maintain safety of their passengers. Therefore, while we do not anticipate any adjustments to our travel itinerary, we may be required to adjust flight times slightly to ensure safe travel. Please leave ample flexibility in your travel plans for if the Sea Plane is unable to fly during our scheduled time slot. It can potentially cause delays that out of our control.
Day 1 -
Leave on Isle Royale Seaplanes early AM from Hancock Portage Canal Seaplane Base (21205 Royce Road, Hancock, Michigan). The flight itself is approximately 45mins, showing you parts of the Island untouchable by foot. You will see historical fishing structures and private land - gaining a unique perspective of what you are about to step foot on and spend an entire week exploring! Your entire pack weight MUST NOT exceed 50lbs fully loaded, per plan restrictions (this includes all the little extra's - cameras, trekking poles, etc). We anticipate arriving near Rock Harbor on Isle Royale by mid-day. Please note that depending on our group size and plane restrictions, we may unlikely have two separate flights scheduled to/from the Island. This is entirely controlled by Isle Royale SeaPlanes.
After we unload, we will meet with a Ranger for a brief Leave No Trace course and be issued our permits. We can briefly explore Rock Harbor before hiking 2.7 miles to our first overnight destination. Along the route, we have the opportunity for exploration of a cave directly off shore. While it's a short hike, it's a great acclimation to the island 's terrain with ample time allowed at camp to relax and enjoy the beauty and wildlife of Isle Royale!
After arriving at 3 Mile, we will select an available shelter or tent site and unpack. Each shelter can sleep 8 people. They are very clean and have screens with a spring door. Privy's are very close to the shelters.
Weather permitting, we can all sit on the 3 mile dock and have dinner together. After dinner we'll kick back and watch for the nightly show of fox coming into camp and try and steal hiker's belongings!
Day 2 -
We will backpack 8.1 miles to Moskey Basin. Moskey Basin is very unique and located directly in a quiet bay. We will be hiking through some thick forest and on top of bogs in some areas. Watch for Moose tracks on this route. If you like sleeping directly under the stars this is the place to do it! We will show you a great spot and watch for the potential of the Northern Lights that might come out at this time of year and make an unbelievable appearance. Fingers crossed! Otters often come up directly on the dock at Moskey Basin looking for food. While they are not to be fed, they are friendly and interactive with humans.
The sunrise here offer a special impact to start your day, pending weather conditions.
Day 3 -
We will get an early start around 9:00 AM backpack from Moskey Basin to McGaroe Cove – a total of 8.3 miles. We will hike over the Greenstone Ridge and stop at a beautiful inland lake to have lunch.
After we reach McGaroe Cove and unpack we will have an option to go swimming (depending on weather and perhaps just how brave you are to plunge in the near frigid waters near Canada - trust us, it's invigorating)! But rest up, after setting up camp and swimming we'll still have some hiking to do. Yup, that's right! We will explore an ancient copper mine that was cut by hand. Ancient explorers dating back to China carved this mine using only stones. We will guide you through some of these oldest copper mines in the United States with further self-exploration if that wasn't enough!
Day 4 -
This will be our more challenging elevation day, as we are either going up or down. The hiking is on well established terrain and softer ground the majority of the day (no more rock wobblin' for awhile). We'll make our way up to the Island's main ridge line, hiking along the Greenstone Ridge Trail for approximately 4 miles. Before exploring one of the greatest gems on the Island (don't worry...it won't be missed), we will drop down approximately 300ft in 1.7miles to camp overnight at Daisy Farm. Daisy Farm is the second largest camp on the Island, with a lengthy dock overlooking the inner islands.
Once we select an available shelter or tent site, get to unpacking and elevate those feet or dip in the chill of Lake Superior for a well deserved break...momentarily of course. As we have a rather special surprise in store for you!
Day 5 -
Today will be our earliest “wake up time” and longest mileage. Starting at 8AM, this morning's route offers us hiking up to the highest point on the Island. Ah, the gem...told you it wouldn't be missed out on! We will guide you to a very special fire tower outlook where you can see Canada and the entire length of the island. If weather permits clear views, this is one spectacular perspective on the island - seeing the inner lakes and possible wildlife sightings. This is the steepest climb of the island, and we're going UP it! While it's only another 1.7miles back up to the top, we gain 750ft. The highest point is Mount Ojibway at 1,136ft.
We will continue along the Greenstone Ridge for approximately 2.8 miles, with an opportunity to see more of Canada from a relaxing outcrop where we'll have lunch together. From there we drop down the ridge back towards 3 mile campground. This trail offers a variety of unique and remote terrain, having you feeling truly alone on the Island. The day will total a long but EPIC 9 miles back to Rock Harbor.
Day 6 -
For those of you feeling as though you still have some pep in your step left and want to witness something truly spectacular, we will venture out for a sunrise hike to Scoville Point along the Stoll Trail. Or just sleep in and explore locally around the main dock to witness the famous resident Moose "Bruce". It's your time to enjoy how you want nearby before packing up to catch the Sea Plane out. It is approximately a 45min hour plane ride back to Hancock.
Unfortunately, the trip is over at this point. However, on our return night it is optional to have a group dinner together as desired or join us back at our campsite overnight for a Labor Day shin dig the next afternoon.
This is a suggested list of gear to make your trip successful!
*A fitted backpack than can carry 6 days worth of food – 65 Liter Backpack gauge though you can easily go smaller
*Pack Cover (covers your backpack if it rains)
* 30 Degree Down Sleeping Bag – (expect chilly nights)
*Headlamp (extra batteries as needed)
Hiking Poles are highly encouraged, as the terrain is uneven - rocky, rooted and muddy at times
*Good Hiking Boots or shoes with good traction
*Water Filtration (we will be getting our water from Lake Superior) *includes a “dirty” water bag
3 liter hydration or equivalent water bottle system
*First Aid Kit – primarily for blisters, burns, cuts, and aching muscles
*Cooking Stove MSR Pocket Rocket or stove that uses Isobutane Fuel
*Cooking Pot to boil water/ and eat in
*Lighter – purchased AFTER flights
*Food Storage Bag (we will NOT have to hang food via “bear bag” system)
All of these can be shared if you have a partner.
**CLOTHING: this does NOT include clothing for the trip home
SmartWool NTS Mid 250 Zip-T Long Men’s Underwear Top
REI Lightweight Base Layer Half-Zip Top – Women’s
Long sleeve shirt (merino wool is a good option)
Arcteryx Men’s MX Hoody (great insulated soft shell)
Arcyeryx Men’s Delta AR Zip Neck Midlayer
Rab Microlight Jacket Men’s
Marmot Women’s Jena Jacket
CAMPING or Sitting by the Fire
A lightweight Goose down jacket is highly recommended and / or long sleeve Fleece jacket
Long sleeve shirt
Rain Jacket or Wind Breaker (should be same thing)
HIKING: (NO COTTON)
Base Layer Short sleeve or lightweight long sleeve
Long Pants that can unzip into shorts
Hat or Bandanna
**ALL CLOTHING LIST:
(3) pair of socks
(2-5) pair of underwear
(1) pair of hiking pants
(3) shirts (1) Long sleeve (2) Short Sleeves
(1) pair of long underwear to sleep in
(1) pair of shorts *unless your pants unzip into shorts
First Ascent Men’s Telemetry Freeride Pants Men’s
Marmot PreCip Waterproof Rain Jacket Men’s
Marmot PreCip Waterproof Rain Jacket Women’s
(1) hat or bandanna
(1) sandals or lightweight shoes for camp
**Rain pants are optional. However plan in case it downpours and what you will hike in the rain in.
*ALWAYS KEEP ONE LONG SLEEVE SHIRT AND ONE PAIR OF LONG JOHNS DRY.
Compression sack for sleeping bag **Sea to Summit eVac Dry Sack Recommended
Compression sack for ALL clothing **Sea to Summit eVac Dry Sack Recommended
Food Bag **Sea to Summit Stuff Sack Recommended
Plastic Zip Lock Bags for Food and Garbage
Camera and waterproof camera case (iPhones should be protected incase it rains)
small pad to sit on
If you have any questions e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are traveling to Houghton there are a few things to know.
Two airports that offer rental cars and easy access to connecting Airports.
Marquette / Gwinn SAW MQT KSAW Sawyer International Airport - The UP's largest Airport
Hancock / Calumet CMX CMX KCMX Houghton County Memorial Airport - closer but maybe more expensive
Quality Inn & Suites (the less expensive and nice Hotel option)
215 Shelden Ave, Houghton, MI 49931•(906) 482-1400 This is very near the NPS headquarters and they have a beautiful urban trail that runs behind the hotel along the Canal. Also, next to this Hotel is the Houghton City Park, and they have Hot Showers and Facilities available to the public. (Probably will be closed due to Covid 19)
Ramada by Wyndham Hancock Waterfront (On the same side of the Canal and closest to the Sea Plane Dock Area)
99 Navy St, Hancock, MI 49930•(906) 482-8400
Everything in Houghton, MI is very close to each other. We can shuttle people from their Hotel to the Sea Plane Dock. There is a Walmart, and lot's of amenities in Houghton that will be open and available.
FREE Camping near Houghton.
Lake Perrault (this is a designated camp area and part of the National Forest)
This is a FREE campsite with a Lake. We have stayed here before and it's awesome. Tent, small RV, Camper, all will fit. Details can be found on www.freecampsites.net
We will be staying at the Hancock County Recreation Area RV Park located just a few miles away from Houghton. If you have a RV or sizable Camper Trailer, this is a good place to park. $25.00 a night.