Backpacking Isle Royale

Isle Royale National Park 4 night Backpacking Trip

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Date(s) - 09/10/2019 - 09/14/2019

Isle Royale National Park Ranger lll, Houghton Michigan

Isle Royale National Park Ranger lll


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. Access to the island is restricted from mid-April to early September. 

Isle Royale's iconic Moose are abundant on the island but rarely seen. However, we have encountered them every trip so far - set your exceptions low but keep positive! 🙂 NEVER leave gear or food unattended on the picnic table near your shelter. Fox are on the island will 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. 

As with any backpacking trip, you have the option to bring your own tent. However our route is designed to be able to be achieved without a tent if you choose to keep weight at a minimum. Though please understand the restrictions before making a final decision on ditching it at home. 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. 

The Dockside Store is located on the main dock of the Island, close to the Rock Harbor Lodge. There they offer standard though limited groceries as well as freeze dried foods, fishing tackle, camping and hiking accessories, camping fuel, photo supplies, boating accessories, post cards, apparel, souvenirs, and sundries. Shower and laundry facilities are also available. If you are flying in from afar, you will NOT BE ALLOWED to carry fuel on general commercial flights. Please plan to purchase fuel prior to arriving on the island as nearing the end of the season, fuel for purchase at their Dockside or Rock Harbor Lodge Stores may be very limited or not available at all. Per preference, you can pack a SMALL lightweight bag with a clean pair of clothes for the Ranger III ride home. Rock Harbor Lodge will hold your bag for the duration of our backpacking trip. The bag must NOT exceed 25lbs. The cost for this is $3.50 per bag, per night. This cost will be incurred by you. Cash is preferred. 

Day 1 - Tuesday, September 10th:

Leave on the Ranger III at 9:00 AM from the National Park Service dock in Houghton, MI (800 E. Lakeshore Dr. Houghton, Michigan). The Ranger III has all the comforts you'll need. They have indoor/outdoor seating along with a small diner down in the galley. As we come into Rock Harbor you will get a glimpse of the Rock Harbor Lighthouse where it's been stationary for almost 100 years. We will arrive at Rock Harbor on Isle Royale at 3:00 PM. This is approximately a six hour boat ride. 

After we unload, you will be required to take a brief Leave No Trace Awareness discussion with a Ranger in order to get your permit. There will be an opportunity to get any last minute provisions needed for resupply before packing up, and hiking 2.7 miles to our first destination. Along the route, we have the opportunity to 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 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 - Wednesday, September 11th:

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 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 sunrises here offer a special impact to start your day, pending weather conditions.

Day 3 - Thursday, September 12th:

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 - Friday, September 13th:

This will be our earliest “wake up time”. Starting at 8:00 AM we'll make our way back to 3 Mile along the Greenstone Ridge Trail for 12.4 miles. This route offers us passing along the highest point on the Island. We will guide you to a special outlook where you can see Canada as well as the entire length of the island. This is where we'll have lunch this day. 

Once we select an available shelter, unpack and elevate our feet after a well deserved break, we'll enjoy one hec of a shin dig back on the dock where dinner will be provided for you! Libations included for those interested in partaking! This is our well deserved reward to enjoy during our last night on the island. 

Day 5 - Saturday, September 14th:

We'll have an early start again this morning in order to get back to Rock Harbor by 8:00 AM. We will only be hiking the 2.7 miles back to the dock to catch the Ranger III. The Ranger III leaves Rock Harbor at 9:00 AM. It is approximately a 6 hour boat ride back to Houghton, MI

Trip is over at this point. However, Saturday night is optional to have a group dinner together as desired. 

This is a suggested list of gear to make your trip successful


*A fitted backpack than can carry 5 days worth of food - 65 liters is a good gauge though you can easily go smaller

*Pack Cover (covers your backpack if it rains)

*Sleeping Bag – at least a 30 degree bag (expect chilly nights)

*Sleeping Pad

TENT is OPTIONAL (we are planning the trip around shelter use)

*Headlamp (extra batteries as needed)

**Hiking Poles are encouraged

*Good Hiking Boots or shoes with good traction 

*Water filtration system (we will be getting our water from Lake Superior) *includes a “dirty” water bag

*2-3 Liter Water Platy 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

*Drinking cup

*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


Base Layer

Long sleeve shirt (merino wool is a good option)

Long underwear

Wool hat

Wool Socks

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)


Base Layer Short sleeve or lightweight long sleeve

Long Pants that can unzip into shorts

Hiking socks

Hat or Bandanna


(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

(1) rain Jacket

(1) hat or bandanna

(1) sandals or lightweight shoes for camp

(1) Fleece and / or lightweight Goose Down Jacket

**Rain pants are optional. However plan in case it downpours and what you will hike in the rain in.


Miscellaneous Gear:

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

Toilet paper

Camera and waterproof camera case (iPhones should be protected incase it rains)

small pad to sit on



If you have any questions e-mail: 


After reserving your spot, we will send you additional documentation that must be filled out before you can go. Our itinerary is available to download now, but waiver forms and other important forms will be e-mailed to you. 


Refund/Deposit Policy's


Scott & Ariane have been assisting in outdoor educational events for over 10 years. As Certified Guides and Leave No Trace Trainers, Organizers and Instructors, we reserve the right to: Create, Invite, and Charge for events that we choose fit. Each Event/Trip/Class will normally have a charge. Each Event/Trip/Class will have it's own REFUND POLICY. It's your responsibility to READ that REFUND POLICY before RSVPing to an Event/Trip/Class.

For most adventure trips we will have a charge. If the Event/Trip/Class is Cancelled for any reason. You will get a REFUND Less Pay Pal Fees. Pay Pal Fees are calculated by Pay Pal and we are NOT RESPONSIBLE for Fees charged by them. If you NO SHOW at the time of the Event/Trip/Class for any reason other than a Medical Condition that you are hospitalized for no refund will be offered.

If you need to cancel a booking or reservation for any Event/Class. We ask that you cancel NO LESS than 24 hours prior to the Event/Class start time. If cancelled prior to 24 hours before the class start time, you will be offered a full refund minus PayPal fees. However, if cancelling the booking or reservation within 24 hours of the scheduled start time we will offer a refund minus PayPal fees and an additional 20% for time and planning incurred.

Adventure Trips Policy: If you need to cancel a booking or reservation for any Adventure Trip. We ask that you cancel NO LESS than 30 days prior to the Trip date. If cancelled prior to 30 days before the trip date, you will be offered a full refund minus PayPal fees. However, if cancelling the booking or reservation within 30 days of the scheduled Trip date, we will offer a refund minus PayPal fees and an additional 20% for time and planning incurred.

Often, we travel to the area the night/week before the event/trip/class starts and there may not be internet or cell service. So please don't wait til the last minute to cancel. 

Installment Payments/Deposits: You may make partial payments to book your trip. A trip deposit to secure a booking is 1/3 rd of the trip cost. 640.00 divided by 3.  Bookings will NOT be secured until the initial deposit is paid. All payments must be made prior to 30 days before the Adventure Trip start date. NO EXEMPTIONS. Deposits and partial payments must be approved first. Please e-mail us at and we will be happy to set up a plan for you. 

Air Travel:

If you are flying into Houghton, MI  the closest Airport is Houghton County Memorial Airport. Hancock Michigan. This is a County Airport and is the home of the Isle Royale Sea Plane shuttle. Hancock is a city in Houghton County, Michigan, United States and is located on Copper Island, which is part of the Keweenaw Peninsula, on the Keweenaw Waterway directly opposite Houghton, Michigan. 

Other options are: Sawyer International Airport in Marquette Michigan. Marquette is a city in the U.S. state of Michigan and the county seat of Marquette County. The population was 21,355 at the 2010 census, making it the largest city of the state's Upper Peninsula.

Rental Cars:

Each airport has it's own rental car services. However, if you are flying into Houghton County Memorial Airport, there are shuttle services available between the Ranger III National Park Service Port and Airport. 


Julies Motor Inn - Nestled quietly off the highway 2 miles SE of downtown Houghton, Julie's Motor Inn provides a comfy, cozy, relaxing stop for your visit to the area. All rooms have small refrigerators, free WIFI, ample parking (many rooms at-door), morning coffee with grab-n-go items, and plenty of smiles to warm your stay. Rooms have been recently renovated with new furnishings - all double rooms having queen beds, an easy chair and desk area. In the summertime take in the garden/picnic area during the day or enjoy a bonfire at night. 

Country Inn & Suites - 919 Razorback Drive Houghton,  MI 49931   Just a few miles away from the National Park Service Port for the Ranger III. Free Hot Breakfast, WiFi, Indoor Pool, Laundry Facilities. 

Super 8 by Wyndham Houghton 1200 E Lakeshore Dr, Houghton, MI    - Within walking distance to the National Park Service Port for the Ranger III. Clean, free WiFi, free parking. Houghton County Memorial Airport is less than 10 miles away.

Quality Inn & Suites 215 Shelden Ave., Houghton, MI, 49931  -  Another option that is within walking distance to the National Park Service Port and the Ranger III. Free WiFi, Smoke Free, Free Breakfast. 

Camping and RV in Houghton:

City Of Houghton RV Park: 1200 Lakeshore Drive Houghton, MI 49931 - The RV Park is located on the shore of the Portage Waterway. The park has 25 sites and is located next to the Kestner Waterfront Park. Historic Downtown Houghton is just a short half mile walk/bike away along the flat, lit waterfront trail. "Park amenities include: paved sites, water and sewer connections, 20-30-50 amp electric service, satellite TV with 16 channels, Wi-Fi; with a covered patio, picnic table, park bench, barbecue grill, and fire ring at each site. We do not accept pop-up campers or tents as there are no bathroom/shower facilities in the park."

Hancock Recreation Area - Beach & Campground 2000 Jasberg Street M203 Hancock, MI 49930 -  Enjoy camping in one of the Upper Peninsula's finest campgrounds. There are 72 campsites to choose from - 58 for recreational vehicles (with electric power) and 14 tent sites. The campsites are situated in a natural rustic setting among a densely wooded stand of conifers and various northern hardwoods and softwoods.
The campground contains restrooms, shower facilities and a laundry. An attendant is on duty from 7am to 9pm daily. Firewood and ice is available for purchase from the attendant.

If  you have any questions about lodging or transportation, please e-mail us at:



Bookings are closed for this event.

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  1. Alice Hineline

    March 25, 2019

    I’m so interested! Where do I sign up?

    • nocmanus

      March 26, 2019

      We are putting some additional docs and other trip info together so we can open it up ASAP. Working on it tonight as a matter of fact. I”ll e-mail you when we open it up for you to book. – Scott

    • nocmanus

      April 10, 2019

      Hey there Alice! Registration opens up tomorrow, 4/10. All details included. Let us know if you have any specific q’s. Seriously, we can help navigate any and all of them. Glad your interested, truly a beautiful and awe inspiring adventure!

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