How to Spend a Weekend in Isle Royale National Park

A massive island situated in Michigan’s Lake Superior, Isle Royale National Park is both an International Biosphere Reserve and a National Wilderness. Green forest and breathtaking coastline characterize this national park, as well as a plethora of hiking trails since the park does not have any roads.

What to Do


As hiking is one of the only ways to get around in the park, you’re sure to be doing a lot of it during your trip! Isle Royale landscape is rugged and wild, making for a unique national park experience. The Greenstone Ridge Trail runs the course of the island, from one end to the other. The most popular areas of the park include Rock Harbor and Windigo, with many hiking trails cutting through the backcountry as well. 

Wildlife Viewing

As there are strict wilderness preservation rules and no roads anywhere in the park, the wildlife viewing at Isle Royale is fantastic. Here you will experience untouched wilderness, so keep your eyes peeled for foxes, moose, loons, wolves, birds, and more.

Northern Lights

An utterly remote wilderness, Isle Royale lends itself especially well to stargazing, and the lack of light pollution allows for frequent viewing of the aurora borealis, or the Northern Lights. Head to Isle Royale from late spring to early September for your best chance of seeing this unique natural phenomenon. 


Fishing is an incredibly popular activity at Isle Royale National Park, but be sure to get a permit at one of the port’s ranger stations before heading out.


Another of your limited options for getting around Isle Royale is by canoe. Canoes are available for rent and there are plenty of areas in and around the park to explore by water. This is a great and peaceful way to experience the park from a different perspective.

Where to Stay

The only option for lodging within Isle Royale National Park is Rock Harbor Lodge. However, the far more popular option is camping. The park has a wide variety of campsites and all of them are completely free. 

How to Get There

You have several options for how to get to Isle Royale National Park. If you plan to fly, the closest airport to the park is Thunder Bay International Airport in Ontario, Canada. From there, you will need to take a ferry to enter the park. Most visitors to Isle Royale arrive by ferry, and it’s important to make your ferry reservations well in advance as they do tend to fill up. Arriving by floatplane is also an option, though it’s much more expensive than taking the ferry but is quicker and offers phenomenal aerial views.

When to Go 

July and August are the best and most popular times to visit Isle Royale. Temperatures in the park remain mild to cold year round, and at night can dip below freezing. This is the only US national park that completely closes during winter, which lasts from November through mid-April. The park offers limited access before Memorial Day and after Labor Day, so be wary of the date when making your travel plans.

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