How to Plan a Day Trip to Michigan’s Remote Isle Royale National Park

HOUGHTON, MICH. — Surrounded by Lake Superior about 55 miles from the tip of Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula, Isle Royale National Park is so rugged and remote that most experts recommend travelers plan to spend several days or a whole week there to fully enjoy the island experience.

But what if you only have one day?

That’s a common question from many prospective Isle Royale visitors, say the folks at Visit Keweenaw, which is what prompted the regional travel and tourism organization to recently publish a robust day trip guide to the island archipelago.

One of the least-visited properties in the entire National Park Service, Isle Royale is home to a diverse and unique array of wildlife and plants, making it a paradise for nature lovers and outdoor adventure seekers. free. While hikers need to be realistic about what they can pack into their time on the island, Visit Keweenaw says there are still ways to enjoy a single day on Isle Royale.

Read on for a quick overview of planning a day trip to Isle Royale National Park:

Get there: There are two options for traveling to the island: Via the Isle Royale Seaplane (30-45 minutes each way) or the Isle Royale Queen IV ferry (a little over 3 hours each way). A day trip by seaplane gives you a maximum of seven hours to explore, while the ferry leaves you with three hours, not much time, but enough for an adventure.

Don’t skip the visitor center: Whether you arrive at the island’s Windigo or Rock Harbor visitor center (depending on your transportation to the island), be sure to stop: not only is this where you’ll pay park entrance fees, but you can also pick up maps supplies and brochures. This is a great opportunity to ask the park rangers for tips or pointers on how to make the most of your short time on the island.

RELATED: Heading to Michigan’s remote Isle Royale? Here are 12 tips from the pros.

Hiking: According to the experts at Visit Keweenaw, you’ll want to choose your hikes based on your transportation to the island. You’ll also want to have a realistic idea of ​​your walking pace and abilities so that trips don’t take longer than anticipated. Suggestions for seaplane visitors range from 1.2 miles Windigo Nature Trail at six miles Minong Ridge Lookout, which offers just a taste of the island’s rugged 28-mile Minong Ridge Trail. Shuttle travelers can try the 4.4 mile figure-of-eight stoll path to scenic Scoville Point, or the relatively easy 3.8-mile route Suzy’s Cave Hike to see a sea arch carved approximately 4,000 years ago.

Paddling: Enjoy a day soaking up the scenery and wildlife by renting a kayak or canoe; just keep time and distance in mind so you don’t miss your flight or ferry ride back to the mainland. Ferry users can rent from Rock Harbor Marina to enjoy a few hours paddling in the Rock Harbor area; seaplane visitors may consider paddling sheltered tobin harbor either Washington Creek.

RELATED: Michigan’s Isle Royale Named Among the Least Visited National Parks in the US

Fishing: Home to over 40 documented species of fish, including whitefish, walleye, perch, and pike, Isle Royale is a great spot for angling. Visit Keweenaw suggests bringing light fishing gear and fishing off a dock or chartered boat.

Relaxing: Don’t feel like you have to maximize every minute during your day trip; enjoy a picnic, nap in a folding hammock, or enjoy a meal or drink in the historic Rock Harbor Lodge’s Greenstone Grill.

For more day trip ideas, including tips for the best possible day trip experience and how to recreate responsibly in Isle Royale National Park, check out the complete guide at


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