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Isle Royale Hiking:
Best Tips

by Diane Spicer

Isle Royale hiking isn't for everyone.

  • Just those who want to match wits with Mother Nature.
  • And see moose, and maybe hear the howling of wolves!

I say this having fallen in love with this wild little island (which is also a National Park) in the icy waters of Lake Superior.

And although I haven't been back to the island since 1978, I'm still in love with the wind, waves and wildlife to be found there.

It tested my hiking mettle and taught me many things about being a strong female hiker.

Why hike on Isle Royale?

The history of this chunk of extremely old rock (billions of years!) is the usual sad tale of humans cutting the logs, stripping the metals, setting fires and causing the usual mayhem.

You can still see the remnants of logging camps and mining operations, if you know where to look during your Isle Royale hiking trip.

But that's not the reason to go there.

You want to hear wolves howl in the silence of the starry night.

You want the thrill of encountering a moose on the trail.

A fox might nibble your boot laces when you walk away from your gear.

And you might get more than you bargained for, in terms of weather: wind, thunderstorms, icy mists...

Ah, you'll fall hard for this feisty, lovely island.

Rushing water in a mountain streamLots of water and trees to explore during Isle Royale hiking

But she plays very hard to get.

For one thing, you can only visit her for a few brief months in the summer.

And you'll have to fly on a tiny plane, or board a boat and hunker down for many hours, to cover the watery miles she keeps between herself and civilization.

  • Ontario, Minnesota, and Michigan offer transportation options.
  • I rode the Ranger, from Houghton, Michigan, on my trips to the island.

The people who show up on the island really want to be there!

Backpackers like myself have an ongoing love affair with the trails and trees and swamps and bogs (and bugs, to be fair).

Wildflowers, hillsides of gorgeous shrubs and trees, butterflies..... on a sunny warm day.

Otherwise, pull out the rain gear and slog through the mud, drip drip drippy trees, and wet brush.

No matter, she's still gorgeous.

Researching your Isle Royale
hiking trip

I have two suggestions for you, if you have any inclination to explore this seldom visited but fabulous island.

To get a good sense of what day to day hiking is like on the island, read this website: http://www.isleroyale.info

And for a dip into history, read this book published by the Isle Royale Natural History Association, located in Houghton, Michigan (where you can board the Ranger, your trusty big water crossing boat.

Borealis: An Isle Royale Potpourri

Logistics planning to cover all your bases (especially your mode of transportation to the island) can begin here.

This narrow little spine of an ancient mountain range is not only historical, but rocky and wild - just the way hiking should be!

Isle Royale will steal your heart.

Trust me. Prepare to leave a little piece of yourself resting in the solitude of Isle Royale, if you dare to set foot on her rocky shores.

(Your blood donations to the local mosquito tribes aside.)

Isle Royale hiking too remote for you?
Enjoy her wonders via this book:

Island Life: An Isle Royale Nature Guide

Serious about heading out into the shining big sea waters?

Reading trip reports is always a great idea, regardless of where your hiking destination lies.

Best wishes for a wonderful Isle Royale adventure!

Mementos of the island

Once you've hiked this lovely island (or know someone who has), you'll want to remember each and every day of your hiking adventure.

Here's what I recommend: a puzzle of the official Isle Royale map!

You can mentally re-hike the trails as you put it together, sipping a steaming mug of hot chocolate and planning your return trip.

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Isle Royale Hiking

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