Isle Royale June 2015 – Introduction & Planning

Isle Royale National Park is the least visited, but most re-visited, national park in the lower 48.  It covers an entire 200 square mile island in Lake Superior with a very unique ecosystem; at 13 miles from the nearest landmass (Canada), mammals on the island are limited to just twenty species.  In addition to foxes, rabbits, and squirrels, there is a very well studied wolf and moose population on Isle Royale.  Unfortunately, because of a lack of genetic diversity and disease, the wolf population is down to just three wolves from its all time high of 50, but the moose are thriving right now because of a lack of predation.


When Andrew and I started backpacking, Isle Royale came up as a really interesting trip plan – it’s quiet, secluded, and a relatively close to Madison.  You can only get to the park easily between May and Septmeber, and it is one of very few national parks that actually closes.  We started planning out trip about six months in advance (hey, I’m a planner!) and chose to go early in the season.  We hoped we might miss some of the bugs, as they are the worst from late June through July, and had planned on going to Yellowstone later in the season and wanted to do a shakedown trip before then.  Unfortunately, the Yellowstone trip had to get cut with the number of friends we have getting married around the country in the next six months, so five nights at Isle Royale is our big trip for the year.

To get to the island, you have a few options: fly on a seaplane, buy a ticket for a boat, or take your private boat to the island.  We chose to take the Ranger III, which is actually owned by the National Parks Service, from Hougton, Michigan.  On Thursday, June 11, we took off from Madison and drove the 5 1/2 hours to get to the very northern part of the UP.  We stayed at the Country Inn & Suites in Houghton, MI the night before our departure, got up really early, and hopped on the Ranger III on Friday, June 12.

When planning our trip, I found a few blogs in particular to be very useful, Black Coffee at Sunrise and Road Trip The World, along with the Isle Royale Forums.  Everyone said that Isle Royale would be an amazing experience and that pictures don’t do it justice – we couldn’t wait to get on the trails!  Our tentative, pre-trip plan was to hike 2.7 miles to the aptly named 3 Mile campground on day 1, 8.25 miles to Moskey Basin on day 2 (11 mies total), 8 miles to McCargoe Cove on day 3 (19 miles total), 7.75 miles to Daisy Farm via the Greenstone Trail on day 4 (26.75 miles total) and 8.5 miles back to Rock Harbor on Day 5 via the Greenstone Trail (33.25 miles total).

Overall, our trip was great.  We made some changes to our itinerary, which wound up a littler shorter mileage wise:

  • Day 1 – Rock Harbor to Three Mile (2.7 miles)
  • Day 2 – Three Mile to Moskey Basin (8.3 miles, 11 total)
  • Day 3 – Moskey Basin to Daisy Farm (4.3 miles, 15.3 total)
  • Day 4 – Daisy Farm to Three Mile via Greenstone (7 miles, 22.3 total)
  • Day 5 – Three Mile to Rock Harbor and Stoll Trail (6.9 miles, 29.2 total)

For all you gear nerds out there, we carried:

Name Dawn Andrew
Pack Osprey Aura 50 Osprey Atmos 65 AG
Sleeping Bag Mountain Hardware Lamina 32 Lafuma Warm n Light
Sleeping Pad Big Agnes Oak Street Big Agnes Air Core Mummy
Tent (shared) REI Quarter Dome 3 + footprint
Stove MSR Whisperlite International (shared)
Cookset GSI Bugaboo Backpacker + nForm Kitchen (shared)
Water Filter (shared)  Platypus Gravity Works 2 L
Water Storage Platypus 2L Hoser+ 1 L Nalgene Platypus 2L Hoser + 1.5 L Nalgene
Map (shared) Trails Illustrated + compass
Camera GoPro Hero 4 Silver (shared)
Camera Accessories 4 extra batteries + tripod + clip mount (shared)
Headlamp Black Diamond Older Headlamp
Down Coat Adidas REI Co-op
Camp Shoes Teva Chacos
First Aid Kit Homemade (shared)
Head Net Sea to Summit Sea to Summit
Rain Gear Marmot Minimalist Rain Jacket Columbia Rain Jacket
Trekking Poles REI Carbon Power Lock N/A
Bug Spray (shared) 100% Deet
Toilitries (shared) Toothbrushes deoderant contacts etc
Sunglasses Prescription Sport
Bathroom (shared) TP & Trowel
Entertainment Kindle Keyboard + deck of cards + notebook Kindle Keyboard + Antidote board game
Fuel 1 20 oz container white gas 1 20 oz container white gas
Food Split (most to Andrew) Split

Here’s a few pictures from our time on the trails:




Over the next week, I’ll be adding in reports from each day on Isle Royale.

Continue to Day 1

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3 thoughts on “Isle Royale June 2015 – Introduction & Planning

  1. Hi dawn! I’m planning to thru hike the JMT in august/september as well! Found your blog extremely helpful. Hope to see you out there!

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