Previous: Three Mile to Rock Harbor
We woke up on our final morning on Isle Royale around 7, and I was ready to get onto the boat. The Ranger III had left Rock Harbor in the afternoon for park headquarters at Mott Island while we were at Rock Harbor, so it wasn’t even there when we work up, but we were ready to go home!
We had a quick breakfast of Clif bars and got down to Rock Harbor by 8 AM.
It was definitely bittersweet when the Ranger III came to pick us up. On one hand, it’s nice to get back to the real world, with a real bed and pillow and shower. On the other, it was hard to leave this amazing place feeling like we had so much left to explore. We overheard a group saying they’d seen a moose the day before in the middle of the trail to our campsite, which was a little disheartening to have missed, but even without moose, our trip was really the best backpacking trip I’ve been on so far.
We had great weather, saw beautiful landscapes, and were deep into the wilderness of some of the most northern lands easily accessible to those of us in the lower 48. We hopped on the boat at 9 AM, greeted by the rangers who had been on the Ranger III on the way out, and left the wilderness.
On our way back to the mainland, we passed by some of the islands we’d viewed days before and the Rock Harbor lighthouse. It was really cool to pass by the places we’d hiked days before.
Isle Royale was a great place to be for six nights in the wild. We were lucky to have good weather, and we only had really bad bugs for two days during our June 12th through 17th, 2015 trip. I would go back in a heartbeat (even with less than ideal conditions). I would really like to see a moose! I do have some advice for those who want to backpack Isle Royale:
- Don’t trust topo lines. Isle Royale is fairly strenuous, even on the Rock Harbor Trail, which looks very flat on a map.
- If you’re hiking early in the season, push on your first day. In June, you have plenty of light to make it to Lane Cove or Daisy Farm on your first day. I wish we would have gotten to McCargoe Cove, which would have been easy if we’d been at Daisy Farm on night one.
- Talk with other people. We really enjoyed chatting with Megan, Nicole, and Chelsea throughout our trip, but we also recognized several other groups either while we were on Isle Royale or were on the boat ride back. Take the time to say “hi” to folks and you won’t regret it.
- Write in a journal. I found it both a nice bookend to my day day as well as relaxing to write my thoughts down as the sun set.
- Get to Isle Royale. Yes, it’s hard to get to. No, it isn’t the sexiest park in the National Parks System’s inventory. But get out there. I guarantee you won’t regret spending time out there.
- Park Website
- Wikitravel page – the only place I found in my research that had descriptions of each camp site. This site is great and has lots of details!
- Isle Royale forums – somewhat up to date information about bug and trail conditions and advice from people who have been to Isle Royale many times over the years.
- Weather – we used the Isle Royale Recreational Weather Report, which is what NPS posts outside of ranger stations.
- Getting there – between $65 and $320 round trip depending upon where you depart and by which method (seaplane or ferry)
- Usage fee – $4 per person per day, including the day you arrive and leave
- I also suggest bringing $50 to $100 in cash per person if you are going to spend any time in Rock Harbor. The Greenstone Grill accepts credit cards, but it seems like the island’s economy is cash based. If you want to take any of the boat tours, definitely bring cash. Andrew and I brought $100 between the two of us and came home with $38.