Isle Royale trip

So, traditionally in summer I do Tour da U.P., which is a 5 day bicycle tour in Michigan’s UP. It was understandably cancelled in 2020 and is cancelled again in 2021 (something about campground construction – this is in August I would hope COVID will be under control by then)
Anyhow, the 2020 trip was in the Keweenaw and I was looking for things to do (well this year before it was cancelled) (note that I have been on this route twice before) and I looked in to Isle Royale. Basically it doesn’t make sense for how long we would be in Copper Harbor, but I was thinking a separate trip might make sense.

There have been other threads that have mentioned IR, but they are pretty old (they say there is nothing there, where there is a small store in Windigo, and a restaurant and lodge in Rick Harbor)
I would be backpack camping – probably ~3 nights or so. Leaning towards Windigo (as the boat ride from Grand Portage is shorter plus as I said I’ve been the Keweenaw before) Initially I was thinking early in the season (before bugs), but things don’t look to open until the 23rd (or the 15th if you want even less service) so now I’m thinking post labor Day

Some comments say IR isn’t much different than the rest of the UP, but I’m still interested. Note that I may do my own tour da U.P. (thinking Munising area and biking some of Pictured Rocks – though I’ve done that before).Last year I camped in northern WI and biked to the UP. This would be early August, so IR in a month’s time seems OK. (I’m still contemplating a pre Memorial Day camp – not sure where. This would be a car camp with some biking and/or kayaking)

Any ideas appreciated

I love the U.P. In the ancient B.C. days (Before Children) I used to camp in the U.P. every summer for years-- I’ve been all over the U.P. My desktop computer wallpaper right now is a pic I took of kayakers under a giant arch at pictured rocks when I took my wife and kids on a trip to the Munising area.

That said, when you say “Any ideas appreciated”, I’m not sure what you’re asking for exactly-- it sounds like you have plenty of ideas of your own. I’ve never been to Isle Royale myself but a good friend of mine did a week long backpacking trip across the island with his wife years ago, so if you have any specific questions about Isle Royale (like I said it was years ago, maybe 15-20, but I imagine not much has changed) let me know and I’ll ask him.

Guess I’m looking for recommendations – favorite campsites or routes.
Also looking for “its worth it” opinions – since it is non trivial to get there.


OK, I’ll ask him about his experience and his recommendations if he was to do it again. He’s talked about it in detail in the past; but it’s been awhile so I only remember certain details, like one morning he woke up before his wife and took a short walk down a side trail, turned a corner and came face to face with a moose. :astonished:

Opinions on timing also. Given COVID I’m guessing tails are going to be in extra bad shape early. The only thing that causes me to pause on a September trip is algae blooms are more likely.


OK, obviously he won’t have up to date info like that but he’s good at knowing what are good and bad times of year to go in general. For instance I know, and I’m sure you do too, to avoid black fly season like the plague. Not sure what you mean by algae blooms being a problem in September, but in general I’ve found September to be a really good time of year to camp in the U.P.-- still not too cold but the bugs are not nearly as bad.

In the meantime until I get an answer from him, if you decide not to do the Isle Royale trip, ever been to Porcupine Mountains State Park? I’ve camped there 3 or 4 times and it’s beautiful up there. Got a great pic of Lake of the Clouds from the Escarpment Trail I took and had enlarged and framed.

If you want to rough it but not in a tent, you can reserve cabins that you can only get to by hiking to them. Near a cabin at Mirror Lake I had a close up bear encounter-- he walked right up to my friend and me where we had stopped next to the lake for lunch. Thought he was looking for food but I dropped a bag of beef jerky while we were backing up to the edge of the lake and he walked right past the jerky. Got within a few feet of us, seeming like a big friendly curious dog, before he turned and walked away.

I’ve been to the Porkies twice (as part of Tour da U.P.) – camped in the developed area. I did do a day hike from the observation tower back to Union Bay (passing the cabins on Mirror Lake and Lake of the Clouds)


I’m actually not familiar with the “Tour da U.P.” bicycle tour-- that sounds like something I would have really enjoyed back in the day. Now I’m a little too old, out of shape and time-deprived for something like that.

Maybe Madeline Island? I actually have a site reserved at Big Bay State Park in early June. Pre-Memorial Day, I would bet there are still sites available, especially during the week.

Speaking of islands, North and South Manitou islands in Lake Michigan are nice-- my wife and I took a day tour of South Manitou once, and my friend did a backpacking trip of North Manitou and enjoyed it (yes, same friend who backpacked Isle Royale). They have the advantage of having a wilderness feel without as long of a drive as the U.P., depending on where you’re coming from of course (I come from SE lower Michigan).

I’m in SE Minnesota, so the UP is closer than the LP (drive-wise)
Houghton is ~1 hr closer to me than Grand Portage, MN. (though as I mentioned the boat ride is shorter)