Backpacking & Camping

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[MUSIC PLAYING] Hey, backpackers. Isle Royale's wilderness attracts thousands of visitors each year. So how you treat the park when you visit matters. Isle Royale can stay wild. Here's how you can help.

Know before you go. Isle Royale is a remote island and self-reliance is a must. Services are limited. So make sure to bring everything you'll need, including a Michigan fishing license if you plan on fishing in Lake Superior. When you're in the backcountry, it will be necessary to collect, filter, and chemically treat your own drinking water.

Play it safe. Stay on the trail but watch your footing. Isle Royale trails are rugged, uneven, and sometimes obstructed. Accidents can happen. Wear reliable footwear. And consider bringing hiking poles. Stop the transfer of invasive species by cleaning boots and gear before your arrival and in between uses, transitioning from Lake Superior to interior waters.

Protect your park. One way to do this is to camp in designated campgrounds. Each campground has at least one outhouse. Use them. If nature calls while you're on the trail, move off and dig a cat hole. Only have fires in designated metal rings or standing grills. Remember, everything on Isle Royale is protected, so leave it where you found it. And pack out all trash

Share the space. Consider how your actions may affect the wilderness experience of others. Your actions may also affect wildlife. Never approach, feed, touch, or disturb.

Visit the park website for trip planning guidance and current conditions prior to your trip. Thank you for doing your part to help Isle Royale stay wild.


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2 minutes, 48 seconds

Help Isle Royale stay wild by following these best practices for your wilderness backpacking experience.

Moskey Basin shelter
Moskey Basin shelter


Camping Overview

Isle Royale has 36 campgrounds located across the island. Campsites are accessible only by foot or watercraft. All campgrounds offer tent sites, a water source, and outhouses. Some campgrounds on Lake Superior offer shelters and picnic tables. For boaters and parties of six or fewer, overnight permits are free.

  • For parties of six or fewer, all campgrounds are first-come first-served, you cannot reserve campgrounds.
  • For parties of seven or more you need to make group reservations.
  • Backpackers hike from one campground to another, usually traveling six to eight miles per day.
  • Several campgrounds on the Lake Superior shoreline have docks for power boaters and sail boaters.
  • Canoes and kayak campgrounds, located inland, are only accessible by non-motorized boats.
  • For those looking for a more rugged and adventurous experience, cross-country camping is allowed with an additional permit addendum.
  • Consecutive night stay limits are in effect from June 1 through Labor Day. Rock Harbor, Three Mile, Lane Cove, and Washington Creek extend through September 17. See specific stay limits for each campground. They are also listed in the current park newspaper.

Camping Permits

Permits are required, regardless of group size or method of travel, for all overnight stays at campgrounds, cross country sites, docks, or at anchor. Permits are free for parties of six or fewer or boaters.

  • For a party of six or fewer (small-party), free permits are obtained when you arrive in Rock Harbor, Windigo, or aboard Ranger III. When you arrive at a campground for the evening, campsites are selected on a first-come, first-served basis.Your permit does not reserve campgrounds. There are no limits on the number of permits issued.
    • Parties with separate overnight permits, but sharing the same affiliation (camp, school, church, scout group, organization, family, friends, etc. or any combination thereof) may not travel or camp within one half (0.5) mile of each other.
  • For a party of seven or more (group camping), groups must have advance reservations. There is a $25 per permit fee.
  • Boaters staying overnight in the park also need free permits.

Permits should be displayed on a backpack when hiking and on a tent or shelter when at camp. Please follow camping regulations during your visit.


Camping Fees?

For boaters or parties of six or fewer, there is no additional fee to camp overnight in the park. You do need the overnight camping permit discussed above. You are still required to pay park entrance fees, which are seperate from camping.

For parties of seven or more (group camping), there is a $25 per permit fee. Advanced reservations are required.


Campgrounds with Group Sites

Campgrounds: By Trail

Campgrounds: By Water

Campgrounds: Inland Lake Paddling


Trip Planning Resources

  • Three people with backpacks hike along a trail in a forest.
    Backpacking Trips

    Discover backpacking routes at Isle Royale.

  • A group of three adults and one child poses for a photo with their backpacking packs on.
    Backpacker Orientation

    Help Isle Royale Stay Wild by following these best practices for your wilderness backpacking experience.

  • A group of campers backpacks along Rock Harbor Channel.
    Group Camping

    Groups of 7 or more people need advance reservations to camp at Isle Royale National Park.

  • Human pours hot water from a Jet Boil stove into a Ramen Noodles container.
    Fuels & Stoves

    Isle Royale requires certain fuels for boating and cooking in the wilderness.

  • A camper holds a breakfast of hashbrowns and ham up to a lakeside background.
    Food Storage

    Learn how to properly store your food during your overnight or daytrip visit to Isle Royale.

  • Person sits on lakeshore filtering water.
    Drinking Water

    Thirsty in the backcountry? Know your drinking water options before island arrival.

  • An adult sits on a dock with a child wearing a bug net.
    Biting Insects

    Learn about what bothersome bugs you may encounter during your trip.

  • A person sits on a wooden plank bridge surrounded by trees on Isle Royale.
    Camping FAQs

    Find out all the need-to-know information that others have asked before.

  • A person hikes in tall grass with a backpack on Isle Royale.
    Packing Guide

    Plan ahead for your backpacking trip by reviewing suggested gear and how to pack it.

Last updated: June 22, 2023

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800 East Lakeshore Drive
Houghton, MI 49931


906 482-0984

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