Backpacking FAQ


Campgrounds & Trails

How do I reserve campgrounds?

  • 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.

Are all of the trails and campgrounds open?

Check current conditions for trail and campground updates. View the campground table for a list of campgounds and their amenities.

Are there stay limits for any campgrounds?

Yes. Stay limits are in effect from June 1 – Labor Day for all campgrounds, except Rock Harbor, Three Mile, Lane Cove, and Washington Creek Campgrounds, which are in effect through September 17. View the campground table for a list of campgrounds and their specific consecutive night stay limits.

Will trails and campgrounds be cleared and maintained?

Yes. Isle Royale trails commonly have downed trees and heavy undergrowth. Wayfinding may be challenging and travel times increased in these areas. Backpackers need to be self-sufficient. When camping, be aware of hazard trees in the campgrounds and select sites accordingly. Check current conditions for trail and campground updates.

Will the outhouses be stocked?

No, outhouses will not be stocked with toilet paper. Bring your own toilet paper. Use outhouses so human waste can be concentrated. Bring hand sanitizer and/or soap and to ensure good backcountry hygiene.

Is cross-country (off-trail) camping allowed?

Yes, cross-country camping is allowed for parties of 1-6 people. Make sure to obtain a cross-country permit when you are issued your backcountry permit.

Can I day hike off-trail?



What if campgrounds are full? Where should I stay?

These are the guidelines for how to select a small-party campsite for the 2023 season:

  1. At a campground, camp at a designated tent site or occupy a shelter.

  2. When all sites are occupied, use the identified overflow group campsite (if present).

  3. When all sites are occupied, ask to share a tent site.

  4. When all sites are occupied and there are no viable tent sites to share, ask to pitch your tent or hammock outside a shelter.

  5. When options 1-4 are full, camp outside of campground per cross-country camping regulations and zone map.


Fees & Permits

Do I need a camping permit? How do I obtain one?

Yes, if you are staying overnight you need an overnight permit. Find out more information on our permits page

Do I have to pay entrance fees?

Yes, please pay your entrance fee or purchase a pass in advance of your trip at, search Isle Royale.


Visitor Centers & Facilities

Will visitor centers be open in 2023?

Yes, all visitors centers will be open in 2023. At this time, masks are not required in Isle Royale buildings or aboard Ranger III per the low transmission rate of COVID-19. If transmission rate increases to high, masks will be required.

Will you sell maps and books at the visitor centers?

Yes, Isle Royale and Keweenaw Parks Association will have a selection of items for sale at all 3 visitor centers, including maps.

What dates will the restrooms be open at Windigo and Rock Harbor?

Restroom facilities in Rock Harbor open May 26, 2023. Restroom facilities in Windigo open June 6, 2023. Before these dates, visitors should use outhouses and bring toilet paper.

Will there be potable water at Rock Harbor and/or Windigo?

Potable at Rock Harbor and Windigo typically becomes available at the end of May, and closes in mid-September. Visitors before and after these dates need to be prepared to treat their water or bring it from the mainland.

Will showers & laundry be open?

Rock Harbor showers and laundry open May 26, 2023. Windigo showers and laundry open June 6, 2023.

Will storage be available for food and gear on the island?

Yes, gear storage will be available will be available from May 26 – September 11, 2023 at Rock Harbor, and from June 6 – September 9, 2023 at Windigo for a fee. No food storage is available. Contact Isle Royale Resorts (Rock Harbor Lodge).

Will trash cans or dumpsters be available on the island?

Yes, trash cans and dumpsters will be available at Rock Harbor and Windigo.


Group Camping

Are groups allowed?

Yes, groups of 7 or more, no more than 10 people traveling together in the same party, will be allowed per standard group camping regulations. Groups will need to make a group camping request in advance. Contact the Houghton visitor center at 906-482-0984 or e-mail us with questions.


Food Storage

How do I properly store my food while backpacking, camping, hiking, or boating on Isle Royale?

Check out the proper food storage page for information on best practices.


Seaplane and Stove Fuel

I am coming on the seaplane and can’t carry stove fuel. Will there be fuel available on the island? If so, what kind?

Yes, check out our campstove fuel page. Fuel will be available on the island at Rock Harbor and Windigo. Fuel may be purchased through the Rock Harbor Lodge at the Windigo Store and Rock Harbor Trading Post. Early and late season seaplane passengers will coordinate with the seaplane for stove fuel availabilty.

Last updated: June 22, 2023

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

800 East Lakeshore Drive
Houghton, MI 49931


906 482-0984

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