FAQs

We answer thousands of questions every year. Here are a few that people ask us most often.

Quick Links

Our schedule and fares

Our boarding information

Isle Royale’s Annual Newspaper

Captain Ben’s Trail Guides in text form -- at the bottom of this page.

How much does it cost to get there?

We have off-peak and peak season rates. We also charge for parking your car with us. And there is an NPS user fee that you pay online before you go or the rangers collect at Rock Harbor. There is no additional fee for camping at Isle Royale. (See Schedule and Fares page for information about all fares and fees.)

Are reservations needed?

They are HIGHLY recommended. We will always take you at the last minute if we have space, but the boat does fill on many days every summer.

Do I need a round-trip reservation?

In almost all cases, yes. Make a reservation for going and returning on specific dates, but we will take you back on any day we have space.

How soon do I need to make reservations?

We can make no promises. Some sailing dates fill up unexpectedly early in the spring, and we can’t add trips to bring more people to the island on those dates. That said, 1 month ahead is generally good for the off-peak season, while 2 months (and even sooner) are generally good for the peak season (our peak season is 7/1 - Labor Day, 9/2).

Do you offer any discounts?

Because the National Park Service limits our schedule, we offer no senior, military, or other discounts besides the lower fares in the off-peak season (see the Schedule & Fares page; peak season is 7/1 - Labor Day, 9/2).

What if the weather is bad and the boat can't make the trip?

The awe-inspiring crossing of Lake Superior is part of any Isle Royale adventure. We very seldom CANCEL trips in the summer because of storms or wind, but it does happen. Once or twice a summer we DELAY trips in severe conditions, especially in late summer and September. Delays commonly last 4-8 hours. Sometimes we make two crossings in a day to catch up. Crossings are delayed until weather permits a safe crossing. Safety always comes first.

Is the Queen IV safe?

Yes. It is a 100-foot long, 85-passenger vessel fully inspected and certified by the US Coast Guard. Our service is also regularly reviewed by the National Park Service. Our record is exemplary. We have never had a major injury on board one of our vessels in our 47 years of service on Lake Superior. We will get you to Isle Royale ship-shape.

Is there a play to stay on Isle Royale?

One, the Rock Harbor Lodge, right next door to the pier the Queen IV docks at. It’s not cheap (and neither is our boat), but it’s a wonderful place to stay. It has motel-style rooms and large (six-person) duplex cottages, all set in spectacular locations. The lodge runs the Lighthouse Dining Room, the Greenstone Grill, and offers other activities and services. We have stayed with the great folks at the lodge many times. They offer boat-lodging packages. Their web site is www.rockharborlodge.com .

Luggage?

I don’t know why we get this question so often, but let me state it clearly: you may bring up to 70lbs per person in ANY form: cooler, paper bag, loose items, ANY FORM! Let me say it again because people ask so often we take COOLERS of any size. :-)

Can I take a trip just for the day?

Yes -- and many people do. You have 7.5 hours on the water and about 3 hours at Isle Royale. Adverse weather can cause longer crossings. On most days, you have 2 hours, more or less, of actual hiking time after orientation with the park. You can take a long hike of up to 4 miles or a short hike and have lunch at Rock Harbor Lodge. Or you can fish or explore or relax and enjoy the great views along Rock and Tobin Harbors.

See Capt. Ben’s Guide to Day Trips (and other guides) at the bottom of this page.

How long does the trip take?

It takes a little over 3.5 hours one way. We leave Copper Harbor at 8:00 a.m. EDT (Eastern Daylight Time), and depart Rock Harbor on Isle Royale at 2:45 p.m. We make one round trip most days in summer. We sail only to and from Rock Harbor. See the Schedule and Fares page.

Are there day-trip discounts?

In May, June, and September we offer some discounts. Call for the latest day-trip deals, which are NOT available online. In July and August through to Labor Day, because we cannot add more trips to accommodate demand, day trips are full fare, and reservations may be made online.

What’s the best time of summer to go?

May is very cool, but amazingly quiet. June is cool and beautiful, the Isle Royale springtime, with millions of wildflowers. July is warm and calm and sunny, a great time for kayaking, canoeing, and fishing. August is warmer and busier, the peak of visitation at the island. September varies a lot, from warm to stormy to cold and rainy. Fall colors are NOT exceptionally beautiful on northeast Isle Royale (to where we sail), although September is a fine time to go for many other reasons.

Does the island take camping reservations?

No. You fill out a tentative hiking itinerary at the Rock Harbor Ranger Station when you arrive (no additional cost). The rangers help you plan a suitable route from camp to camp. Many suggested itineraries are in Capt Ben’s Hiking Guide below.

When are the bugs the least bothersome?

Bugs are most active in July and decrease through August into September. But each summer is different. We will give you the latest update on bugs, but be prepared: Isle Royale is a northwoods wilderness, and with preparation bugs don’t have to spoil your time at the island. We advise people not to make plans based on bugs.

Cross-island hike: Can I hike to the other end of the island and take a boat back to Rock Harbor?

Yes. The Voyageur II, of Grand Portage, MN, circumnavigates the island 3 times a week in summer. The Queen’s and Voyageur’s schedules do not easily coordinate, and there is extra cost. Captain Ben Kilpela, one of the owners of the Queen IV, does not recommend a hike of this kind on a first trip to the island. He recommends that you take a loop route on the northeast end on your first visit and save the big trip to Windigo on the Greenstone Ridge for your second visit. His pamphlet, “Exploring Northeast Isle Royale,” available at www.lulu.com or through our office by phone order, helps you plan hiking or boating loop routes on NE Isle Royale.

Will I see moose? How about wolves?

In 2019, moose were up again in numbers while wolves increased to a half dozen because the NPS transplanted several to renew the wolf population. To see moose, be up after sunset and before sunrise -- and be quiet while out and about -- to have the best chance. They are abundant in the Rock Harbor area, the port the Queen arrives at. Wolves are very seldom or heard or seen by anyone except a lucky few in the deep backcountry.

Do you serve food during the trip?

Yes. But there is also a nice coffee shop with bakery next door to our dock. It’s open at 7:00am on mornings we sail. The Pines restaurant, just a few blocks away and offering good food, open for breakfast at 6:30am. On board, we have good coffee, a variety of sodas, juice, water, packaged bakery, candy, snacks, and more.

Is it cold on the Island?

It's about the same as the Upper Peninsula and Copper Harbor, but usually 5-15 degrees cooler along the Superior shoreline. Averages:

May - June -- night: high 40s -- day: mid-60s

July - August -- night: mid 50s -- day: mid 70s

Sept -- night: high 30s to low 50s -- day: low 50s to mid 60s

Check with a search engine for more detail. Air temperatures on Lake Superior can be quite cool even late in July; so warm clothing (at least jackets and sweatshirts) is strongly encouraged for the 55-mile crossing. Shorts and sandals are not advised for the crossing. If you have any doubt, ask the crew before departure.On the other hand, it can be surprisingly hot on the ridges in midsummer. Temps in the mid-80s are not unusual there, and often they reach the mid-90s.

Northern Lights?

People ask about them all the time. They come and go unrelated to anything on Earth except clouds. Solar flares cause them. Earth’s magnetic field causes their radiation to glow. Numerous web sites offer lights forecasts. Use a search engine to find them.

Where can I leave my car?

Parking is available across the street from our dock. There is a modest charge for cars: $10 per night to a maximum of $30 (the 4th night and thereafter are free). Trailers and RVs have higher rates (see Schedule and Fares page). You may pay by cash at the lot. No reservations for car parking for passengers are needed. We begin parking cars at 7:00 am each crossing day. An attendant will be present to show you where to park. Do not park yourself.

How much luggage can I take?

70 pounds of luggage or gear is included free with each reservation. If you expect to transport excess baggage, please inform us. We charge $5 for each additional 10 pounds. Save weight by not carrying water in water bottles. Potable water is available in Rock Harbor.

Can we take our pet?

Domestic pets (dogs, cats etc.) are not allowed on Isle Royale. There are no kennels within 40 miles of Copper Harbor.

Can we take gasoline and stove fuel to the island?

No to gasoline, yes to backpack fuel. The US Coast Guard does not allow us to transport gas, but it’s available at the Rock Harbor Lodge Marina throughout the season. We do transport backpacking stove fuel in well closed, small containers, which are stowed separately. Do not stow fuel in containers with twist-on caps in backpacks.

What about seasickness?

Though lake conditions are placid most of the summer, Lake Superior, a massive inland sea, can naturally see rough conditions. When the wind and waves are high, the Queen IV rocks and rolls, as all boats do. If you fear that you may suffer from motion discomfort, your physician can prescribe Transderm Scop. Other remedies are available over the counter. Ginger is a popular natural treatment. We are happy to inform you of current conditions and forecasts at any time.

Do you recommend any motel in Copper Harbor?

We recommend them all. The complete list is on the Boarding Information page on this site. What we say is that you get what you pay for: the higher the price, the more amenities you will receive. But every motel offers a clean, comfortable, safe, and reasonably priced place to stay in town.

Are there other ways to get to Copper Harbor?

Air service is to the Houghton County Airport (CMX). Limo service to and from the airport near Calumet is available from www.coppercountrylimo.com. Taxi companies in Calumet and Hancock also provide taxi service.

Need still more info? See the NPS Greenstone newspaper. You can find the PDF of the paper at the NPS web site: nps.gov/isro

Captain Ben Kilpela’s Guides for

Visitors to Northeast Isle Royale

Contents:

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Hiking Guide

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Selected TRAIL SUMMARIES

Subjective difficulty scale: 1 = easy with a 40-pound pack, 5 = difficult with a 40-pound pack. For more information on trails and campgrounds, consult the latest official Isle Royale National Park camping brochures, National Geographic’s Isle Royale Topographic map, the Isle Royale Queen IV Offices, and rangers at the Isle Royale National Park Headquarters and Rock Harbor Information Center.

My opinion on hiking the whole Greenstone Ridge Trail: For first-time visitors, I strongly recommend a loop route on the northeast trails. You will NOT “miss” Isle Royale in some sense if you don’t hike the Greenstone Ridge from Rock Harbor to Windigo. One of my suggested loop routes will be at least as good as the Greenstone Ridge Trail, if not better. All trails have abundant wildlife.

Rock Harbor to Daisy Farm - about 7 miles - Nice trail - roots and rocks – runs close to harborside - moose often seen - 2 difficulty

Daisy Farm to Moskey Basin - about 4 miles - A bit higher up the ridge than Rock to Daisy - roots and rocks - wildlife - 3 difficulty

Moskey Basin to Lake Ritchie - about 2 miles - Wide, flat trail - beautiful, forested path - good shore fishing at Ritchie - 1 difficulty

Lake Ritchie to Chippewa Harbor - about 4 miles - Up and down gently sloping ridges - through deep forests – shore fishing at some locations - 3 difficulty

Tobin Harbor Trail (Rock Harbor to Three Mile) - about 3 miles - Very fine trail - through dense forests and along the harbor all the way - moose seen - 2 difficulty

Three Mile to Mount Franklin - about 2 miles - Winds up the Greenstone Ridge through open forests - across swamps - great views at top - moose seen 3 difficulty

Mt Franklin to Chickenbone Lake (Greenstone Ridge Trail) - about 7 miles - Many rock outcroppings - rocky open places - up and down ridges - tends up to Ojibway, down to Chickenbone - ridge-top views - hot at times - great views, especially from Ojibway and its fire tower - 3 difficulty

Mount Franklin to Lane Cove - about 4 miles - Diverse trail from ridge top to Lake Superior on Isle Royale's north coast - through broad swamps - one steep, high ridge - 2 difficulty going north, 4 difficulty going south

Chickenbone Lake area to McCargoe Cove - about 3 miles - Lovely trails near water and through dense forests - more difficult going south and up the north sides of ridges - many shore fishing possibilities - 2 difficulty

Lake Ritchie to Lake LeSage, Lake Livermore, and other lakes - about 4 miles - A series of lovely trails going up gently sloping ridges - through broad swamps - along lakes - shore fishing at many locations - occasional moose - 2 difficulty

Chickenbone Lake area to Hatchet Lake (Greenstone Ridge Trail) - about 7 miles - Open ridge tops - rock outcroppings - trail winds up and down ridges - some steep - hot at times - one section of trail is a steep switchback - 3 difficulty

McCargoe Cove to Todd Harbor - about 7 miles - From lakeside to ridge-tops - up and down ridges - many rock outcroppings - through some dense forests - nice views along ridge - 3 difficulty

SUGGESTED TRAIL LOOPS, Isle Royale's Northeast Trails

The Isle Royale Queeen IV disembarks only at Rock Harbor (RH). There are many loop routes. Follow one of these exactly or use them to get ideas for your own route. Consult with the latest official Isle Royale brochures and the rangers at the Rock Harbor Visitors Center for current and official information on campgrounds, trail conditions, hiking routes, fishing, wildlife, restrictions, and regulations.

Length of stay: 3 Days 2 Nights (Distances in Miles)

Three Mile 2.7 - Daisy Farm 4.4 - back to RH - 7.1 -  total 14.2

Daisy Farm 7.1 - Lane Cove 7.2 - back to RH 6.9 - total 21.2

Daisy Farm 7.1 - Moskey Basin 3.9 - back to RH - 11.0 - total 22.0

Moskey 11.0 - McCargoe 8.6 - back to RH 15.4 - total 35.0

Length of stay: 4 Days 3 Nights (Distances in Miles)

3 Mile 2.7 - Daisy 4.4 - Lane Cove 7.2 - back to RH - 6.9 - total 18.2

3 Mile 2.7 - Moskey 8.3 - Daisy 3.9 - back to RH 7.1 - total 22.0

Lane Cove 6.9 - Moskey 11.1 - 3 Mile 8.3 - back to RH 2.7 - total 28.0

Daisy Farm 7.1 - Chippewa 9.7 - Moskey 6.2 - back to RH 11.0 - total 34.0

Moskey 11.0 - McCargoe 8.6 - Lane Cove 13.3 - back to RH 6.9 - total 39.8

Lane Cove 6.9 - McCargoe 13.3 - Hatchet Lake 10.5 - back to RH 22.5 - total 51.2

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Rock Harbor Lodge Guide

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The Lodge is a superb place to stay instead of camping. There are seemingly endless wilderness activities for Lodge guests.

HIKING

Practice no-impact hiking and boating. Leave no trace. Leave only footprints, take only pictures. Difficulty scale: 1 = easy in seasonal weather for a moderately fit person carrying 15 pounds; 5 = difficult for same

To Scoville Point - 4.4 mile loop - difficulty 2

superb trail - wildlife seen - great harbor views - sensational rocky point

Raspberry Island - 1.0 mile loop (accessible only by boat) - difficulty 1

interesting terrain - boardwalk across a bog - great shoreline views

To Lookout Louise from Hidden Lake - 2.2 miles out & back - difficulty 2

wildlife seen - great view at lookout - basic tour of ecosystems of Isle Royale

Mott Island - 2.3 mile loop (accessible only by boat) - difficulty 2

peaceful trail - many kinds of terrain - small ups and downs - stone beaches - rocky cliffs

To Suzy's Cave or Three Mile Campground - 3.6 mile loop to cave - 6.0 mile loop to camp - difficulty 3

loop via Tobin Harbor Trail - roots and rocks - small ups and downs - wildlife seen - many coves - cobblestone beaches

To Mount Franklin - 10.0 mile loop - difficulty 3

loop via Tobin Harbor Trail - changing terrain and ecosystems - great views at top - wildlife seen

To Mount Ojibway - 16.1 mile loop or 14.4 miles out & back - difficulty 4

loop via Rock Harbor Trail - rocky along ridge - many ups and downs - great views

To Daisy Farm - 14.4 miles out & back - difficulty 3

superb trail along Rock Harbor - wildlife - great views - coves - cobblestone beaches

To Moskey Basin - 21.8 miles out & back - difficulty 4

after Daisy Farm more rocks and roots - many ups and downs - wildlife - peaceful trail with varying terrain

To Lane Cove - 14.8 miles out & back - difficulty 5

gentle up to Mt. Franklin, steep down to north shore - wide, dense swamps - wildlife seen - great views on ridge and at shore

To Lookout Louise from Lodge - 20.0 miles out & back - difficulty 4

challenging - remote - changing terrain, from forests to swamps to ridge-tops - roots and rocks - great views - wildlife seen

BOATING

Rental boats and motors available through the Lodge

* NE Rock Harbor - many beautiful islands - great views - use care because of greater exposure to open lake

* SW Rock Harbor - access to Raspberry and Mott Islands – access to RH Light - stone or gravel beaches - coves and inlets

* NE Tobin Harbor - many splendid islands (some with private cabins) - peaceful - great views - use care because of greater exposure to open lake

* SW Tobin Harbor - many islands - very peaceful - great views - wildlife seen

CANOEING - KAYAKING

Rental canoes and kayaks available through the Lodge

* NE Rock Harbor  - many small islands - many coves and channels - cobblestone beaches - great views - use care because of greater exposure to open lake

* SW Rock Harbor - access to Raspberry and Mott Islands - access to RH Light - many stone or gravel beaches - many coves and inlets - near Rock Harbor Trail - near campgrounds to hike out from

* NE Tobin Harbor - many beautiful islands (some with private homes) - peaceful - cobblestone beaches - great views - use care because of greater exposure to open lake

* SW Tobin Harbor - many islands - very peaceful - great views - near Tobin Harbor Trail - wildlife

FISHING

* Charter Fishing - a Lodge service – speak to the captains – lots of success – Lodge will cook your catch

* Lake Superior (open lake off Rock Harbor) - use great care - great depths - many shoals - underwater ridges – troll for trout & salmon

* Rock Harbor (inside harbor) - deep waters - many shoals and shallow ridges - trolling for trout and salmon

* Tobin Harbor - deep waters - many shoals and shallow ridges - shallow coves - trout and other fish

* Shore casting is good anywhere along Rock and Tobin Harbors.

SIGHTS to SEE

* Scenic Cruises - aboard the Sandy variety of superb boat tours – a Lodge service – captain’s narration – weekly schedule

* Hidden Lake - Lookout Louise - small lake is a moose haunt - great views at lookout - fine, easy trail up (one steep section) and over Greenstone Ridge

* Siskiwit Mine - history - forests – long but fine hike

* Rock Harbor Lighthouse - fine museum – superb setting with great views

* Edison Fishery - history - interpretive activities – pleasant harborside setting

* Passage Island Lighthouse - rugged, magnificent island - history – great views all around – short trail is steep and difficult at points

PHOTOGRAPHY

Plan ahead. Scout locations while hiking or boating. Best shooting from 30 minutes before to 2 hours after sunrise and 2 hours before to 30 minutes after sunset. All times EDT.

Early morning -- look east over Rock Harbor and its outer islands - many coves and inlets east and west of Lodge

Late evening -- look west over Tobin Harbor, its islands, and high ridges - many coves and inlets east and west of Lodge

June 21 - Sunrise 5:51 - Sunset 10:00 (longest day)  

July 1 - Sunrise 5:55 - Sunset 9:59  

July 15 - Sunrise 6:08 - Sunset 9:51  

August 1 - Sunrise 6:28 - Sunset 9:31

August 15 - Sunrise 6:48 - Sunset 9:08

September 1 - Sunrise 7:11 - Sunset 8:35

WILDFLOWERS

Wildflowers seen on all trails near the Lodge. Never pick flowers in national parks. Spring flower season runs roughly from June 1 to late July. Autumn flowers in late summer.

BERRY PICKING

Wild berries found along all trails near the Lodge.

Strawberry Season: Late June to mid-July

Blueberry Season: August 1 to late summer

Raspberry Season: August 1 to late summer

Thimbleberry Season: mid-August to mid-September

WILDLIFE

* Moose - found on all trails and harbors near Lodge - active most early mornings and late evenings

* Wolves - unlikely to be seen

* Birds - seen along all trails - eagles - ospreys - hawks - woodpeckers - more

* Water-birds - seen along all shorelines - loons - ducks - diving birds

* Other animals: squirrels - foxes - more

Never feed or disturb wild animals.

ROCK HOUNDING

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Day-Trip Guide

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* Schedule: Crossing takes 3.5 hours over, 3.5 hours back. Weather on Lake Superior can lengthen the crossings.

* Departure from Copper Harbor, 8:00 AM, return from Rock Harbor, Isle Royale, 2:45 PM

* Time on Island: 3 hours. You must attend an orientation talk and reserve time for return check-in.

* Actual time for activities: up to 2.5 hours.

Day-Trip Activities

Hike Scoville Point Trail.

4.4 miles to Scoville and back, out along Rock Harbor, back along Tobin Harbor. 2.0 miles to first loop and back. 3.0 miles to second loop and back. Superb trail. Spectacular views at rocky Scoville Point. Trail has roots and rocks, but is relatively easy. Many coves, forest glades, cobblestone beaches, and overlooks to stop at.

Hike Rock Harbor Trail.

3.6 miles to Susie's Cave, out along Rock Harbor back along Tobin Harbor Trail. Hike any distance out and back on Rock Harbor or Tobin Harbor Trail. RH Trail more difficult with many ups and downs, lots of hiking on bedrock, loose rocks, and roots. Wonderful views of RH at every turn. TH Trail easier, gravel bed, a few roots and rocks, and a couple of moderate climbs up and down. TH is a very serene trail.

Explore the lakeshore. On the Scoville Point, Rock Harbor, and Tobin Harbor Trails are dozens of places to stop, explore the forests and shores, enjoy the views, and just relax.

Fish. Along all trails there are many places to fish from shore. There re docks to fish from in Snug Harbor, where the Queen IV docks, and in Tobin Harbor at the Seaplane dock.

Have Lunch. The Rock Harbor Lodge offers delicious lunches at the Lighthouse Restaurant. Excellent lighter lunches and sandwiches are offered at the Greenstone Grill next door.

Ranger Talks. On most days the Queen sails, at 1:30 PM, NPS rangers offer talks about aspects of Isle Royale and its history outside the Visitors Center on the main dock.

NOTE on boating: renting boats, canoes, or kayaks is possible, but not practicable because of limited time.