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Planning Your Isle Royale Backpacking Trip

Insights from the Isle Royale Guy

A diver and a shipwreck in Lake Superior
Photo Credit: Tom Irvine

Isle Royale, the gem of Lake Superior, holds a special place in the hearts of many. Jon Prain, also known as “The Isle Royale Guy,” is a seasoned backpacker committed to sharing his wealth of experiences and insights into this remote and pristine national park. 


One of the most captivating aspects of Isle Royale is the deep spiritual connection it fosters with nature. The tranquility and remoteness of the island allow visitors to disconnect from the chaos of everyday life and truly immerse themselves in the beauty of the surroundings.


As Prain aptly puts it, Isle Royale is a place where the barrier between humanity and nature is thin, allowing visitors to feel closer to nature and appreciate the wonders of the world around them. Every sunrise, every moose sighting, every narrow trail brings a sense of peace and connection that is unparalleled. The rugged terrain, crystal-clear waters, and abundant wildlife create a tapestry of natural beauty that leaves a lasting impact on those who visit.


Jon Prain, “The Isle Royale Guy” shared his insights on the Lake Superior Podcast. Check out the full episode to hear more!




Preparing for an Isle Royale Adventure


Photo Credit: Steve De Neef: stevedeneef.com

Before embarking on a journey to Isle Royale, it is essential to be well-prepared for the challenges that await. "Every year, I get that gear out, I check it, I test it, I work with it just to make sure it's all there and it's all working,” Prain said.


Prain emphasizes the importance of being self-sufficient and well-equipped, as the island's remoteness can pose unexpected obstacles. From unpredictable weather patterns to limited resources, visitors must anticipate and plan for all scenarios to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.


One of the key pieces of advice Prain shares is the mantra of "less is more." Instead of rushing through the trails and focusing on checking off landmarks, taking the time to savor each moment and truly connect with nature can elevate the entire experience. By slowing down and immersing oneself in the sights and sounds of Isle Royale, visitors can gain a deeper appreciation for the island and all it has to offer.


Navigating the Isle Royale Trails and Campgrounds


Photo Credit: Tom Irvine

Isle Royale boasts a diverse array of trails and campgrounds, each offering its unique charm and allure. “I like all the campgrounds and all the trails,” Prain says, “but they're all for different reasons and at different times.” Among Prain’s favorites are the Feldtmann loop and the Huginnin Loop, which are on the Windigo or western side of the island. He also likes hiking up by Mount Franklin and Mount Ojibwe, on the eastern or Rock harbor side.


Prain’s favorite campgrounds include Feldtmann Lake, Siskwit Bay campgrounds as well as Todd Harbor and Little Todd Harbor on the Minong Ridge trail.


“But I always want to give a warning when I mention the Minong Ridge trail,” Prain adds. “In my opinion, that's a trail that you really shouldn't go on unless you have some experience with Isle Royale, but also some really good experience camping and backpacking. Because it's very remote, it's very easy to get turned around.”

No matter where you are on the island, Prain highlights the importance of being prepared for the unexpected. From tackling challenging trails to navigating through dense undergrowth, visitors must be ready to face any obstacles that come their way. By adequately equipping oneself with the right gear and mental preparedness, every journey to Isle Royale can be a transformative and memorable experience.


A Journey of Discovery and Connection


Photo Credit: Steve De Neef: stevedeneef.com

Prain’s insights offer a glimpse into the magic and allure of Isle Royale. Through his experiences and reflections, visitors can gain a deeper understanding of the spiritual and natural wonders that await on the island.


By embracing the challenges and embracing the beauty of Isle Royale, every traveler can embark on a journey of discovery, connection, and appreciation for the natural world.


For more Isle Royale insights, check out Jon Prain's website. The National Park Service also publishes Isle Royale’s annual Greenstone Newspaper for all you need to know about visiting the park and a special “first timer guide” .




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About The Lake Superior Podcast and NPLSF


The Lake Superior Podcast is a project of the National Parks of Lake Superior Foundation (NPLSF), the official nonprofit friends group for Lake Superior’s five national parks: Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Grand Portage National Monument, Isle Royale National Park, Keweenaw National Historical Park, and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.


Funded through grants and private donations, NPLSF projects and programs ensure that these great parks and historic sites are maintained, improved, and celebrated for the enjoyment of all current and future visitors. For more information, contact us at info@nplsf.org.



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