In Isle Royale You’ll Find Your Own Private National Park


Jonathan Irish


Yellowstone National park—it’s a stunner. But let’s be honest: It’s the Times Square of national parks. Last year, more than 4 million people visited the park. If communing with German tourists—lots of them— is what you seek, then go to Yellowstone this summer. (That’s assuming you can even score a campsite; last year they sold out months in advance.) If you prefer to commune with nature, then have we got the place for you: one of the least visited national parks in America, an island that saw just 25,000 visitors in 2021, a locale so remote you’re guaranteed to never see a German tour bus. This place is called Isle Royale.

The 50-mile-long island sits on the northern rim of Lake Superior. There is no WiFi, and cell service is spotty. Cars aren’t allowed, nor are bikes. Getting there is arduous. You will roadtrip through either the hinterlands of Minnesota or Michigan’s sparsely populated Upper Peninsula before ditching your car on the mainland and settling in for a bumpy ferry ride across America’s largest body of freshwater, a trip that can last 90 minutes to six hours, depending on where you catch it and where you hop off. You could hire a seaplane for a faster trip—if you’ve got the stomach for turbulence.

This article appeared in the SEPTEMBER 2022 issue of Esquire

But once you step onto its crisp, pebbled shoreline, Isle Royale’s unspoiled splendor sharpens into focus. Verdant spruce trees shoot out of the island’s ancient ridges and cascade down toward the water, where you might spot a moose enjoying a dip. There will be northern lights in the summer if conditions are right. And the park has more than 150 miles of hiking trails, canoes to rent, and 36 campgrounds (though a lodge and cabins are also available). So leave Yellowstone for everyone else. You’ve got moose. And sweet solitude.

Abigail Covington is a journalist and cultural critic based in Brooklyn, New York but originally from North Carolina, whose work has appeared in Slate, The Nation, Oxford American, and Pitchfork

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