Isle Royale National Park: No Dogs Allowed

Isle Royale National Park is an island located in Lake Superior. Because of its remote location, it takes some planning to get to this national park. Starting from Grand Portage or Grand Marais in Minnesota or Houghton or Rock Harbor in Michigan, you can take a ferry boat or seaplane to the island.

Once there, visitors can find adventures for hikers, kayakers, scuba divers, backpackers, canoeists, and boaters. And one of the best features is the solitude that can be enjoyed alongside the adventure.

Dog-Friendly Activities at Isle Royale National Park

Unfortunately, pets are not allowed at Isle Royale National Park. Not on the island or even in/on the waters within the park boundaries (which extend for 4.5 miles from the outermost land areas of the park into Lake Superior).

Why aren’t dogs allowed in Isle Royale National Park? The park’s main concern is to protect the wolf population on the Island. According to the official site:

” The park’s primary concern is for the protection of wildlife species; the inadvertent transmission of disease or parasites into the largely isolated Isle Royale ecosystem could have devastating effects on wildlife populations. In 1980, the park witnessed just such an event, when the canine parvovirus was likely transmitted to the island from a pet dog and infected the wolf population. Wolves on Isle Royale plummeted from 50 individiuals down to 14. “

While we couldn’t truly visit this park, Glia and I did the next best thing and visited the main visitors center in Houghton, MI. After the visitors center, we enjoyed a nice walk on the paved trail that heads from the visitors center along the side of the canal.

Camping at Isle Royal National Park

There are 36 campgrounds on Isle Royale island. Each campground offers tents sites, a water source, and outhouses. Some have shelters and picnic tables. All of the campsites are only accessible by foot or watercraft. However you get there, one of the best parts is that overnight permits are free for parties of 6 or fewer.

However, since dogs are not allowed on the island, Glia and I were unable to experience any camping on the island. Instead, we looked to the surrounding areas for camping/backpacking opportunities.

Outside of Houghton, we found a campsite that we used for one night, but if you are willing to drive a little further, we highly recommend utilizing one of the national forest or state park campgrounds in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Dog-Friendly Activities in the Surrounding Areas

During our short visit to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, we chose to visit a waterfall in Ottawa National Forest and backpack in the Sylvania Wilderness.

Bond Falls

Ottawa National Forest contains several waterfalls and while we did not explore all of them, we did stop at Bond Falls (which is a little over an hour away from Houghton). Bond Falls is one of the most popular Upper Peninsula waterfalls.

Technically, Bond Falls is not part of the Ottawa National Forest, but it is surrounded by this forest. The falls themselves are managed by the U.P. Power Company. Note that if you park at the base of the falls, a Michigan DNR Parks vehicle sticker is required.

We arrived at Bond Falls around 7:30 am and had the falls to ourselves. They were stunning on a clear mid-summer day.

Sylvania Wilderness

Just a little further (1.5 hours away from Houghton) is the Sylvania Wilderness. The Sylvania Wilderness is truly managed by the Ottawa National Forest and encompasses over 18,300 acres of primitive land.

There are about 26 miles of unmarked trails inside of Sylvania Wilderness. These trails wind through old-growth forests and along lakeshores. And there are several backcountry campsites available to camp at for $15/night.

Just beware of the mosquitoes that are present in the summer months. We would have enjoyed our hike much more without the mosquitoes. Follow this link to read more about our misadventures in Sylvania Wilderness.

Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park

Another great dog-friendly destination in Michigan’s upper peninsula is Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park. (This location does require a recreation pass in order to visit.) We have not explored this state park yet, but have heard this location recommended multiple times.

An hour and a half from Houghton, Porcupine Wilderness State Park encompasses 60,000 acres, including 24 miles of shoreline along Lake Superior. It is also home to 35,000 acres of old-growth forest, roaring waterfalls, miles of rivers, and fantastic vistas.

There are over 90 miles of hiking trails inside these 60,000 acres and 63 site-specific backcountry camping sites.


While Isle Royale National Park isn’t a destination that you need to add to your dog-friendly road trip, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is. We visited over a weekend trip, but are excited to return again in the future to spend more time exploring more of the spectacular dog-friendly hiking destinations that Michigan has to offer.

If you are interested in visiting a national park that your dog can at least drive through with you, click on one of our other national park posts below.


Kate is the writer of Pawsitively Intrepid. She has spent the last 9 years working full-time as a veterinarian, treating dogs and cats. But as of June 2023, she is taking a year to travel with her dog, volunteer, and work on some passion projects.

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