Porcupine Mountains
Escarpment Trail

Description Revised July 12, 1999

Hiked 1984, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1997

The first time we visited the park, in September, 1984, we asked the ranger at the Visitor Center which trail she would recommend for a day hike, and she suggested the Escarpment Trail. This trail runs four miles, following the escarpment overlooking Lake of the Clouds and the Upper Carp River Inlet. The photo on the park brochure cover always features this overlook, which is undoubtedly the most famous vista in the park.

In any case, Aimee and Mike drove to Lake of the Clouds overlook and began hiking the trail to the east, with an eight ounce water bottle and no food to speak of -- we thought there would be a concession stand at Lake of the Clouds like the one at Tahquamenon Falls State Park. We had no hiking boots, just running shoes. At one point, roughly halfway along the trail, we missed a turnoff and instead followed an unofficial "short cut" which had us grabbing at saplings to get up to the next peak. Still, we reached the end at Government Peak Trail in a reasonably short time, about an hour and a half. It was there that we made our biggest tactical error -- deciding to extend the hike along Government Peak Trail to Trap Falls.

After hiking roughly 2 1/2 miles, we saw many waterfalls along the Upper Carp River, but never saw a sign for Trap Falls, so we decided to turn around. By this point, we had hiked 6 1/2 miles one way and were starting to get hungry and thirsty. When we reached the Escarpment Trail again, there was no way we were going to climb the roughly 500 ft rise. We bailed out by completing the last 1/4 mile of the Government Peak Trail to Highway M-107 and hiking the last four miles along the road.

After 13 miles of hiking, Mike recalls the two of them stopped for Cokes at a gas station in Ontonagon and drank an entire six pack on the hour drive back to Houghton. Mike also recalls eating a lot of Aimee's sister Ellen's spaghetti when we got back.

Now that we have a bit more hiking experience, we typically take first time visitors to the Porkies on the Escarpment Trail if they have any hiking capability at all. These hikes included an eight mile round trip with Mike's brother Mark on Memorial Day weekend, 1986, an abortive six mile attempt with Mike's sister Anne in September, 1987 (see comment above regarding hiking capability), as part of a 16 mile circle hike with Mark on a record hot and humid Memorial Day weekend, 1988 (Mark claimed we were trying to kill him), and finally, Maria's third Porkies' hike, a solo with Dad, just after her 2nd birthday in July, 1997.

Mike prefers to hike the trail east to west (M-107/Government Peak Trail to Lake of the Clouds). There is an unpaved parking area at the trailhead of Government Peak Trail on M-107, about four miles past South Boundary Road. Government Peak Trail rises moderately and Escarpment Trail turns off on the right about 1/4 mile in from M-107. The first half mile or so is a moderate to steep uphill segment, rising about 400 ft to Cuyahoga Peak, where the trail reaches the escarpment. This point is the first of a series of vistas overlooking the valley of the Upper Carp River Inlet and Lake of the Clouds. The trail follows the escarpment along the river for about two miles, then along the lake for the remaining distance. Total distance to Lake of the Clouds overlook and parking area is four miles. The official trail ends by dropping to the parking area, although there are some unofficial but obvious paths which follow the escarpment directly to the Lake of the Clouds overlook.

One thing to remember: If hiking west to east (Lake of the Clouds to Government Peak Trail) be aware of the left hand turn off the escarpment at the west end of an overlook about 1 1/2 miles into the hike. The worn path continues straight, but IT IS NOT THE OFFICIAL TRAIL. Although shorter in distance, it has a horrendous descent and ascent to the next peak. This isn't a problem in the west to east direction.

Maria on Escarpment Trail, 1997

Two-year-old Maria posing on one of several Lake of the Clouds overlooks on the Escarpment Trail. This photo was taken on July 31, 1997, when Maria and Dad did their first solo hike in the Porkies. Mom dropped the two of them off at Government Peak Trail and M-107, and about two hours later, they met her at the Lake of the Clouds Overlook parking lot.

Maria on Escarpment Trail, 1997

A closeup of Maria on the Escarpment Trail. Lake of the Clouds lies 200 to 300 feet below, less than a half mile as the crow flies. The rocks behind Maria mark the edge of the escarpment, which drops off sharply. Incidentally, Maria did not hike on her own two feet. Dad had taken her out of the backpack carrier for a snack break.

Carp River Inlet and Lake of the Clouds, 1987 This is the initial vista seen when hiking from M-107/Government Peak Trail to Lake of the Clouds. The Escarpment Trail rises about 500 feet to this point, with the Upper Carp River Inlet and Lake of the Clouds visible. The photo was taken in September, 1987, hence the fall color in the foreground.

Carp River Inlet, 1987 This is a closeup of the Upper Carp River Inlet taken from the same place as the previous photo, but looking south (over the escarpment edge) instead of west (along the escarpment). This high point along the escarpment is near Cuyahoga Peak, and the stream is approximately 400 ft below and about 1/2 mile as the crow flies.

Carp River Inlet, Looking Upstream, 1986 Looking southeast from the same point on the Escarpment Trail at Cuyahoga Peak, an upstream view of the Upper Carp River Inlet is visible with the hills in the park interior in the background. This photo was taken on a Memorial Day Weekend hike in 1986.

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