Porcupine Mountains
Pinkerton Trail

Revised August 8, 2005

Hiked 1991, 1993, 1995, 1996, 2005

Older versions of the official park brochure call this the "Pinkerton Trail" in the list of trail descriptions, while labeling it "Pinkerton Creek Trail" on the map.

Aimee and Mike first hiked this trail on a relatively short six-mile roundtrip to the mouth of the Little Carp River at Lake Superior on July 30, 1991. We hiked it again in August, 1993 in a futile attempt to reach Lone Rock via the Lake Superior Trail. Had we done so, we would have completed our last segment of the Lake Superior Trail, the park's longest. We would also have completed a 16-mile day hike. Whether that was ever within our capability is an unanswered question -- Mike believes that it was -- but it was not on this particular day, and we ended up turning back part way between the mouth of the Big Carp River and Lone Rock, cutting the hike to a more manageable 12 to 13 miles roundtrip.

The Pinkerton Creek Trail itself is only 3 miles long, extending from South Boundary Road, about 20 miles from M-107, to the Lake Superior Trail, about 1/4 mile from the mouth of the Little Carp River. In terms of elevation changes, this is one of the easiest trails in the park, which is one of the reasons we chose to hike it on our first two visits to the Porkies with our daughter Maria, in 1995 and 1996. (These were not her first hiking experiences, as she had already hiked a significant length of the Loyalsock Trail in north central Pennsylvania. Or should we say that Dad carried her over a significant length of the trail ... )

The trail gradually descends from South Boundary Road for the first 1/2 to 3/4 mile where it crosses a branch of Pinkerton Creek.  It crosses the main creek at 1.4 miles from the road, then rises slightly over a small ridge dividing Pinkerton Creek from the Little Carp River.

The remainder of the trail is even flatter, leading to a series of bluffs overlooking the Little Carp River including one above Trader's Falls.  About 1/2 to 3/4 mile after the first overlook of the Little Carp River, the Pinkerton Trail ends at the Lake Superior Trail. The descent to the river on the Lake Superior Trail is aided by a set of wooden stairs, and after crossing the river, there is a rock beach at the river mouth on Lake Superior.   This short segment of the Lake Superior Trail adds about 0.2 miles for a total distance of 2.8 miles from South Boundary Road to the beach.

By our 2005 trip, Maria was easily able to hike the entire roundtrip on her own plus a little over a mile of the Lake Superior Trail to the west of the Pinkerton Trail junction.  This was a total of 7.8 miles, not bad for a day when the temperature reached nearly 90 degrees with high humidity and no breeze.  When we stopped for lunch at the beach, we picked a log that was shaded by a tree in order to keep out of the sun.

The major hazard along this trail is mud. The initial segment from the road to the bridge over Pinkerton Creek isn't bad, especially since a good deal of wooden board causeway is present.  Much of the remaining distance to the Lake Superior Trail can be very muddy unless the weather has been extremely dry as it was for our 2005 hike.

One thing to remember: The only way to get to the mouths of the Little Carp and Big Carp Rivers at Lake Superior is to hike to them, and the shortest trip is via the Pinkerton Creek Trail. These beaches, especially the one at the Little Carp River, are among the most beautiful areas in the park and are seldom occupied, let alone crowded.

Pinkerton Creek View of Pinkerton Creek looking upstream from the wooden bridge where the trail crosses the creek, about 3/4 mile from South Boundary Road. This photo was taken on our first hike of this trail on July 30, 1991.
Saprophyte on Pinkerton Trail, 1993 We encountered this unusual form of fungus or some type of saprophyte while hiking the Pinkerton Trail in early August, 1993. Unless it's an unusually dry year, we typically see a variety of non-green plants along trails in the Porkies.
End of Pinkerton Trail, 1995 Mike and Maria posing at the sign which marks the end of the Pinkerton Trail, where it meets the Lake Superior Trail 1/4 mile west of the mouth of the Little Carp River. We hiked the Pinkerton Trail on Maria's first visit to the Porkies in October, 1995. This was the latest time during the year that we ever hiked in the Porkies.
3-month-old Maria at Lake SuperiorThe Pinkerton Trail provides the shortest access to beaches along the Lake Superior Trail at the mouths of the Little Carp and Big Carp Rivers. Three month old Maria is resting against a log as waves break on the lake on a sunny mid-October day in 1995.
1-year-old Maria at Lake SuperiorBy the following summer, Maria was crawling along a large log as Mom looked on. This was just after Maria's 1st birthday in July, 1996.
Maria at junction of Pinkerton and Lake Superior TrailsMaria rehiked the Pinkerton Trail on August 2, 2005 when she was 10 years old -- this time on her own two feet.

Here she poses by the end of the trail where it meets the Lake Superior Trail, 1/4 mile from the mouth of the Little Carp River. 

She's carrying one of her stuffed animal friends who made the hike along with her and Dad.  Doesn't she look good at just over the five mile point of a roundtrip hike on a hot humid August day with no breeze?

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