Favorite Hikes
Loyalsock Trail Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park Black Forest Trail
Horse-Shoe Trail Knobstone Trail Turkey Run

Content revised August 10, 2008
Links verified August 10, 2008

Location, History, and General Information

Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park is located along Lake Superior in the northwest Upper Peninsula of Michigan, fifteen miles west of Ontonagon. Detailed information about the park is found in a brochure available at the park Visitor Center, on South Boundary Road just south of highway M-107. Information in the next paragraph is taken from this reference source. From a hiker's standpoint, the brochure is a decent source of information, containing a complete trail map, scale approximately 1 inch = 1.5 miles, and a sentence or short paragraph describing each trail and its length to the nearest 0.1 mile.  Unfortunately, the revised version of the brochure no longer includes 200 ft elevation contours.  If you have an older map with the contours, hang onto it!  You can get a copy from the Park Manager, Porcupine Mountains State Park, 412 S. Boundary Rd., Ontonagon, MI 49953, phone (906) 885-5275. Another source is Michigan Department of Natural Resources , Parks and Recreation Division, P.O. Box 30028, Lansing, MI 48909.  The best downloadable map includes detailed distances for individual trail segments between many intersections and points of interest.  It and other information may be found on the park website.  The park is covered by the Carp River, Thomaston, and White Pine USGS quadrangle maps.  Unfortunately, downloadable versions are no longer available at the www.topozone.com website and I apologize for the broken links to downloadable topo maps on the individual trail pages of this website.  In the near future, I will attempt to provide some useful mapping links if they are readily available.

Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park is 15 miles west of Ontonagon in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. The Park's 60,000 acres are one of the few remaining large wilderness areas in the Midwest. Towering virgin timber, secluded lakes, and miles of wild rivers and streams make a visit to the "Porkies" a trip to remember. The Department of Natural Resources maintains over 90 miles of foot trails and 16 rustic trailside cabins for the public. Trails traverse most of the park and lead the hikers to the most spectacular overlooks and vistas. Remember that the "Porkies" are rugged. Steep grades and stream crossings are frequently encountered.

Our Hiking Experiences

Our first visit to the Porkies was in September, 1984. Aimee's sister Ellen had gotten a job teaching English at Michigan Technological University in Houghton, about 75 miles northeast of the park. We were among the first family members to visit her, and one of the first activities we planned was hiking in the Porkies. Although we were quite accustomed to walking around the Michigan State University campus and through various parks and wooded areas, we were basically flatlanders. Also, we expected the park to be similar to Tahquamenon Falls State Park in the eastern U.P., namely, to have a concession stand where we could get a lunch of local whitefish and something to drink. 

We hiked thirteen miles on the Escarpment Trail, Government Peak Trail, and Highway M-107 that day. I'd say we learned more about hiking that day than any other time.
Carry something to eat before hiking six hours in a wilderness area.
Carry more than eight ounces of water for two people before hiking six hours in a wilderness area.
Wear something sturdier than running shoes before hiking six hours ...
Before you decide to keep hiking 2 1/2 miles further from your car, consider how much more tired you'll be five miles later when you're only back where you are now.
Before you decide to keep hiking 2 1/2 miles further from your car, consider you've just come 500 ft downhill, and will have to go uphill after hiking five extra miles ... 

Since then, we have returned to the park to hike 21 years in the last 25.  Mike has hiked all but five miles of the trail system, Aimee has hiked all but six miles, and Maria has covered 48 miles of trails, 27 miles on her own two feet and the remainder in a child carrier. All of this distance has been covered by day hiking. It is possible to see nearly the entire park by day hiking -- if you're in decent physical condition.

Maria and Dad most recently completed the Cross Trail, a short segment of the Lake Superior Trail between the mouths of the Big Carp and Little Carp Rivers, and about six miles of the Little Carp River Trail from Lake Superior to Little Carp River Road during their August, 2008 U.P. vacation.  Maria easily completed a roundtrip total of thirteen miles on her own two feet as she had done a hike of similar distance but more elevation changes in Pennsylvania in October, 2007.  The Cross Trail and Western Segment Little Carp River Trail page has been updated with the trail routing changes made since Mike, Aimee, and Mike's brother Mark last hiked these trails in 1987,

The links below describe our experiences hiking all of the approximately 20 major trails in the park. The date following each trail is the year we most recently hiked it, listed in reverse order of the most recent hike.  Longer trails are divided into geographical segments over several pages. Some trails that we hiked together in a single day hike are combined on a single page, as are four trails for which we have only short descriptions.

Links to additional online resources follow at the end.   

Maria near Trap Falls Maria enjoying a stop for a snack near Trap Falls on July 27, 1998. She and Dad hiked the entire length of the Lost Lake Trail from South Boundary Road to the Government Peak Trail, and continued on the Government Peak Trail to Highway M-107.

Maria's 1st Hike to Lake Superior Right:  Maria's first hiking experience in the Porcupine Mountains was in October, 1995 when she was just over three months old. The three of us hiked the Pinkerton Creek Trail from South Boundary Road to its junction with the Lake Superior Trail just west of the mouth of the Little Carp River at Lake Superior, where she posed with Mom for this photo.


Carp River Inlet and Lake of the Clouds
Above Left:  Probably the most famous vista in the park is Lake of the Clouds. This photo is unusual in that it was taken from the Escarpment Trail in September, 1987, with the Carp River Inlet and Lake of the Clouds to the west. The typical vista is taken from the overlook accessible by car at the end of Route M-107, showing the lake to the east.

Maria crossing Little Carp River at Lily Pond
On June 14, 2001, Maria covered 3 1/2 miles on her own two feet as part of a 7 1/2 mile hike over part of the Little Carp River Trail and the Beaver Creek Trail.  Here she is, shortly after beginning on her own after our lunch stop at Lily Pond Cabin.  The boardwalk/bridge traverses a wide swampy section of the Little Carp River as it exits the northwest corner of Lily Pond.

Maria with "friends" at Lake Superior near Buckshot Cabin Maria likes to share her hiking experiences with her stuffed animal "friends."  Here she poses at the Lake Superior shore near Buckshot Cabin on August 14, 2003.  Dad's backpack may look full, but at least it isn't very heavy!
Maria and "friend" on beach near mouth of Little Carp River
Maria returned to the mouth of the Little Carp River via the Pinkerton Trail on August 2, 2005.  The last time she was at this spot, a few days away from her 1st birthday, she had to hold onto the log to keep from falling down.

Nine years later, she and Dad had no trouble completing an eight mile round trip hike.  They would probably have gone further but were dissuaded by the near 90 degree temperatures and high humidity -- and no lake breeze!

The beach was crowded that day (by Porkies standards) with two families camping close by and another lone dayhiker who stopped there for lunch.  Usually there aren't many (any?) swimmers in Lake Superior but this afternoon Dad counted eight people in the water nearby.
Mike and Maria at Lake Superior, 2008Maria's more recent hiking trip once again took her and Dad to the mouth of the Little Carp River, this time via the Cross Trail and Lake Superior Trail on August 4, 2008.  The weather was somewhat more pleasant that the previous two hikes (2005 and 2003) which both took place on the hottest days of the respective years.

This was the first time that Mike had rehiked the Cross Trail and Little Carp River Trail in over twenty years.  Some things had changed and some had stayed the same.

Cross Trail (2008) and (Western Segment) Little Carp River Trail (2008) --  Our Most Recently Re-Hiked Trails

Pinkerton Trail (2005) -- Maria's First Porkies' Hike

(Western Segment) Lake Superior Trail and (Presque Isle) River Trails (1989, entire trail; 2005, Little Carp rivermouth to Pinkerton Creek crossing)

(Eastern Segment) Lake Superior Trail (1994, entire segment; 2003, M-107 to Buckshot Cabin)

Lily Pond Trail (1988) and (Central Segment) Little Carp River Trail (2001)

Beaver Creek Trail (2001), Summit Peak Tower Trail (1991) , and (Eastern Segment) Little Carp River Trail (2001)

Union Spring Trail (2000) and Union Mine Trail (1989)

Government Peak Trail (1988, entire trail; 2000, Trap Falls to M-107)

North Mirror Lake Trail (1999)

Correction Line Trail (1985), Big Carp River Trail (1985, Correction Line Trail to Lake of the Clouds), South Mirror Lake Trail (1999), and Overlook Trail (1990?)
(Short Descriptions)

Lost Lake Trail (1998)

Escarpment Trail (1997) -- Our First and Most Frequently Hiked Trail


Other Porcupine Mountains Information & Resources

Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park -- Official State of Michigan Department of Natural Resources site dedicated to the park.

Welcome to the Porcupine Mountains -- Official website of the Porcupine Mountains Convention and Visitors Bureau

Friends of the Porcupine Mountains -- Official website of the Friends of the Porkies, a nonprofit organization that represents the interests of all users of the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park

Hiking Trails in the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park -- Trail descriptions taken from park brochure, includes additional links with hiking and camping information and tips

Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park -- Part of "Chuck's Backpacking Bonanza," an elaborate website dedicated to backpacking, includes his personal experience meeting a black bear in the Porkies

Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park : A Backcountry Guide for Hikers, Campers, Backpackers and Skiers --
by Jim Dufresne, Paperback 2nd edition (January 1999) Thunder Bay Press

A Porcupine Mountains Adventure -- Description of a 4-day trip along Escarpment, Government Peak, North Mirror Lake, and Big Carp River Trails

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