A Michigan Mountain Guide | Midwest Living

A Michigan Mountain Guide

Five high-school friends reconnect during a weekend of lakeshore hiking at Michigan's Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park.

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    Comfortable, sturdy shoes are a must.
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    "I live on a lake, but this has given me a real appreciation of the wilderness rivers and the power of big lakes like Superior."
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Michigan's Upper Peninsula

Porkies Primer

Go North Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park edges Lake Superior at the west end of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, 25 miles northeast of Ironwood (906/885-5275; www.mi.gov/porkies). For area information, contact: Western U.P. Convention & Visitor Bureau (800/522-5657; www.westernup.info).

Think Big Encompassing more than 59,000 acres, this place feels more like a national park than a state one. It is Michigan’s largest state park, stretching 21 miles along the southern shore of Lake Superior, with four lakes, rivers and streams, waterfalls and stands of virgin hemlocks, pines and hardwoods. These mountains include some of the region’s highest elevations, including Summit Peak, reaching nearly 2,000 feet.

Peak Season Autumn arrives early and almost always brings impressive color to the area, usually at its best in late September or early October. Dress in layers; bring a jacket.

Hiker's Heaven
Want to hike to a jaw-dropping overlook? Along a wild Lake Superior beach? Under centuries-old hemlocks? Over a rushing river? Check, check, check, check. With 90-plus miles of hiking trails, Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park offers some of the best hiking anywhere, with both quantity and staggering variety. Here are some suggestions: Easy Stroll Enjoy a one-mile walk along the Union Mine Trail, a loop north of the Union Spring trailhead, where interpretive signs point out evidence of copper miners who once worked here. Waterfall Trek The East and West River trails skirt the Presque Isle River, forming a two-mile loop. Spend an afternoon enjoying the area’s waterfalls and beaches.

Iconic Views From the Lake of the Clouds Overlook, the dramatic Escarpment Trail climbs and dips along the precipitous ridgeline for more than four miles. Hike as far as you’d like, and then return the way you came, enjoying a fresh westward view. Backpackers can make a loop, swinging south and west on the Government Peak Trail into the heart of the park.

Daylong Adventure From the Summit Peak Scenic Area on the park’s south boundary, create a 10-mile loop by following the South Mirror Lake, Little Carp River and Lily Pond trails. This route hits many of the park’s highlights, including a lovely wilderness lake, bird-filled wetlands, towering trees, the rushing Little Carp River and the Summit Peak Observation Tower poking three stories above the treetops.

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