Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park
Just a short distance north of Lake Gogebic is Michigan’s largest State Park, Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park. Dedicated in 1945 to preserve the biggest and best remaining old-growth hardwood-hemlock forest remaining in the Midwest, this 60,000 acre park is well known for its hiking trails, scenic vistas, wildlife, striking geologic formations and majestic woodlands.
The native Ojibwa people named the Porcupine Mountains long ago. Looking west from their village at the mouth of the Ontonagon River, the Ojibwa saw a well-worn chain of mountains rising from the waters of Lake Superior. The outline of these old hills against the setting sun reminded them of kag, the woodland Porcupine. The mountain range they called Kag-wadjiw, the Porcupine Mountains.
Visitors of the Porcupine Mountains should plan on stopping by the park’s Wilderness Visitor Center near the junction of South Boundary and Highway M-107. Inside the center you will find displays, maps, a multimedia informational program and park staff to help acquaint you with the area. Folks visiting the park for an afternoon will want to include a visit to the park’s main scenic areas – the Lake of the Clouds Overlook, Summit Peak and the Presque Isle waterfalls.
The Lake of the Clouds Overlook is perched atop the towering cliffs of the escarpment. Here, visitors are treated to a spectacular view of Lake of the Clouds in the Big Carp River valley hundreds of feet below. The overlook is easily reached from the end of highway M-107, eight miles west of the Visitor Center. Hiking trails traverse much of the park, leading hikers through big tree forests and to scenic lakes and vistas. Overnight packers and day hikers alike will find trails to suit their interest at the Porcupine Mountains. The popular Escarpment Trail, which begins at the Lake of the Clouds Overlook, guides hikers along the summit of the escarpment ridge. Here visitors can experience trail side scenery reminiscent of the American west. Fragrant pines, tiny wildflowers and twisted juniper shrubs line the rocky path.
Porcupine Mountains is home to many wildlife species including the barred owl, fisher, goshawk, pine marten, gray wolf, whitetail deer, bald eagle and pleated woodpecker. Black bears frequent the park providing visitors a rare glimpse of this remarkable north woods creature. Shy by nature, black bears generally prefer to forage for wild foods away from people. Birders will enjoy the opportunity to see and hear many native songbirds, including the black-throated green warbler, cedar waxwing, winter wren, blackburnian warbler and Swanson’s thrush. Early season you can observe ravens, broad-winged hawks, peregrine falcons, bald eagles, osprey and numerous migrating hawks along the escarpment.
Within the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park are five campgrounds and 19 rustic trailside cabins, only 3 of which are open year round. A modern campground at Union Bay on the east end of the park has hot showers, flush toilets, electricity and a sanitation station. Near the mouth of the Presque Isle River, on the west end of the park, are 50 rustic campsites with pit toilets and water pumps. Backcountry camping is permitted in the mountains along the trail or at designated backcountry campsites. To obtain the required backcountry permit, hikers should stop by the Wilderness Visitor Center.
If you are planning a visit to the Porcupine Mountains Area and wish to receive more information, please write or call:
Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park
412 S. Boundary Road
Ontonagon, MI 49953
(906) 885-5275 or (906) 885-5276
Fax (906) 885-5798.
Things to Do in the Porkies
LAKE OF THE CLOUDS
Michigan’s premier scenic attraction. Don’t miss it during your visit here!
An observation area 300 feet above the lake is at the end of highway M-107. A State Park motor vehicle permit is required, but the view is easiy worth a few time the price of admission. Take some time to appreciate the ancient volcanic escarpment that borders the lake, the vast carpet of virgin timber, and the dramatic view of Lake of the Clouds in its many moods.
SUMMIT PEAK TOWER
An observation tower sits atop one of the highest points in Michigan. Most of the Porcupine Mountains can be seen from this promontory, as well as Lake Superior and the Apostle Islands in Wisconsin. Another observation deck along the way to the tower offers a splendid view of the Little Carp River Valley and the beaver meadows along it. The walk to Summit Peak is a bit of a climb, but a short one, and well worth the view. The parking area can be found 13 miles from the M-107 intersection down the South Boundary Road.
LITTLE UNION GORGE SCENIC AREA
This is a gem of a place where time stands still. An interpretive trail leads through virgin hemlock forest along the cascades of the Little Union River and tells the story of mining efforts of days gone by. This very special place can be found 2 1/2 miles south of M-107 on South Boundary Road.
Only a ghost town remains of the efforts of 1890’s miners and their families. Ruins of exquisitely hewn masonry of the mine buildings remain on the banks of the Little Iron River. Located about 4 1/2 miles south of M-107 on the South Boundary Road and best found with the aid of a State Park map. The area is slated for future development. It’s safer to walk the road into the area rather than drive due to poor road conditions.
The Porcupine Mountains Ski Area features one of the highest vertical drops in the Midwest. Uncrowded slopes and a spectacular view of Lake Superior make skiing the “Porkies” an unforgettable experience. Nordic skiing through incomparable forests and a variety of terrain can be enjoyed along the 23 miles of groomed trails, as well as snowshoeing and hiking for all skill levels. www.porkiesfun.com
PORCUPINE MT. STATE PARK VISITOR CENTER
The center has exhibits and a high tech multi image slide program that tells of the attractions and the history of the Porcupine Mountains. Take an “armchair adventure” at the Visitor Center, 1/2 mile south of the M-107 intersection on the South Boundary Road.
WINTER IN THE PORKIES……
If you like winter you have come to the right place Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park offers breathtaking scenery and is a 4-season destination offering a wide variety of recreational opportunities for winter enthusiasts.
With abundant snowfall, long winters, and a variety of recreational opportunities, the park is a popular winter destination. Snowmobilers, snowshoers, Nordic and alpine skiers, winter campers and other winter enthusiast from around the Midwest flock to this area to enjoy winter.
In addition to the numerous downhill runs at our winter sports complex, the park offers an extensive network of groomed cross-country trails ranging from easy to most difficult. The park tracks 42 km’s of groomed cross-country ski trails where you can ski through old-growth forest, down the back side of the ski hill, to Michigan second largest terrestrial spring or even try your hand at the Park’s Saturday night Skiing by lantern light.
Snowmobilers enjoy numerous groomed trails in the area that all tie in withMichigan’s extensive snowmobile trail system. With over 6,000 miles of connected and groomed snowmobile trails, Michigan is a premier snowmobiling destination. Snowmobilers in the park can sled up to Lake of the Clouds,Summit Peak and the Presque Isle River to find panoramic winter views, deep snow, ice-laden waterfalls and trees so full of snow that they seem to not be able to support one more snowflake.
The park provides four-season lodging opportunities to complement a variety of outdoor pursuits. Stay in comfort at the fully furnished Kaug Wudjoo Lodge. For the more adventurous, try a night in a rustic cabin, yurt or register to backcountry winter camp. You can even combine lodging options (such as skiing yurt to yurt) to create a vacation you won’t soon forget.
Highway M-107 winds along the Lake Superior shore at Union Bay. Miles of beach provide an area for swimming, sunsets, and agate hunting. Inquire locally to find out just what an agate looks like. Copper specimens can also be found among the pebbles, broken from rock brought in to prevent erosion of the highway.
About one mile east of Silver City, just past the Mineral River, on Highway M-64 is the best sandy beach for swimming and sun bathing. A shipwreck poking just above water level can be seen from here.
BIG IRON RIVER
Ineresting shale formations make the Big Iron River one of the most scenic in the area. There are rapids and waterfalls in higher water. The Big Iron is a favorite with salmon fishermen in the fall. A Boat launch and picnic area is located at the mouth, at the intersection of highways M-107 and M-64 in Silver City.
PRESQUE ISLE FALLS
With truly unique rock formations and set in virgin timber, these falls are really something special. Their character changes with the seasons of the year. On the west edge of Porcupine Moutains Wilderness State Park, 26 miles down South Boundary Road.
**All photos courtesy of Dan Urbanski