A couple of days ago, I posted a short photo essay from Lake of the Clouds from the Porcupine Mountains State Wilderness Area in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. This is where my hike and adventure began. The beautiful Lake of the Clouds was only 300 yards into my trip. I still had 30 miles to go. Although the most scenic view was checked off at the very beginning, I still had a beautiful trip ahead.
Porcupine Mountains State Wilderness Area
This hike was a return to the scene of my first outdoor adventure experience as a 9 year old hiking with my dad in 1980. Since I have backpacked here before, I am familiar with how great the hiking is in this park, but I walked away with even more respect for the Porkies after three amazing days in the wilderness. The park has so much to offer from a hiking, backpacking, and camping aspect.
First of all, there are many loop options, which I love. I am not a big fan of out and back hikes. I prefer to constantly break new ground. Some parks do not have enough connecting trails for convenient loop options. The Porcupine Mountains offers several interesting loop options for two, three, and even four night hikes.
This time I choose to start at Lake of the Clouds. After staring in awe at the scenic overlook, I proceeded to Mirror Lake and then down the Little Carp River Trail. In just a couple of miles I experienced mountain overlooks, mountain lakes, beaver ponds, and then a cascading river with several waterfalls.
After camping along the Little Carp River, the next day I entered a new realm of beauty. The Little Carp River meets with Lake Superior and the Lake Superior Trail. I then followed the sensational great lake for ten miles back to the parking lot.
The last night I camped right along Lake Superior. I was treated to an unbelievable sunset and heard the soothing crash of the waves all night. Dave Freeman of the Wilderness Classroom stated that the great thing about camping is you wake up with a different view each morning. This was my view as I went to bed and woke up: not too shabby.
The only problem with this loop is the Lake Superior parking lot is about a mile and a half from the Lake in the Clouds parking lot. I had to walk along the road to get my car. Fortunately, I met two extremely nice people at the end of the trail named Larry and Kathy. They gave me two snickers and a ride to my car. The Appalachian Trail hikers have a word for these acts of kindness along the trail. They call it “trail magic.”
This is just one loop to choose from. Another one starting from the same area is the Little Carp River to the Big Carp River Trail. This one starts and ends at Lake of the Clouds, so no need to find a nice couple to get a ride from.
Instead of heading towards Lake Superior, you can also hike east on the Escarpment Trail and then loop back on the Government Peak Trail. You can then add one of the previous loops for a longer three or four day hike or head back to the Lake of the Clouds if only hiking a modest one night out in the woods.
The North Country Trail goes through the park and follows the Little Carp River Trail and then the Lake Superior Trail to Presque Isle. For those interested in a longer trip, they can always do an out and back on the North Country Trail. When it is completed it will be 4,500 miles long, so one could walk to North Dakota or New York.
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