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Hiking loops in the Porcupine Mountains State Wilderness Area

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

Porcupine Mountains State Wilderness Area entrance sign along Lake Superior

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.

Porcupine Mountains Michigan

Porcupine Mountains State Wilderness Area fall colors on the Mirror Lake Trail

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.

Lake of the Clouds

Porcupine Mountains State Wilderness Area – Lake of the Clouds scenic overlook

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.

Porcupine Mountains hiking

Porcupine Mountains State Wilderness Area – The Little Carp River Trail

Porcupine Mountains Little Carp River

Porcupine Mountains State Wilderness Area – The lovely Little Carp River

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.

Porcupine Mountains Lake Superior camping

Porcupine Mountains State Wilderness Area – Setting up camp along the Lake Superior Trail

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.”

Other loops:

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.

Hiking Porcupine Mountains Michigan

Porcupine Mountains State Wilderness Area – The Lake Superior Trail

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.

Adventure on!

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29 Responses to Hiking loops in the Porcupine Mountains State Wilderness Area

  1. Jeremy Branham October 11, 2012 at 10:21 pm #

    I would love to go hiking here, especially during this time of year!
    Jeremy Branham recently posted..When memorable moments surprise you

    • travelingted October 13, 2012 at 9:41 pm #

      Yep, I was glad to get out on the trail here for the first time in many years.

  2. Scarlette October 13, 2012 at 8:21 am #

    The picture are so lovely… How I wish I can experience seeing these beautiful pictures in person. Thank you for sharing your experiences in hiking Ted. This is one of my dreams, to experience hiking in Wilderness in fall…
    Scarlette recently posted..Improvements of Nokia Lumia 900 from Nokia Lumia 800

    • travelingted October 13, 2012 at 9:41 pm #

      Thanks Scarlette! Fall is a beautiful time to experience the outdoors.

  3. Raul (@ilivetotravel) October 13, 2012 at 1:17 pm #

    This area looks so peaceful. That North Country Trail sounds like it will be a phenomenal experience!
    Raul (@ilivetotravel) recently posted..Having a Good Time in Willemstad, Curacao: Beach, Food and Music

    • travelingted October 13, 2012 at 9:40 pm #

      This is the second time I have hiked on the North Country Trail this fall. First time was in Wisconsin. Once they complete the trail it will be a phenomenal path.

  4. the lazy travelers October 15, 2012 at 1:38 am #

    you really make us feel like we could enjoy a night of serious camping… it’s never really been on our radar before!
    the lazy travelers recently posted..no travel required

  5. Kieu ~ GQ trippin October 15, 2012 at 3:22 am #

    Seriously.. the fall foliage in the Lake of the Clouds photo is ridiculous – absolutely stunning!
    Kieu ~ GQ trippin recently posted..Ranakpur in Photos: The Most Beautiful Temple in India

    • travelingted October 24, 2012 at 11:14 am #

      Thanks Kieu,

      I agree, it was almost otherworldly looking at it like I was looking over some enchanted forest.

  6. @mrsoaroundworld October 15, 2012 at 12:07 pm #

    You really know what I need: those stunning views. And I love fall in the US.
    @mrsoaroundworld recently posted..Photos of the Week – #FriFotos turns 2!

    • travelingted October 24, 2012 at 11:15 am #

      Fall is great. Sad that it is coming to an end soon.

  7. Craig Zabransky October 16, 2012 at 6:18 am #

    Michigan looks great this time of year… it is the best time to hike too. Fall.

    stay adventurous, Craig
    Craig Zabransky recently posted..Sunset Sunday – Bandelier National Monument, New Mexico

    • travelingted October 24, 2012 at 11:15 am #

      Fall is definitely the best time to hike and of course experience the amazing colors.

  8. lola October 16, 2012 at 11:38 am #

    do you think “trail magic” can happen outside of camping?! i love that name & random acts of kindness is always a wonderful thing!
    lola recently posted..postcards, pins, patches – what’s your favorite travel souvenirs?

    • travelingted October 24, 2012 at 11:16 am #

      Of course. A trail can be a metaphor or a microcosm for life.

  9. Leah Travels October 16, 2012 at 7:38 pm #

    Wait. Thirty miles? You lost me there, although I love the trees. 🙂
    Leah Travels recently posted..Serendipity and Skiing in Switzerland

    • travelingted October 24, 2012 at 11:17 am #

      Actually, I think it was more like 27 miles.

  10. Pola (@jettingaround) October 23, 2012 at 8:46 am #

    I’ve never really given much thought to there & back vs. loop hiking. The latter makes a lot of sense though! Beautiful pics, again. 🙂
    Pola (@jettingaround) recently posted..Photo of the Week: A Street in Georgetown (Washington, DC)

    • travelingted October 24, 2012 at 11:18 am #

      Thanks Pola,

      Loops are preferable although out and backs are not so bad. You actually get a different perspective of a trail coming from the other direction, but a loop and fresh ground is a little more interesting.

  11. Hank Vlietstra August 14, 2014 at 7:30 pm #

    Stunning pics! Looks like a really great place!!

  12. Laura Hurst August 8, 2016 at 4:57 am #

    I am going up at the end of aug. To hike the 3 day loop. I saw the range was from 1600 ft to 640ft are the incline Trail steep?

    • Traveling Ted August 10, 2017 at 10:21 pm #

      Hello Laura,

      Sorry I missed this comment. I hope you had a good hike. The inclines are not nearly as steep as the Smokies, but there are some good uphills, but they don’t last that long.

  13. Jack August 10, 2017 at 9:57 pm #

    Ted,

    I am looking to do a night backpacking trip in the Porcies this fall. Do you have any suggested loop trails where I could do about 10 miles a day and still be on the trail for at least 3 days?

    Thanks,

    Jack

    • Traveling Ted August 10, 2017 at 10:19 pm #

      Hello Jack,

      I would start at Lake of the Clouds and do the Lake Superior Trail and then loop back on the Big Carp River Trail to North Mirror Lake Trail to Government Peak Trail and back the Escarpment Trail. That should be about 30 miles.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Land O’ Lakes, Lac Vieux Desert, and the headwaters of the Wisconsin River | Wisconsin Outside.com - October 15, 2012

    […] the way to the Porcupine Mountains State Wilderness Area in Michigan, I passed an historical marker for the headwaters of the Wisconsin River on U.S. […]

  2. Land O' Lakes, Lac Vieux Desert, and the headwaters of the Wisconsin River | Wisconsin Outside.com - October 16, 2012

    […] the way to the Porcupine Mountains State Wilderness Area in Michigan, I passed an historical marker for the headwaters of the Wisconsin River on U.S. […]

  3. A superior sunset in the Porcupine Mountains State Park | Traveling Ted - October 18, 2012

    […] River Trail and followed the river to its mouth and confluence with Lake Superior. I could either loop back on the Big Carp River Trail, or I could continue on the Lake Superior Trail. I choose the Lake […]

  4. Hiking the North Country National Scenic Trail in Michigan and Wisconsin | Traveling Ted - October 22, 2012

    […] Portage Trail in the Brule River State Forest. The other was the Little Carp River Trail in the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Area in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I have now hiked 8 miles of the trail, so I only have 4,592 […]

  5. Porcupine Mountains Wilderness backcountry camping and cabins | Traveling Ted - November 1, 2012

    […] have already covered the quality of the hiking trails in a previous post, but the camping in the park deserves a closer look. The backcountry camping in […]

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