Tucked away in the Porcupine Mountains is a spot that almost feels heavenly — the Lake of the Clouds, a lake that is surrounded by forests and nestled between the foothills of the mountains. Its crystal blue waters sparkle in the sunlight.
In the fall, the colors of the autumn leaves reflect across the surface. This view happens to be one of the most photographed spots in all of Michigan — and with good reason. It truly looks as if it has been ripped from the pages of a centuries-old fairy tale.
The Lake of the Clouds is just one of Michigan’s many inland lakes, but it truly sets itself apart as one of the most spectacular bodies of water in the state.
Located along the northern edge of the Upper Peninsula, it’s one of the few places where time has seemed to quite literally stand still for all of these years.
Lake of the Clouds | An Oasis in the Upper Peninsula
Throughout the Great Lakes State, there are more than 11,000 lakes — but few are as mystical and captivating as the Lake of the Clouds. In the heart of the mighty Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, this glittering blue lake serves as a beacon of serenity and hope.
True to its name, most visitors prefer to see this lake from above rather than from along the shore. It is considered one of the best hiking areas in the Upper Peninsula and is a worthwhile destination no matter the season.
Getting to the Lake of the Clouds
The Lake of the Clouds may be tucked away in the Porcupine Mountains, but it’s surprisingly easy to reach.
From Ontonagon, which is the nearest city, you will drive for about 25 minutes on M-107. It’s an easy drive, and along the way, you can soak up some of the most gorgeous views of the Porcupine Mountains.
As you near the overlook for the Lake of the Clouds, you will find plenty of parking spots available. An accessible, paved trail will lead you to the overlook, where you can experience the majestic beauty of one of Michigan’s true natural wonders.
Things to Do at the Lake of the Clouds
There’s more to do at the Lake of the Clouds than simply look at it and take pictures. While the view itself is worth the visit, you may want to consider these other popular activities in and around the lake.
Climb the Summit Peak Observation Tower
To truly experience the grandeur of the Porcupine Mountains, make the trek to the top of the Summit Peak Observation Tower. This tower extends more than 50 feet into the air at 2,000 feet above sea level, making it the tallest point in the entire mountain range.
You can get to the tower by traversing the Summit Peak Tower Trail, and when you climb to the top, you will experience a 360-degree view of the Porcupine Mountains. If it’s a clear day, you could see all the way to Isle Royale. During the fall, this is one of the best places to take in the fall colors in the park.
Hiking Around the Lake
The Lake of the Clouds has long been a popular destination among hikers, largely because of the vast network of trails that exist around the lake. More than 80 miles of trails wind around it, offering unparalleled views of the lake itself, as well as hidden glimpses of the surrounding scenery.
One of the most popular trails at the Lake of the Clouds is the Big Carp River Trail. This trail spans more than 9 miles and begins at the scenic overlook. Described as a moderate trail best reserved for hikers with some experience, it will take you from the overlook down into the depths of the Porcupine Mountains, ultimately ending at Big Carp River.
For skilled hikers seeking a bit of a challenge, the Escarpment Trail is the better choice. This trail requires hikers to navigate rugged terrain for about 8 miles. The reward for that hard work is breathtaking views of the Lake of the Clouds along the way. If you plan to hike the entire trail, keep in mind that it can take about four hours to complete.
Fishing on the Lake of the Clouds
Bass fishing is one of the most popular activities on the lake. There is an abundance of bass to be caught but only a few people on the lake fishing at any one time, increasing your odds and enhancing the experience overall.
Part of the reason that the Lake of the Clouds is so quiet is that no motorboat rentals are available. Those who are able can walk a small watercraft — such as a canoe or kayak — to the lake via a short trail. For the most part, though, people fish along the surf or wade in the shallow areas of the water.
Learn at the Porcupine Mountains Visitor Center
The Porcupine Mountains Visitor Center can be found along Headquarters Road and is open seasonally, typically between mid-May and mid-October.
At the visitor center, you will find a large exhibit hall with interactive and engaging exhibits about the people of the region, the history of the Porcupine Mountains, and of course, the wildlife who call it home.
At the visitor center, you will find detailed information about the Lake of the Clouds and can talk to employees who can offer expert tips for maximizing your visit.
More Things to Do Near the Lake of the Clouds
After you have experienced the lake for yourself — and taken a few of your own photographs at this iconic spot — you can consider these other activities in the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park.
Go on a Waterfall Tour
The Lake of the Clouds is just one destination inside the massive park. In addition to this hidden lake, there are cascading Michigan waterfalls that seem to be flowing around every corner. You can create your own waterfall tour in this region by visiting these falls in the park:
- Explorers Falls
- Greenstone Falls
- Overlooked Falls
- Shining Cloud Falls
- Trappers Falls
Each season of the year ushers in a new experience at the Western Upper Peninsula’s waterfalls. If you are visiting during the chilly spring thaw, you will be greeted by rushing falls that are overflowing with water.
By the time the fall arrives, the flow may be lighter, but the colored leaves add a level of beauty to the waterfalls that cannot be matched at any other time of the year.
Experience Mountain Biking Through the Porcupine Mountains
Throughout the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, you will find more than 20 miles of trails that are specifically designated for mountain biking. With some loops as short as 1 mile long and others stretching for more than 10 miles, it’s easy to choose an adventure that accommodates your skill level.
FAQs About the Lake of the Clouds
Is the Lake of the Clouds worth a visit?
The Lake of the Clouds is one of the most famous attractions in the Upper Peninsula, yet it’s not usually afflicted with the same crowds as other popular tourist hotspots.
Most travelers say that the Lake of the Clouds is the kind of place that you have to see to believe, and they would recommend visiting.
Can you swim in the Lake of the Clouds?
Yes, hikers who take the trails down to the Lake of the Clouds shoreline can swim in designated areas.
Which city is closest to the Lake of the Clouds?
The Lake of the Clouds is located inside the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, and the closest city to its entrance is Ontonagon Michigan.
Where can you enjoy the best view of the Lake of the Clouds?
If you want to see the Lake of the Clouds as it has been pictured so many times, head to the scenic overlook. This overlook can be found off of M-107, and the best vantage point is accessible by a short, paved trail.
Elevate Your Michigan Experience at the Lake of the Clouds
Amid the rugged, untouched terrain of the Northern Upper Peninsula, you are sure to find some of the most pristine natural views — and the Lake of the Clouds is no exception. If you are an avid hiker or just appreciate a breathtaking vista, this is the perfect Michigan destination to visit.