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Discover Michigan’s Hidden Mountain Range: Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park

“Are there mountains in Michigan?” If you’ve ever found yourself wondering, the answer is yes! Let’s learn more about this hidden gem in Michigan…

Porcupine Mountains
Porcupine Mountains | photo via Chrystal Vaughn

Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park

Resting on the shore of Lake Superior, Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park encompasses about 60,000 acres, making it the biggest state park in Michigan. On top of that, it’s one of the few substantial wilderness areas that remain in the Midwest.

The Porcupine Mountains in the Upper Peninsula are every back-country camper’s dream – 60,000 acres cover untouched Michigan forest, full of sugar maple, yellow birch, and eastern hemlock trees.

The 35,000-acre, hardwood-hemlock forest has miles of streams and rivers as well as several waterfalls. All of these features mean tons of recreational activities for you.

Fantastic Michigan waterfalls and hidden natural springs in Michigan flow into Lake Superior at the northern crest of the park. Many other lakes are within the forest and are easiest to see from high viewpoints throughout the park. The Lake in the Clouds is the most popular among these hidden lakes.

Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park - Bond Falls
Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park | photo via @bcyork

About the Porcupine Mountains in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

In 1945, the Porcupine Mountains were declared a state park – Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park – to protect the large number of elderly trees that call this park home.

The Porcupine Mountains in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula have become a popular destination for camping, biking, fishing, cross-country skiing, and hiking for people in and outside of Michigan.

This area is known for being the largest State Park in Michigan. It is home to an abundance of wildlife and activities, making the Porcupine Mountains Michigan perfect for the curious adventurer.

Exhibits and Interpretive Activities at the Porcupine Mountains Visitor Center

Before you start exploring the park, stop by the Porcupine Mountains Visitor Center to learn more about its rich heritage. The center has an exhibit hall that features the natural communities of the native wildlife and displays about the area’s history — from prehistoric copper miners to early 1900s lumber camps.

Also, the center has an auditorium with 100 seats for programs and classes for all ages. The center even provides guided hikes and outdoor skills classes for archery, fishing, hunting, and more.

And don’t forget to visit the gift shop for souvenirs on your way home!

Porcupine Mountains
Porcupine Mountains | photo via acidwashed501s

Porcupine Mountains Recreational Activities

Read on for awesome things to do in Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park – Michigan’s hidden mountain range.

Hiking the Porcupine Mountains Trails

Hiking is one of the main activities that people enjoy at the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park. There are more than 90 miles of trails, giving you a range of options from a simple half-day hike to a challenging trek. The variety of trails lead you through woods and along the many streams and rivers.

You can even hike a 23-mile section of the North Country National Scenic Trail, which stretches for 4,700 miles from North Dakota to Vermont, making it the longest national trail in the country. On top of that, the Iron Belle Trail runs through the Porcupine Mountains. This more than 2,000-mile biking and hiking route stretches from the western tip of the Upper Peninsula to Detroit.

Backpack through the Porcupine Mountains

Park facilities provide trails with 87 miles of hiking through the park. There are also designated camping spots with fire-pits. Trail-side cabins are also available for those who don’t want to camp in tents.

For a full map of the park, visit the DNR’s website. This map displays camping areas, cabins, parking, and more.

Be sure to camp at one of the designated camping areas, as making fires outside a pit can be dangerous to you and the park. Also, be sure to read up on proper procedures for hanging your food to avoid unwanted black bear encounters.

Dark Skies With Bright Stars Over Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park In Ontonagon
Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park | photo via Michelle Lutke

Mountain Biking the Trails in the Porcupine Mountains

Among the more than 90 miles of hiking trails are more than 20 miles of designated mountain biking trails. The loops range from 1.5 miles to 10.5 miles in length.

Before taking on the trails, be sure to review the DNR’s map of designated mountain biking areas so you don’t get off track.

If you want to rent a bike while you’re here, the Porcupine Mountain Outpost near the Union Bay Campground has single and tandem bicycles.

Lake Of The Clouds-Porcupine Mountains
Lake of the Clouds | photo via clarkjoe3

Experiencing the Many Waterways

In the northeast corner of the park are 1.6 miles of sandy beach along Union Bay and M-107 (107th Engineers Memorial Hwy). This is the only Lake Superior swimming area in Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, however, there are ample opportunities to experience Lake Superior by boat.

A boat launch is located on Union Bay next to the campground, and you can rent canoes and kayaks at the Porcupine Mountain Outpost.

Go Fishing in Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park

Fishing opportunities are abundant in the bay and Lake Superior as well. You can fish from the Union Bay pier next to the campground or around the Porkies watershed nearby. On the other hand, you could charter a fishing excursion.

You need a fishing license to fish in the Park, but you can purchase one at the Visitor Center. These lakes are teeming with perch, walleye, smallmouth bass, and northern pike. The rivers and streams are also full of fun surprises. Charter fishing options are available on Lake Superior.

Ski the Porkies

The state park hosts 15 different downhill ski options for visitors to choose from and boasts some of the best skiing in Michigan! There are also dozens of options for cross-country skiing adventures.

If you do not want to haul your skis up to the park, rentals are available.

Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park - Winter Olympic Sports, Upper Peninsula Cross-Country Ski, Cross-Country Skiing In Michigan
Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park | photo via @maravivann

Enjoying a Round of Disc Golf

In the Porcupine Mountain Ski Area is an 18-hole golf course that runs through the woods and up the skiing hill. The well-maintained course is free to use and open throughout the summer. You can rent discs at the Porcupine Mountain Outpost.

Must-See Features at Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park

Lake of the Clouds

You can’t go to the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park without seeing the famed Lake of the Clouds. This feature is the most photographed in the park and one of the most photographed places in the Upper Peninsula.

You can easily reach the lake via an accessible walkway and observation platform. Or, you could hike the 4.3-mile Escarpment Trail or 9.6-mile Big Carp River Trail.

Although the lake has catch-and-release restrictions, it’s a popular fishing spot. You can fish from the shore, use waders, or carry a light watercraft ¾-mile to the water.

Visiting the Presque Isle River Waterfalls

Cascades and low waterfalls are many along the Presque Isle River on the western edge of the park. The Nawadaha, Manabezho, and Manido falls are easily accessible from the parking area nearby. A trail leads you down a set of steps to a viewing platform.

Climbing the Summit Peak Observation Tower

At the top of the 50-foot Summit Peak Observation Tower, you get a panoramic view of the Porcupine Mountains and surrounding nature. On clear days, you can see Isle Royale to the northeast and the Apostle Islands in the northwest. You can reach the tower via the ½-mile Summit Peak Tower Trail.

Summit Peak-Porcupine Mountains
Summit Peak | photo via trevor_keller

Things to Do Near Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park

The Porcupine Mountains State Park is 15 miles west of Ontonagon, Michigan. The location is fairly secluded, but there are a few small towns nearby.

Travelers can find some delicious home-cooked pasties or enjoy more natural scenery unique to Michigan’s upper peninsula.

If you drive 2.5 hours almost directly east you will be in Marquette, where you can go cliff jumping off of the Black Rocks into Lake Superior. If you drive 2.5 hours southeast, you’ll be in Iron Mountain, the only town in Michigan to offer an authentic white water rafting experience.

Michigan’s Hidden Mountain Range - The Awesome Mitten
White water rafting the Menominee River. Photo by Becky Harris

Restaurants Near Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park

Snacks and drinks are available at the Porcupine Mountain Outpost, but you might want more substantial meals for lunch and dinner. About 30 minutes east, Curbside Kitchen Restaurant On Wheels is the home of the original Broasted Chicken and Fish recipe. The restaurant has burgers, hot dogs, chicken tenders, sub sandwiches, and more.

In White Pine (about 35 minutes away), White Pine’s Yooper Diner serves local eats — thin and pan crust homemade pizzas, burgers, and a wide variety of sandwiches.

If you drive farther into Ontonagon (about 45 minutes), you can get some awesome pizza at Stubb’s Bar. The decorated ceiling and walls of this restaurant are reason alone to visit.

While you’re here, Sip & Snack is just down the street. While it offers an array of quick bites, the Jilbert’s soft-serve ice cream is what you really want. Sundaes and flurries and dairy-free options are available too.

Porcupine Mountains Michigan State Park
photo via @grungehippe87

Opportunities for Camping in the Porcupine Mountains

Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park offers many opportunities to camp within its borders. You can choose from backcountry sites, rustic cabins, wilderness yurts, and the Kaug Wudjoo Modern Lodge.

The only modern campsites are located at Union Bay Campground, which has a Tiny House for rent.

Additional Lodging Near Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park

With so much to explore in Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, you’ll likely want to stay several days in the area. Here are a few lodging options nearby:

Escarpment Trail-Porcupine Mountains
Escarpment Trail | photo via joyful.on.a.journeyandlovemyhappyvibes

Let’s Explore Michigan’s Mountains Together

There’s so much to do in Michigan’s largest state park! Which part do you like to explore? What is your favorite thing to do in the Porcupine Mountains?

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