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Discover the Wonders of Norwich Bluff in the Ottawa National Forest

Nestled in the Western Upper Peninsula in the heart of the Ottawa National Forest, Norwich Bluff in all its rugged beauty offers an adventure steeped in natural wonder, geological marvels, and historical intrigue.

Norwich Bluff offers a captivating outdoor experience via a 2.7-mile loop trail near Ontonagon. A moderately challenging route winds through high parallel ridges and deep valleys, providing hikers with stunning vistas and diverse terrain in the U.P.’s picturesque wilderness.

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Norwich Bluff | photo via nathaninvincible

Getting to Know Norwich Bluff

Ottawa National Forest is well known for its vast wilderness, encompassing nearly one million acres of forested land, lakes, and rivers. Norwich Bluff is part of this expansive natural area, towering 500 feet above its surroundings and offering hikers, nature enthusiasts, and geologists a unique outdoor experience with its rugged terrain, geological features, and scenic vistas.

The area is accessible via local roads and trails, including parts of the North Country Scenic Trail (NCST), a long-distance footpath that extends from North Dakota to Vermont. Ontonagon is the closest town to the Norwich Bluff Trailhead and is a convenient gateway for exploring the western part of the forest and other outdoor recreational areas.

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Norwich Bluff | photo via wandering_michigan

Preparing For a Hike to Norwich Bluff

Hiking to Norwich Bluff can be a fun and unforgettable experience. The bluff itself is a geological marvel, predominantly made of basalt with occasional conglomerate bands, offering a rugged landscape for hikers.

The journey begins at the North Country Trail parking area near FR630. For a more direct approach to Norwich Bluff, start from the parking area off Norwich Road. Though the trail is moderately challenging, it takes roughly 90 minutes to complete.

Since it’s a remote area it’s best for hikers of all skill levels who make the journey to be prepared with tips including…

  • Gear Essentials: Hikers should pack waterproof clothing, sturdy hiking boots, bug spray, and a headlamp for exploring darker areas.
  • Safety Gear: For those daring to explore more adventurous routes, consider bringing grippy gloves, head protection, and a reliable rope.
  • Navigation: A GPS device or a detailed map can be invaluable, given the area’s complex terrain and less marked trails.
  • Respect the Environment: Stay on designated trails where possible and practice Leave No Trace principles.
  • Safety First: The adventurous routes, especially through mine shafts, are extremely risky. Only attempt these with proper preparation, equipment, and companions.
  • Exploration: Norwich Bluff offers much to see beyond the main trail. Whether it’s the geological formations, historical sites, or the challenge of the hike itself, there’s something for every adventurer.
Norwich Bluff | photo via wandering_michigan

Getting Adventurous on the Way to Norwich Bluff 

Norwich Bluff and all its wonders are well worth the trip. Thrill-seekers on their way to the top can get there two different ways: the easy way and the fun way.

The “easy” way involves following the 2-track east until a rocky path veers north, leading up to the NCT. The “fun” way is a more challenging and dangerous route that involves climbing up a rock slide, navigating through an old mine shaft, and scaling a crumbly wall.

The diverse ecosystem and geological features make every step of this hike a discovery. Along the way, hikers can look for the old cemetery off the 2-track to the south, a poignant reminder of the area’s history.

Hikers can also reach Gleason Falls by following the logging tracks from Victoria Road and navigating through the terrain to discover the hidden falls near the ghost town of Victoria. 

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Norwich Bluff | photo via wandering_michigan

Discover an Abandoned Mine Shaft at Norwich Bluff

The abandoned mine shaft at Norwich Bluff is a remnant of the region’s rich mining history. The Upper Peninsula’s copper mining boom began in the mid-19th century and lasted into the early 20th century, leaving behind a landscape dotted with mine shafts, ruins, and ghost towns.

The mine shaft at Norwich Bluff, west of the Ontonagon River, was one of many in the area, contributing to the copper mining industry’s footprint. The Norwich mine is part of a series of interconnected minutes atop the bluff in Ontonagon.

If you’re planning to explore areas near abandoned mine shafts, including Norwich Bluff, it’s crucial to:

  • Stay Safe: Never attempt to enter an abandoned mine shaft. These structures can be extremely dangerous.
  • Respect Barriers: Obey any signage or barriers that restrict access to these areas.
  • Preserve the Site: Leave everything as you find it to respect the historical significance and ensure the safety of others.
  • Research: If you’re interested in the history of a specific mine or area, look for historical records or contact local historical societies for more accurate and detailed information.
Old Victoria Historic Townsite-Rockland
Old Victoria Historic Townsite | photo via jwalkhikes

Exploring Ghost Towns Near Norwich Bluff

The U.P., including the area around the Ottawa National Forest and Ontonagon, is known for its historical mining operations, which have left behind several ghost towns and abandoned mining sites. These fascinating sites offer a glimpse into the region’s past, particularly its copper mining boom in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Not all the towns are immediately adjacent to Norwich Bluff, but several are within a reasonable driving distance for fun side trips.


The town of Victoria, or what remains of it, is an abandoned mining settlement located near Rockland and Ontonagon. It was built around the Victoria Copper Mine, which operated from the mid-1800s until the 1920s. The site has some remnants of the mining operations, and the nearby Old Victoria Restoration offers a look into the life of the mining era with restored log cabins.

Old Victoria

Close to the Victoria site, Old Victoria is a collection of restored log cabins that once housed mining families. This historical site provides a tangible connection to the past lives of those who worked in the region’s copper mines.


The Central Mine, located near the town of Central (also known as Central Mine) was once a bustling mining community. The Central Mine was one of the most successful copper mines in the area, operating from 1854 to 1898. Today, visitors can see ruins and a few restored buildings, including a church, and rock collectors can search the area for copper.  


Located in the Keweenaw Peninsula, the Mandan ghost town is another relic of the copper mining era. While less preserved than some other sites, it still offers an intriguing destination for those interested in the region’s mining history.

Each ghost town provides a fascinating complement to the natural beauty of the Ottawa National Forest and the hiking experience at Norwich Bluff. They all tell stories of the boom-and-bust cycles of the mining industry, the communities that grew around it, and the eventual decline that led to their abandonment.

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Norwich Bluff | photo via nathaninvincible

Explore the Ottawa National Forest and Norwich Bluff Today

Norwich Bluff is not just a hiking destination; it’s a canvas of volcanic rock formations, dense forests, and historical remnants waiting to be explored.  The area presents a fascinating study for geologists and a breathtaking experience for nature enthusiasts.

Norwich Bluff is a testament to the beauty and mystery of the natural world and an unforgettable hiking experience in Michigan. So if you’re seeking a new kind of thrill in the U.P., grab your hiking gear and see if you can make it to the top of Norwich Bluff. 

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