Climb the Pine Mountain Stairs
Hiking up the 500 concrete stairs that ascend Pine Mountain is definitely a test of your physical ability.
Your legs will burn. Your lungs will heave. You will have to stop, probably more than once, to catch your breath. And when you get to the top, you’ll be rewarded with this view. (see right)
Never mind that you could just drive to the scenic lookout and skip the stairs entirely. You wouldn’t do that, would you? (Okay, you probably would, and quite frankly so do I most of the time. I won’t tell anybody if you don’t.)
I walked the steps a few weeks ago in place of my normal cardio routine and my legs were still sore days later. And now I’m hooked! I’ve been back a few times since and last weekend I even kept going, all the way up to the top of the ski jump.
There’s just something about climbing 500 concrete steps, especially when you have the time to do it a few times in a row that begets a feeling of accomplishment.
“I climbed 500 concrete steps today,” you could say to your friends. What have you done?”
“Uhh… We ate at McDonalds…”
That said, I’d recommend that anyone with a health condition abstain from climbing these stairs. They’re pretty steep and could be dangerous if you’re not in decent shape.
However, there’s a beautiful pavilion at the top of the hill as well as the wonderful U.P. Veteran’s Memorial where those who opt-out can relax while you tear it up on the stairs.
Bottom Line: Climbing the stairs at Pine Mountain is a great thing to do if you’re in the Iron Mountain area and want an excellent outdoor workout that just happens to include an awesome view.
Top of the stairs / scenic lookout: From downtown Iron Mountain, travel North (West) on US 2 and turn left onto Kent St. by the Pine Mountain sign. After a few blocks, turn right on Forest St., then a quick left onto Walker St., then veer right onto Kramer Dr. Kramer dead ends into the parking lot.
Bottom of the stairs / Pine Mountain Lodge / Famers Bar and Grill: Go to N3332 Pine Mountain Road, Iron Mountain, MI 49801. Park in the parking lot (near the bottom of the ski jump), or drive up the unmarked dirt road to the right of the ski jump landing area and park at the bottom of the stairs.
Climb the Pine Mountain Ski Jump
Climbing the Pine Mountain Ski Jump is one of the more dangerous things to do in the Upper Peninsula, at least as far as the popular destinations go.
The “stairs” leading to the top consist mostly of two by fours screwed to the deck. And there is a handrail, but if you pass someone making their descent on your way up one of you needs to let go for a hair-raising moment. And if you should trip and fall, you risk tumbling straight to the bottom. And that would hurt. A-lot.
But man, what an awesome view from up there!
The Pine Mountain Ski Jump is one of the tallest ski jumps in the world. And during the FIS Continental Cup Ski Jump Competition held every February, more than 20,000 people gather here to watch ski jumpers from all over the globe rocket down the man-made slope at over sixty miles per hour.
On the weekend of “the jumps,” you won’t be able to get anywhere near the top unless you’re part of the event.
But on just about any other day of the year, the Pine Mountain Ski jump is yours to climb at your own risk.
I often climb the Pine Mountain Stairs and sometimes, if I’m feeling adventurous (and not too out of shape), I’ll keep going and climb the ski jump.
Keep in mind that this ski jump is built to be climbed by ski jumpers, not tourists in tennis shoes. If you’re looking for an elevator to take you to the top like the one at Copper Peak in Ironwood, you won’t find it here.
What you will find is a handrail, some basic stairs and a very steep incline.
I like to take my time on the way up and then hang out at the top for a while to enjoy the view. And always make sure to hang onto something. You never know when a stray gust of wind could kick up and make you lose your footing. (It’s happened.)
One of my recent climbs to the top was particularly memorable.
On the way up I met Chad Laughlin of Ohio, whose Grandfather (James Dillan Laughlin) actually helped construct the ski jump. Chad said his family visits the area every year and climbs the jump in remembrance of his Grandpa.
Chad was on his way down as I was on my way up, and when I reached the top I met more people, David and Gordy, who were visiting from Wisconsin. It was their first time climbing the jump.
Shortly after I struck up a conversation with them, a nine-year-old girl popped up from down below. It turns out she had climbed up all by herself! (I wouldn’t recommend letting kids climb unsupervised.)
All in all I ended up being on the jump for about half an hour just talking to different people. It’s a fun place to make conversation. And after all, there’s really no room to casually “look the other way,” and if you do meet someone at the top of the jump, they’re likely to be just as adventurous as you are.
Who knows, maybe you’ll even see me up there?
To see more photos of the Pine Mountain Ski Jump, click here to access my Facebook page and then and then browse to the “Pine Mountain Ski Jump” photo album. (You’ll need to “like” the page if you haven’t already)
Bottom line: Climbing the Pine Mountain Ski Jump is one of the top things to do in the Iron Mountain area, if you’ve got a few adventurous bones in your body. And if you’re not up for the climb, the adjacent observation deck offers a sweet view too.
How to get there: From downtown Iron Mountain, take US 2 west and turn left onto Kent St. by the Pine Mountain sign. After a few blocks, turn right on Forest St., then a quick left onto Walker St., then veer right onto Kramer Dr. Kramer dead ends into the parking lot.
Other things to note: Be careful. And if you injure yourself, please don’t sue me.
Pine Mountain Ski Jumps
The Pine Mountain Ski Jumps is a world-class sporting event that takes place every winter right here in the U.P.
Technically called the FIS Continental Cup and sponsored by the Kiwanis Club (link) “the jumps” are a big highlight of the winter. The event usually takes place smack in the middle of February, so it breaks up the winter nicely. (ie. It gives you something to look forward to in February when there’s not a whole lot going on. And then after that, hey, March is just around the corner and you can almost hear the birds chirping.)
The ski jumps are basically a huge party. Around 5,000 people bundle up and hang out in Iron Mountain, MI to watch Olympic caliber ski jumpers launch themselves off Giant Pine Mountain. Beer is consumed, brats and burgers are grilled, and when the wind is right, there’s even some ski jumping. (inside joke)
I’ve had two very distinct types of experiences at the jumps:
1. Partying. We get a group of people, a grill and a bunch of food and beer, bring a portable fire pit, and have a party outside in the middle of winter. It’s a blast. Oh, and there’s ski jumping too. We honk our car horns when someone has a nice jump and then give random high fives to strangers.
2. Spectating. (aka – “Not partying”) A couple of years ago, only one of my friends was able to make it up for the jumps. He happens to be a photographer, so he and I made taking photos more of the focus and stayed away from the booze. And you know what? It was brilliant!
The Upper Peninsula’s crisp, clean winter air is awesome if you’re dressed for it. We walked around, took photos of the jumpers, caught whiffs of other people’s campfires and still made time to grill out. Oh, and then you have the stairs (link).
Climbing the Pine Mountain Stairs isn’t the easiest thing in the world, and after a few beers, it’s not a lot of fun. Conversely, if you’re sober you can just blow right by all the people who’ve had a few and get a little exercise while your at it. (And in effect, more of that crisp winter air in your lungs. I swear, crisp U.P. winter air is like a drug in and off itself.)
Bottom line: The Pine Mountain Ski Jumps are absolutely one of the best winter events we have here in the Upper Peninsula. It would behoove you to check it out!
Other things to note: You need to buy a “button” to gain admission to the jumps, and they cost around $20. Save yourself around $5 per button and buy them a few days before the jumps.