The best hikes in the region call Michigan’s Upper Peninsula home, with impressive trails, breathtaking views — and sometimes challenging terrain. So how you do you experience these stunning trips if you’re not the most skilled hiker? Or how do you turn an average trail into a challenge if you’re already a pro? We’ve collected some insider tips from hikes all around the UP to make trekking around the area a pleasant experience for everyone in your party!
Sugarloaf Mountain, Marquette
Sugarloaf Mountain in Marquette is a must for any hiker. Just a few miles north of town, it’s one of the popular hikes in the area for locals and tourists alike. Sugarloaf is unique in that it doesn’t take very long to get from the bottom to the top; you basically start the climb immediately after you step out of the parking lot. At the top are stunning vistas of Lake Superior and Marquette, as well as the rolling peaks and forests in the interior of the UP. There’s some amazing features along the trails up Sugarloaf, but we’ll get more into them in the beginner and expert tips!
Beginner tip: Take the trail marked “easy” — and the stairs! These options are why Sugarloaf is so popular. Almost anyone can take the roughly 20 minute walk up the stairs, with many places to rest, to soak in the views.
Expert tip: Take the trail marked “advance” — and skip the stairs! If you’re a pro, you’re going to love Sugarloaf too. You can scamper and scramble up the entire climb, sometimes on all fours, in lieu of taking the stairs. And then after gazing out at the water and expansive forests, scoot around the marked trail and explore the bare rock near the top of the peak, away from the crowds.
Escarpment Trail, Porcupine Mountains
Considered by many to be the best hike in Michigan, Escarpment Trail is the star of the Porkies. A four and a half mile hike each way, the trail features rocky bluffs and mountain-like views of the Porkies and the Upper Carp River Valley. But of course, the best hike in the Porkies couldn’t exclude Lake of Clouds, which this hike gives you several views and angles from, different from the common view from the overlook.
Beginner tip: Know your limits. This trail is stunningly beautiful but only goes one way, with quite a bit of vertical distance. If walking roughly nine miles doesn’t sound like fun, go halfway, see Lake of the Clouds, and turn back. It will still be beautiful, and you’ll save your feet some distance.
Expert tip: Tack on some extra miles and views! The Escarpment Trail is plenty long enough for a day hike, but if you’re looking for the next level, hit up the several other nearby trails winding through the Porcupine Mountains. Those trails will be less crowded, especially as you head east and away from Lake of the Clouds, and you’ll get just as many outstanding views.
Bare Bluff, Copper Harbor
If you make it up to Keweenaw and are looking for a view unlike anything you’ve ever seen, you have to hike Bare Bluff. Now, getting to the trailhead is an adventure in itself. After a few paved back roads off M-41, you have to turn down a pothole-filled two-track path for several miles to get to the bottom of the hike. Once at the trailhead, there’s a half mile or so of easy walking up to the start of a three-mile loop. Either way will take you to the top of the bluff, where you’ll love the sprawling views of the most northern land in the Upper Peninsula.
Beginner tip: When you come upon the sign depicting the three mile loop, go to the right. This side of the trail is significantly shorter and much easier. It’s a quick walk up a moderate slope to the top of the bluff for almost any skill-level hiker to take in the views. Then, when you’re ready to go, head back the way you came! The journey down the other way is quite steep and loaded with loose rock and unsure footing. But if you just make a U-turn, you’ll have an easy walk back down to the small parking lot.
Expert tip: When you come to the sign depicting the three mile loop, go to the left! This side of the trail starts out easily enough, twisting through gorgeous and quiet forests, but before long it turns into a challenging and uphill passage that isn’t fit for everyone. Loose rocks and dirt and narrow walkways up almost vertical rock faces aren’t for beginners — but for experienced hikers it’s an absolute ball! Revel in the incredible views on the “Bare Bluff” at the top, and then enjoy the easy walk back down the other side of the trail.
Chapel Basin Loop and Pictured Rocks, Munising
Probably the best way to see Pictured Rocks without getting on a boat, the Chapel Basin Loop is a 10.4 mile hike that passes two waterfalls and is filled with the most incredible views of rock and lake you’ll ever see. The most stunning section of the Lakeshore Trail offers a spectacular view almost every step of the way, but puts you only a few feet from the edge of the sandstone cliffs. If ten miles is too much for one day, you can easily turn it into an overnight trip, with campgrounds at Chapel Beach or Mosquito Beach.
Beginner tip: The first leg of the loop is a hike to Lake Superior followed by a 4.7-mile segment of the Lakeshore Trail. You complete this loop and return to your vehicle via Mosquito Falls, which cuts out a sizable portion of the hike. Don’t worry though, you’ll still enjoy stunning stretches of the Pictured Rocks and pass several cool water features.
Expert tip: Explore the rocky outcroppings and test your bravery at the cliffs without hand rails! The whole hike has room for adventure and exploration on the sandstone. You can also explore Lake Superior at one of the beach stops, and add some new elements and make this one of the most unique hikes you’ve taken!
Known to locals as Hogsback but written on maps as Hogback, this peak just north of Marquette ranks as one of the best and most challenging hikes you’ll find in all of Michigan, especially if you like vertical trekking. Ending in a scramble up steep bare rock, Hogsback has two, mostly unmarked trail heads that lead you on a roughly 2 mile journey to the summit, with the last half mile or so serving as an intense climb. The trek ends in the most stunning view of Lake Superior, the city of Marquette, and parts of the Huron Mountains, without the crowds of its neighbor Sugarloaf.
Beginner tip: If you’re not confident in your vertical hiking ability, or are not that keen on heights, you might just want to enjoy in the first mile and a half of this hike. But rest assured, the first half has plenty of excitement, with mesmerizing pine forests, fun rock formations peeking through the trees, and quiet that you won’t find at nearby hikes like Sugarloaf.
Expert tip: If you’re an avid hiker who loves a climb, this is the trip for you. We don’t have many tips, because this hike is pretty spectacular on its own. Do be warned, if you come in on the southern trailhead, some of the paths are not very well marked. If you don’t want to have too much confusion, start at the northern trail head, right across from the access road to Wetmore Landing.
Have you tried any of these Upper Peninsula hikes? Let us know in the comments!