Many visitors to Porcupine Mountains Wilderness head immediately for the justly famous Lake of the Clouds Overlook. From the parking lot at the end of M-107, it’s just a few steps to the overlook, where the placid lake slices a long sliver of blue through a thick mat of jade forest hundreds of feet below. The view is the stuff postcards are made of and is probably the most photographed scene in the U.P.
The overlook also serves as the trailhead for some the park’s most rugged and scenic routes. To properly soak in the Lake of the Clouds view, hike the aptly named Escarpment Trail, which winds east and skims over Cloud Peak and Cuyahoga Peak. Bordered by a sheer cliff, the four-mile trail is considered by many to be the most beautiful in the park. Allow ample time to stop and enjoy the shimmering lake and valley floor spreading out around you.
Long before the Porcupie Mountains were preserved for their virgin timber and natural beauty, miners harvested the rich minerals buried in their bedrock. At the east end of the park, the Union Mine Trail provides a glimpse into the 1840s, when the Porkies pulsed with the excitement of the area’s copper rush.
Marked with white mine shovels to indicate points of interest, this self-guided interpretive trail forms a mile loop along the spring-fed Union River and the site of an old copper mine, now largely swallowed by nature. In the shadow of lofty hemlocks, you’ll see how miners tunneled shafts into the riverbank and learn about their life in the wilderness—a wilderness still untamed today.
In winter, the park’s many hiking trails double as cross-country skiing trails. Just be careful of the higher ones. On days when the strong north wind is blowing, you’ll feel the windchill all the way from Canada.
by Laura Martone from Moon Michigan, 3rd Edition, © Avalon Travel