Second Best State Park in America: Michigan’s Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park

I was delighted to see USA Today readers vote the Porcupine Mountains State Park the second best state park in America. I served as a judge on the panel of travel writers that came up with a list of 20 top parks and the newspaper’s readers then did their own voting on our list to select the best.

Yesterday I posted a review of the #1 State Park – Letchworth State Park in New York.

Number two was the Porcupine Mountains. It’s a favorite place for Jennifer and me, one we visit a couple of times every year. The featured image accompanying this post up top is of Lake of the Clouds, the iconic photo shot for most visitors, where all you can see in any direction is pristine wilderness and lush forests.

Located at the far western end of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, the park is a spectacular area encompassing 60,000 acres of true wilderness.

A mother loon takes her babies for a ride on the choppy waters of Lake Superior, right off the Presque Isle Campground of the Porcupine Mountains State Park
A mother loon takes her babies for a ride on the choppy waters of Lake Superior, right off the Presque Isle Campground of the Porcupine Mountains State Park

While we urge all of our Roadtreking friends to visit the Porkies, I must sound a minor alarm: Beware of bugs. Here’s a video and blog post that graphically shows the beauty of the Porcupine Mountains…. and the predator you’ll encounter: The Michigan UP Mosquito.

And below, I include a report we did last year on the UP’s Lake Superior Shoreline. We followed it from the east at Saulte Ste Marie all the way to the Porkies as part of  the Verizon Great Lakes Roadtreking Tour that had us drive the U.S. Coastlines of all five Great Lakes.

There’s a reason it’s called Superior.

There is no other lake like it in the world. It is truly immense, so big that it contains more water that all four of the other Great Lakes combined. You’d need two more Lake Eries to equal the water in Superior.

In the video above, we head out from Saulte Ste Marie, MI where Superuor flows into the St Mary’s River and, eventually all of the other lakes, following the big lake west. We did our best to take highways and roads that would keep us as close to the shore as possible.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Superior is so huge that to cover it, we would travel across three states and two time zones. Superior’s shore forms the northern boundary of the Upper Peninsula.

At the Pointe Iroquois Lighthouse near the Michigan UP town of Bay Mills, Ron Gilmore – who everyone knows as “Gilly,” joked with us about life on the Superior’s Michigan coastline.

“Up here, we have two seasons. One is shoveling and the other is swatting,” he says of the long winter and the UP’s notorious biting insects. “We have eight months of winter and four months of bad sledding.”

Sunset over Lake Superior, near Munising
Sunset over Lake Superior, near Munising

Exaggeration. Yeah. We found that the usual spring bug invasion had died down, thanks to breezy, comfortably cool weather. We had our Roadtrek RV heater on for several nights.

Further west and then south for a dozen miles past the town of Paradise, is Tahquamenon Falls, the largest waterfall east of the Mississippi. We had spotty phone service here and in several other areas of the UP. But I hooked up my Wilson Sleek cell phone booster and went from zero bars to three bars.

In Munising we spent two days touring the pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, a 42-mile stretch of sandstone cliffs carved out by the mighty waves of the big lake. The best way to see it is on a boat, like the ones operated by the Pictured Rocks Cruise Line. It’s a three hour trip and gets you close enough to the formations to almost touch them.

Another way to tour them is by kayak, though the chilly 44-degree water temperature kept me boat bound. Locals said the lake, always cold, is much colder than usual this year because of the severe winter. There were icebergs out in the lake until mid-June.

These cliffs are up to 200 feet above lake level. They have been naturally sculptured into shallow caves, arches, formations that castles, battleships, event faces. Roads lead you to several overlooks, if you’d rather stay on land.

Munising may be surrounded by wilderness, but it is a very connected town. Entrepreneur Tom Dolaskie IV runs a number of very high tech companies right on the main highway. His IT clients include hotels all over the world.

He could live anywhere he wanted. But he lives on the Superior shore because of the beauty and the opportunity it gives him do photography and video.

You can see his videos and photos at youtube.com/roamwherever

Like me, he flies a personal drone and when I stopped by to visit, he and his team dropped everything for a chance to go outside and fly.

Our spot at the Munising Tourist Park Campground
Our spot at the Munising Tourist Park Campground

We stayed at the Munising Tourist Park Campground, just a couple miles out of town on US-28. We were camped right on the lake and treated to gorgeous sunsets.

All along Highway 28 west of Munising are roadside parking areas that provide great beach access. We walked empty beaches that we had all to ourselves. Tai gulped the fresh, cool superior water and romped in the sand. We think Tai likes sand so much because it feels like snow. He loves those beach walks and we’ve been able to find places on all the Great Lakes so far where he can play in the surf.

We moved past the harbor town of Marquette. Up the Keewenaw Peninsula is Copper Harbor, the northernmost part of Michigan where the Superior shore is rugged and rough and stunningly beautiful.

Tai, chilling inside as the sun sets
Tai, chilling inside as the sun sets

And then, there’s the far western end of the UP and the 60,000-acre Porcupine Mountains, one of the few remaining large wilderness areas in the Midwest, with towering virgin timber, secluded lakes, and miles of wild rivers and streams. Our favorite camping spot is the rustic Presque Isle campground at the western end. There’s no electricity, no water, no generators. We didn’t need any of it with our Roadtrek and we really like the wilderness quiet there.

If you must have hookups, the Union Bay Campground at the eastern end of the park has them.

Here’s my video:

 

 

2 thoughts on “Second Best State Park in America: Michigan’s Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park”

Comments are closed.