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The Best Things to Do in the Porcupine Mountains

Jennifer and I love Michigan’s Upper Peninsula! Here are our favorite things to do in its Porcupine Mountains.

The Porcupine Mountains, or Porkies, as the locals call them, are a group of small mountains spanning the northwestern Upper Peninsula of Michigan in Ontonagon and Gogebic counties, near the shore of Lake Superior.

About the Porcupine Mountains

The Porcupine Mountain Wilderness State Park consists of over 60,000 acres and contains the largest tract of old-growth hardwood forests west of the Adirondacks.

The State Park is home to black bears, deer, wolves, river otters, and even moose, as well as rare woodland plants that depend on the old-growth forest habitat that abounds here.

Visiting the virgin forests, free-fowing rivers and undisturbed beaches of the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness is like taking a step back in time. There are great hiking and mountain bike trails here and hundreds of waterfalls, secluded lakes, wild rivers, and streams.

Our Favorite Things to Do in the Porcupine Mountains

The Wilderness Visitor Center should be your first stop in the Porkies. It’s located along the South Boundary Road, three miles west of Silver City on M-107.

Here, you can:

  • check on trail conditions
  • register for backpacking
  • get directions to scenic sites
  • check wildlife sightings
  • note the interpretive activities and guided hikes schedule (see below!)
  • and more!

The center has an exhibit hall featuring natural communities of the mountains and native wildlife species including fisher, goshawk, gray wolf, porcupine, peregrine falcon, bear, and beaver. The exhibit hall also displays the history of the Porcupine Mountains from prehistoric copper miners to the lumber camps of the early 1900s.

Just outside the Visitor Center is an easy and enjoyable, self-guided nature trail. This mile-long loop takes about 45 minutes and highlights the wildlife and other natural features of the northwoods.

The Visitor Center is open from mid-May through mid-October.

Interpretive Activities

gray wolf
Gray Wolf

The Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park holds interpretive programs and activities from mid-June through early October and from the end of December through February.

The activities change throughout the year and from year to year, but here are some that are commonly held:

  • Giants of the North: 1 hour evening program about Michigan’s big 3 northern forests: black bear, moose, and gray wolf
  • Astronomy: Learn about the stars at the Lake of the Clouds observation area. You may even see the Northern Lights!
  • Geocaching: Learn basic GPS use while discovering hidden “caches.”

There’s also a non-profit dedicated to supporting the state park which shows events happening throughout the season. You can see Upcoming Events in the Porcupine Mountains.

Guided Hikes

Lake of the Clouds
Lake of the Clouds

There are TONS of hiking trails and scenic views scattered throughout the Porkies. If you’re short on time, the three premier areas are the Lake of the Clouds, Summit Peak, and Presque Isle River.

For the Lake of the Clouds you can drive straight to the overlook however if you hike a few miles on the North Mirror Lake, Big Carp River, or Escarpment trails the views are even better!

Here are some of the great guided hikes the park offers:

  • Nonesuch Hike: Hike to the long-abandoned copper mining community of the 1880s.
  • Summit Peak Hike: Perfect way to end the day by watching the sunset from the top.
  • Aquatic Insect Hike: Explore the Union River, collecting and identifying live insects before returning them to the river.
  • Bear Den Hike: See an actual black bear den site!
  • Michigan Gray Wolf Hike: Learn about the natural history, current status, and controversy of Michigan’s gray wolf.

You can view a map of the program locations. For a detailed schedule or to get directions, stop by the Wilderness Visitor Center, park headquarters, or either of the park campground offices.

Campgrounds in Porcupine Mountains

You have three options for staying in the Porkies.

Choose between the Union Bay Campground (with hookups) and Union Rivers Big Bear Campground (with hookups) that are close to the iconic Lake of the Clouds. Or head west and south to the beautiful Presque Isle campground (boondocking only).

Presque Isle Campground

As boondockers, our favorite spot is the Presque Isle Campground, on the western end of the park.

It has 50 sites and about half are generator free. This is quiet. You can sometimes hear wolves howl at night and most of your neighbors are in tents, campers, or small RVs.

Then you can drive to Summit Peak and walk a half-mile to the observation tower for the premier panorama of the park.

Finally, down at Presque Isle, hike the 2-mile loop formed by the East and West River Trails that run parallel to the wild and scenic Presque Isle River. Boardwalk and viewing platforms allow breathtaking views of this river. Spectacular waterfalls, cascades, and rapids are just a short walk from the parking area.

Presque Isle Campground’s season runs from April 1st – November 30th. Reservable dates are April 1st – October 15th. You can view their website here and make reservations here.

7 Day Adventure Guide to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

Michigan's upper peninsula

The Porcupine Mountains are just one stop in our 7 day adventure guide of Michigan’s UP. Click here for the full guide!

Looking for more ideas for road trips?
The Best Things to Do in the Porcupine Mountains 1
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In each location, we provide a suggested route and itinerary (7 stops in each guide, one for each day of a week trip!) as well as links to multiple campgrounds and boondocking spots, local tips, and interesting things to do at each location.

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