“Wilderness running along the heights and shore of the Great Lake Superior.
— samh Haraldson
Birding · Fall Colors · Lake · River/Creek · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife
With an excellent balance of high rocky ridges, low wooded riverways, gorgeous inland lakes, and the weathered shores of the Great Lake Superior, the Porcupine Mountains State Park is a runners dream.
The Upper Midwestern United States isn't home to many vast swaths of wilderness so the Porkies are a real gem. This loop takes runners into a wide variety of zones the area has to offer and provides high country views as well as lowland woods, water, and wildlife. For the adventurer willing to put in the work to get to all these parts of the park, the reward is well worth it.
In addition to great views you'll experience plenty of quality camping, backcountry lakes, fishing, bird and wildlife options abound as you make your way along quality trail tread past some of the finest scenery the Midwest has to offer.
The Lake of the Clouds trailhead is an excellent jumping off point for an excursion into the Porkies. From here, you start out with a short climb to the iconic Lake of the Clouds overlook. You'll share this with visitors of all walks of life, but once you leave the overlook and head into the woods prepare for the solitude and quiet the Northwoods is known for.
Many excellent loops can be formed within the boundaries of the Porkies, but maximizing the available terrain and ecosystems can be had with this loop. From the large inland Mirror Lake to the Little Carp River, the windy shores of Lake Superior, a walk up the "Big" Carp River, and a climb to the Escarpment Ridge promontory gives an excellent overview of what the Porkies have on offer.
The start and end point of the run, at Lake of the Clouds on the Escarpment Ridge, will provide stellar and expansive views of both Lake of the Clouds and the Great Lake Superior. Drink in these far-reaching experiences and then drop down into the woods, marshes, lakes, and rivers of the heart of the Porkies.
The trails in the center of the wilderness focus on the park's micro-ecosystem. Take in the individual trees, plants and fauna around you. The views are closer and tighter in the forest, but a more intimate perspective can be gained with your surroundings. Cross creeks and rivers on bridges or via a ford and truly live in the moment of the backcountry.
Be sure to camp one night on the Great Lake Superior and ponder its mass from the rocky shore. Hear the waves breaking against the beach as you lie in your shelter at night realizing you are but a small part of a vast universe.
Once again gain the Escarpment Ridge and take in the breathtaking views on your last day of running. Once back at Lake of the Clouds, sip in the beautiful view one last time before making your way out of the park. On your way, make plans to return to enjoy another part of this exceptional landscape sometime in the future.
Flora & Fauna
Flora and fauna in the Porkies are quite abundant. One may witness black bear, fisher, red squirrel, varying hare, red fox, gray wolf, coyote, bobcat, porcupine, striped skunk, and on occasion, moose. And the spring display of wildflowers in May is spectacular and the woodland wildflowers in summer continue this excellence. Coral-root orchids, rattlesnake plantain orchids, and many others. Ferns, clubmosses, lichens, and mosses are also in abundance.