Michigan's Porkies, by foot and wheel

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of August 1-8, 1996
Kayak rentals in Glacier Bay
Day hikes near Lake City, Colorado
Top picks in Vermont, New Hampshire
Peaceful canoeing in eastern New York
Michigan's Porkies, by foot and wheel

Michigan's Porkies, by foot and wheel
Question: I want to go to the upper peninsula in Michigan in August. Can you recommend some areas for hiking, biking, and lakefront cottages or camps?

Michael Kennedy
Cincinnati, OH
[email protected]

Trails in the Porkies
offer great views

Adventure Adviser: Finding both hiking and biking venues on the upper peninsula isn't too much of a hardship. The obvious choice for trekking on two feet is the Porcupine Mountains, known affectionately among upstanding Midwesterners like yourself as simply the Porkies. Tell people where you're headed--the towering, not-quite-snow-covered 2,000-foot peaks in the 63,000-acre Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park--and there's a good chance they'll snicker at the prospect. But while these clearly aren't the Rockies, you'll have the last laugh, thanks to the park's 85-plus miles of backcountry hiking trails, more than a dozen lakes and ponds, and plenty of trout-filled rivers and streams.

Take your choice of two modern campgrounds in the park, Presque Isle and Union Bay, or avoid the hookup-hungry RV crowds and hike on some of the more remote trails to primitive campsites or one of three first-come, first-serve Adirondack-style shelters. You'll need to pick up a backcountry permit at the ranger station (906-885-5275). The park is located off Michigan 64 north of Silver City.

Lucky for you, there's plenty of good mountain biking only a stone's throw (relatively speaking) from the Porkies, just west along the Wisconsin border. The newly established Pines & Mines Mountain Bike Trail System has more than 300 miles of looping gravel byways and Ottawa National Forest roads. The one drawback: While the system has more than its fair share of wooded backroads and scenic cruising routes, it's pretty short on technical challenge. How short? Try only 26 miles of singletrack. Nonetheless, Trail 6, running 6.5 miles west from Montreal, Wisconsin, along the weather-beaten Penokee Mountains just west of Hurley, should help satisfy your craving for gnarly knobby-tire riding. Or, take it easy on Trail 13, as it heads south from Montreal and into flatter terrain around the Turtle-Flambeau Flowage. Any way you look at it, with a mess of biking loops heading out in all directions, you can't go wrong with Pines & Mines. Bed down at The Inn, a former mine office building that now serves as a homey B&B (doubles, $50; 715-561-5180).

For camping on the Michigan side of the trail system, call Ottawa National Forest (906- 932-1330). The Iron County Development Zone Council (715-561-2922) is the best source of maps and area information and--if you come up short in the bike department--Trek & Trail in Ironwood (906-932-5858) will rent you one for about $20 per day.

While you're over there, consider knocking off a chunk of the North Country National Scenic Trail, a through-trail that will eventually extend from South Dakota to New York. For now, pick up the start of it three miles west of Mellen, Wisconsin, and hike 12 miles through the Chequamegon National Forest to the top of high, rocky bluffs. If you're feeling ambitious, keep going: There are currently 60-plus miles to explore. For more information, call the forest headquarters at 715-762-2461. Finally, check out our write-ups in "The Flatland's Private Big Blue," (September 1995) and "America the Hoofable" (April 1996).

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