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Backpacker Magazine – October 2011

Rip & Go: Lake of the Clouds to Summit Peak - Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, MI

Hike a high escarpment above a northern forest and Lake Superior.

by: Steve Johnson

Old-growth hemlocks (Photo by Eric Wunrow)
Old-growth hemlocks (Photo by Eric Wunrow)
Lake of the Clouds (Photo by Eric Wunrow)
Lake of the Clouds (Photo by Eric Wunrow)
Winter views of Lake Superior (Photo by Sandy Richardson)
Winter views of Lake Superior (Photo by Sandy Richardson)

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Do it

See fall colors so bright they seem to glow in the dark as you alternate between highline ridges and canyon glens on this 13.7-mile point-to-point in the Upper Peninsula. Start at the Lake of the Clouds overlook (1), 600 feet above the water’s surface, and hike northeast on the Escarpment Trail. In 2.3 miles, a short descent to a cleft in the ridge brings you to a junction with an unnamed connector trail (2) that leads to the remains of Carp Lake Mine. Next, climb to the crown of a wind-buffed chunk of 2-billion-year-old basalt (3). This linear pleat of bedrock is part of the massive Niagara Escarpment, which curves from Chicago to New York. Along the trail, weather-toughened bearberry and juniper grow near 1,575-foot Cuyahoga Peak (4), then give way to a grove of gnarled red oaks. The path descends 500 feet in .9 mile to the overgrown remnants of the Cuyahoga Mine (5), then meets the Government Peak Trail .1 mile later. Continue south past the two Overlook Trail junctions, and enter an aspen grove that turns gold in October. Making good time? Recline in the shady glen near 20-foot Trap Falls (6) at mile 5.8, before following the trail on a 90-degree turn west. In 2.2 miles, reach an unnamed, shrub-lined pond, and camp among a nearby stand of mature oaks (7). Next day, the trail ascends 200 feet in .3 mile to Government Peak’s 1,850-foot summit (8). (Pack water if you want to camp here.) Descend the peak’s southern side and reach a 100-yard boardwalk section over a bog, then turn southwest onto the Mirror Lake Trail (9) at mile 10.1. Take this to the Little Carp River Trail (10). Go left onto the White Pine Extension Trail (11), hike southeast for .2 mile to the base of Summit Peak, and switchback to the 1,958-foot summit (12). On clear days, the view from the 40-foot-tall fire tower includes Isle Royale 80 miles north-northeast and the Apostle Islands, 30 miles to the northwest. From the top, coast downhill .5 mile to the trailhead (13).

Trip Planner

Shuttle From Wakefield, take CR 519 north 13 miles to South Boundary Rd. Go east 14 miles to Summit Peak Rd., which dead-ends at the trailhead.

To trailhead From South Boundary Rd., go east 10.5 miles, then turn left on M 107 to Lake of the Clouds.

Permit Required; $14/night; self-register at trailhead

Gear up Porcupine Mountains Outpost; 36594 M 107, White Pine. (906) 885-5612


Trip data

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