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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)

Take it With You
Download a printable PDF of this entire weekend.

GPS-Enabled Trip Report
See this trip on a map, download it to your phone, GPS, or computer, and more.

Key Gear
Gravity Filter
Ironically, this lakes region hike is light on water sources. In fact, on this route, there are only three reliable spots to fill up: the Upper Carp River (mile 4.7), the unnamed pond at mile eight, and Mirror Pond (mile 10.9). Aim to leave each with at least three liters of water per person for drinking—and an additional four liters at the unnamed pond if you want to dry camp on Government Peak, which offers a view of Lake Superior.

Your best bet for treating large volumes of water? The Sawyer Complete Water Filter System - 2 Liter ($90, 14 oz., This gravity-fed device cleanses two liters per minute while you are free to do other stuff.

For the strongest siphon and best flow: 1) Let the output tube from the “dirty” water bag fill completely before attaching the filter, and 2) Make sure the hose is fully elongated to harness the maximum pull of gravity.

Bonus: The “dirty” water bag is puncture resistant, and can be toted full for an additional two liters of carrying capacity. Plus, the filter is easy to backwash when it needs cleaning. See for a primer on cleaning and repair practices.

Locals Know
While the Porkies reach the height of their beauty in the fall, the winter offers unmatched solitude and a chance to play in some of the largest snow accumulations east of the Rockies (about 200 inches annually). The park’s 87 miles of designated ski trails come with wide-angle vistas of Lake Superior and offer quiet glides through snow-cloaked pine forest. For an intermediate six-miler, follow the interpretive trail south from the visitor center and the Nonesuch Trail past the downhill ski area to the Superior Loop, with stop-in-your-tracks views of the big lake. Take the Deer Yard Trail to circle back to the visitor center. Make it a weekend: Reserve a space and go rustic at one of the park’s ski-in cabins (, book a year in advance).

See This
Old-Growth Hemlock
The Porkies are home to 35,000 acres of never-been-logged giants, the most extensive tract of old trees east of the Mississippi. In Michigan, Eastern hemlock were originally harvested for the tannins in their purple-brown bark, which were used by the leather industry. But the tree’s brittle fibers made it less-prized as timber. With the saws buzzing elsewhere—and thanks to a moist, shady microclimate—hemlock elders, some standing 100 feet tall and topping 600 years old, still reign in the U.P.

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