The Porcupine Mountains: Western UP

A short three day stay at Hancock City Campground allowed us time to get caught up on some internet work before our trek to the Porcupine Mountains. I also stocked up on supplies here, good call as there isn’t a lot in the way of grocery stores in the western most part of the UP. For a campground near the city, this one was pretty nice. I was able to do laundry here and our site was very spacious, backing up to trees which makes Josie happy.

Arriving at Lake Gogebic State Park, at first I was unimpressed. It is a typical state park with sites close together. However, it didn’t take long for me to warm up to the place. Downside, electric boxes are shared between sites and we had to use an extension cord to reach our rig. There are 2 upsides. First, at $20 a night with electric hook-ups it’s a good deal. Second, most of the sites here have some lake view even ours further away. It was also mid-September so not very busy. In fact for a few days we were the only ones in our entire “island” of campsites (18 sites). Lake Gogebic is beautiful, especially as the sun goes down. Plus the close proximity to everything we wanted to explore was the main reason we chose this state park. Note: very little availability at Porcupine Mountains State Park, 1 or 2 days here and there.

With our home base established for the next week it was time to explore the surrounding area. At first I was overwhelmed with all of the choices. Where to begin and how to narrow it down. Fall was settling in bringing with it cooler temperatures. We would need to start our trek back soon. After a little research I came up with 3-4 main areas to explore. Devised a plan based on the weather and off we went. After getting some work accomplished first, it’s not play time all of the time.

Black River & Rainbow Falls

The Black River is located about an hour away from Lake Gogebic. The drive was beautiful and hardly seemed like an hour. It’s something we have noticed in the UP, even the drive to places is gorgeous. After paying the $5 day use fee we set off to explore. There is a suspension bridge that crosses the Black River leading to Lake Superior and a trail to Rainbow Falls. We opted for Lake Superior first. Our time on Lake Superior was coming to a close. Time was spent walking along the beach and climbing out on a wall of rocks with waves crashing on either side. Here Shane helped free a trapped seagull, somehow found his way down between rocks and couldn’t fly out. Shane’s good deed for the day.

The trail leading to Rainbow falls followed the ridgeline with the Black River below. Several steps led up to the ridge. At 3/4 of a mile, it was an easy hike out to the falls. We found a path leading down to the top of the waterfall and below the falls further down stream. For those not wanting to hike or limited on time, there is a parking lot and an overlook across the river. However, to get the view we did of the falls, the trail is a must. It was so interesting to see it curling around and cascading down over the rocks. Before heading back we simply sat on some rocks down by the river and listened to the water falling over the edge.

On our way back we ventured off onto a smaller trail that eventually led back down to the beach. A bit more time spent on the beach always makes me happy. There was another hike we were hoping to do at Copper Peak, however we decided to enjoy quality time here at Black River and Rainbow Falls rather than try and fit in another trail. Copper Peak is on the list for a return trip.

Lake of the Clouds & Escarpment Trails

This is one I’ve had my eye on since first researching the UP. However, I was concerned about this one being too touristy and busy. For those with limited time or ability to hike there is a parking lot and a nice overlook available. I knew this was not what we were looking for. Enter the Escarpment Trail. In my opinion this is the way to see Lake of the Clouds (LOC for the rest of this post). It is stunning and that’s not enough to truly describe this trail. The entire trail is 8 miles (round trip) but we opted to do half of it. With a small spot to pull off on the side of the road you hike in 2 miles to the overlook and back out those 2 miles, The other option is to park at the overlook and hike out as far as you want on the Escarpment trail (or not at all) and then back to your car at the overlook. Signs on the way in said to expect delays at the parking area for the overlook, so we opted for option 1. And we were NOT disappointed. This trail follows one of the ridgelines in the Porcupine Mountains, aka The Porkies. With breathtaking views, sheer drop offs, and plenty of up and down hiking it’s a tough but rewarding trail. The best part you get amazing views of LOC from many different vantage points.

We opted to continue on to the overlook. Might as well, we hiked that far in. The overlook did not disappoint. Although I would highly recommend doing some of the Escarpment trail for the other vantage points. Then to finish things off, we hiked down to the bottom of LOC for yet another view. It was cool to see where we had been at the overlook cliff area.

Too bad for us we had to take that beautiful trail back 2 miles to the car. I jokingly said, “this boring trail again”. I can assure you, nothing boring about it. As a post hike treat, I packed us a few beers in the cooler. We found a nice spot right on Lake Superior to sit in the sand and sip on a well deserved UP beer. If you ever find yourself in the Porkies, I highly recommend the Escarpment trail out to LOC.

As an added bonus, we had a visitor during our stay. Our friend and fellow nomad stayed at Lake Gogebic for a few days on her way out west. We played catch up while sitting around her campfire after returning from our hike. It was such a joy to talk to someone else living on the road full time, exchanging tips and tricks.

Presque Isle Waterfall & East River Trail

The next day all of us went to explore the Presque Isle Waterfall and Presque River area. Three humans and three dogs. What a great day it was. As per usual, there is a boardwalk leading down to the Presque Isle Waterfalls for those short on time. With several steps it’s not well suited for those with mobility issues. We however, were here to explore. We made our way down to Lake Superior first. This would be our last time on Lake Superior and I soaked it all in. The dogs played in the water, it felt refreshing before our hike.

Making our way back to the first of a series of waterfalls, we explored around on the big rocks that looked almost like sheets stacked up. In some places the edges were jagged and others smooth, almost as if they were cut. Shane took a dip in a pool of cold water while the rest of us explored further before venturing out on the river trail.

The trail, not surprisingly, was such a fun trail. Following along the ridgeline of the Presque River and in some places we found access to the water and waterfalls. The forest was mostly old growth and stunning on it’s own.

At one point, we left behind the shoes to go barefoot walking in the water over rocks. We found a spot to sit and put our feet in and enjoy the water flowing over, foot spa day. Originally we thought of doing the entire loop, crossing the river on the bridge/road leading to the west side. But on a tip from a local we went back the way we came. The east river trail is accessed by a suspension bridge near where the Presque River flows into Lake Superior. That portion of the trail follows the river through old growth forest. The west river trail is a series of boardwalks with stairs and overlooks at various waterfalls along the way. Wanting more of a trail experience and less of a boardwalk experience we stuck with the east side. This also allowed us to explore more.

My attempt to get a photo of all three dogs. I couldn’t quite get all three in focus or all looking in my direction.

Crash, Dream, and Josie had a great time exploring. By the end of the day, all of us were worn out but in a good way. Nature’s playground did not disappoint. It was a great way to wrap up our stay near the Porkies.

Our last day was spent getting some work done before we all headed out the following day. We parted ways with Corrine as she went west and we headed east.

UP NEXT: Wrapping Up our UP Travels

2 thoughts on “The Porcupine Mountains: Western UP

  1. I LOVE your adventures! Northern Michigan is one of the most beautiful places in the country and I’ve enjoyed revisiting some familiar places, but going deeper, through your travels. Beautiful photos! I love that Josie also makes friends along the way, too. She’s enjoying this as much as you and Shane are, isn’t she? (Also, “heart-tug” for the seagull rescue!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Kitty. We LOVED the UP, it’s a special place for sure. Josie is loving the adventures, new trails to sniff & explore and all the humans and dogs she gets to meet. Plus her newest past time, chasing squirrels up trees 😁. The seagull flew away safely thanks to Shane!

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