Skip to Content

Porcupine Mountains: Ultimate Guide to Michigan’s Greatest State Park

Porcupine Mountains in Michigan's Upper Peninsula

by Aiden Peltier

Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park Guide

Porcupine Mountains are the perfect spot for your next Michigan outdoors adventure.

Ranked by some as the most beautiful state park in the United States, Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park is home to an abundance of natural beauty, including the majestic Lake of the Clouds.

It’s also considered the largest state park in Michigan, encompassing nearly 60,000 acres. Of those, more than 35,000 are part of a gorgeous old-growth forest.

Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park is considered one of Michigan’s great historical sites because of its rich history and is one of nineteen Keweenaw Heritage Sites, in partnership with the Keweenaw National Historical Park.

What Are the Porkies?

Porcupine Mountains—AKA, “the Porkies”—are a series of mountains spanning across the northwestern region of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula near the shoreline of Lake Superior. They received their name from the native Ojibwa people, who decided on this name because of how the silhouettes of the mountains resemble crouching porcupines. The area is very popular for camping, hiking, snowmobiling, nature programs, and other fun outdoor recreation. 

If you’re considering visiting the Porkies, then read on for more information and tips on how to make the most of your trip!

Lake of the Clouds in Michigan's Porcupine Mountains State Park

A Brief History of the Porcupine Mountains

Before becoming part of a state park, the Porcupine Mountains were the site of several copper mines.

The copper mines were active from the late-mid 19th century through early 20th century, one of which was the Nonesuch Mine.

To protect the vast acres of old-growth forest, the area was officially established as Porcupine Mountains State Park in 1945. After the passing of Michigan’s 1972 Wilderness and Natural Areas Act, the park from then on was known as Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park.

porcupine mountains waterfall
Porcupine Mountains Waterfall

Planning Your Trip to the Porkies: What You Need to Know

Before you set off on your Porcupine Mountains Wilderness adventure, it’s a great idea to plan your trip in advance, so that you come prepared and know where to go. Maps and other important park information are available online and at the Visitor Center (see next section). I highly encourage you to check those out, but I’ll provide additional information here, as well. 

What to Pack

Whether you’re camping or just taking a day trip, always make a packing list to ensure you don’t forget anything. Even for the shortest outings, make sure you bring the basic necessities:

  • water bottle or canteen, bug spray
  • bug net (the wearable kind, to guard your face from the blackflies)
  • snacks (like granola bars)
  • sunscreen

Just in case however, it’s good to bring survival gear like a first aid kit, a whistle, a flashlight, and a hiking knife, among other things that are good for emergency situations. 

For longer stays (like camping), bring everything listed previously, in addition to

  • changes of clothing
  • soap
  • sustainable food
  • sleeping bags and tent (unless staying in a yurt or cabin)
  • blankets
  • personal hygiene products
  • entertainment (like cards or reading material)
ultimate guide to michigan's upper peninsula

What to Wear When Visit in the Porkies

The clothing you wear is more than just a fashion statement—carefully choosing your outfit is vital for your safety and survival in the wilderness! While what you plan on doing at the park might have a slight impact on what to wear, a general rule of thumb wear closed-toe shoes, comfortable loose and flexible clothing that doesn’t restrict movement, a cap to shade you from the sun, and any vital gear mentioned in the previous section.

Long sleeves and pants will better protect you from blackflies, but if it’s hot out, you might want to wear shorts (comfortable ones, not short-short) and a tee shirt. Of course, there are exceptions like going to the beach, in which case you might want to bring sandals and a swimsuit. If visiting in winter, you will want to bundle up well and wear snowpants. Dress for the occasion, not just for selfies!

Porcupine Mountains Visitor Center
Address: 33303 Headquarters Rd, Ontonagon, Michigan, 49953
Phone: (906) 885-5275
Hours: May 15 – October 14: Daily, 8am-8pm; October 15 – May 14: Closed

Note: The Visitor Center is temporarily closed this summer due to road construction, and it will reopen after August 15th. During this time, the Ski Chalet will serve as the visitor center.

If you’re seeking further information on Porcupine Mountains or curious about the programs that the park has to offer, the Visitor Center is your go-to for all you need to know!

Campers are required to check in at the center before their stay, and the helpful staff are there to answer any questions and provide visitor guides. If you don’t have a recreational passport, that’s no problem because they sell them at the center, too!

The visitor center also features an auditorium, a museum detailing the park’s history and displaying exhibits on wildlife, and a gift shop for all your souvenir needs.

Rushing river in the Porcupine Mountains State Park
Rushing river in the Porcupine Mountains State Park

Concessions and Stores in the Porcupine Mountains

There are a few shops situated around the park, including Porcupine Mountain Outpost, the Ski Shop, and a gift shop located at the Visitor Center.

These places offer concessions and supplies like food, beverages, ice, firewood, gifts, and hiking/camping gear. To share my personal experience, my mom and I stopped by Porcupine Mountain Outpost on our way out of the park, and it was a fun visit! Inside we found many cool gifts and supplies, making it seem like the perfect stop on your way in if you forgot to bring something, or on your way out if you want a souvenir or refreshment.

We bought canned iced tea and hand-dipped ice cream (which tasted super AMAZING), and it was just what we needed after a long hike on a hot day. I’d highly recommend checking it out!

  • Porcupine Mountain Outpost
    Address: 107th Engineers Memorial Hwy, Ontonagon, MI 49953
    Phone: (906) 275-4200
    Hours: Daily, 10am-9pm
  • The Ski Shop
    Address: M-107, Ontonagon, MI 49953
    Phone: (906) 885-5612
    Hours: Daily, 10am-8pm
Fall Color in Michigan's Porcupine Mountains

Boat and Bike Rentals in the Porcupine Mountains

If you would like to go biking or boating but didn’t bring your own bicycle, canoe, or kayak, there are a couple of places around Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park that offer rentals. Porcupine Mountain Outpost also offers cool gifts, refreshments, and much-needed supplies for your trip, so make sure to check it out!

  • Porcupine Mountain Outpost – Bicycles, Canoes, and Kayaks
    Address: 107th Engineers Memorial Hwy, Ontonagon, MI 49953
    Phone: (906) 275-4200
    Hours: Daily, 10am-9pm
  • River’s Edge Boat Rentals – Canoes, Kayaks, and Pontoons
    Address: 20 Superior Way, Ontonagon, MI 49953
    Phone: (906) 390-2331 (It is recommended that you send a text before your visit because staff is not always onsite
    Hours: Daily, 10am-6pm
millennium park bike trails

Hiking and Biking in Porcupine Mountains

Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park has some of the most gorgeous trails in Michigan, perfect for hiking, biking, and wildlife viewing. I personally took the escarpment trail from the Lake of the Clouds Overlook trailhead, and while the hilly and rocky trail was rough, the breathtaking views made it all worthwhile (and the overlooks get better and better the further you go!).

Some trails are meant for going on foot (like the escarpment trail), but there are many great biking trails as well, and rentals are available for purchase (see “Boat and Bike Rentals”).

I’ve made a list of all the park trails, along with their length (most are point-to-point, so they could be twice as long as the length listed). While some may seem long, these distances are customizable, as you have the option to just go for the views and turn back whenever you feel ready.

Click here to view a map of the trail system.

  • Beaver Creek Trail
    Trail length: 1.2 miles
  • Big Carp River Trail
    Trail length: 9.6 miles
  • Cross Trail/Correction Line Trail
    Trail length: 7.3 miles
  • Deer Yard Trail
    Trail length: 5 miles
  • Double Trail
    Trail length: 3 miles
  • East and West River Trails
    Trail length: 2.3 miles
  • East and West Vista Trail
    Trail length: 2.5 miles
  • Escarpment Trail
    Trail length: 4.3 miles
  • Government Peak Trail
    Trail length: 7.3 miles
  • Lake Superior Trail
    Trail length: 17.1 miles
  • Lily Pond Trail
    Trail length: 2.5 miles
  • Little Carp River Trail
    Trail length: 4.7 miles
  • Log Camp Trail
    Trail length: 5 miles
  • Lost Lake Trail
    Trail length: 6.7 miles
  • Nonesuch Trail
    Trail length: 3 miles
  • North Mirror Lake Trail
    Trail length: 7.3 miles
  • Overlook Trail
    Trail length: 2.7 miles
  • Pinkerton Trail
    Trail length: 2.6 miles
  • South Mirror Lake Trail
    Trail length: 3 miles
  • Summit Peak Tower Trail
    Trail length: 0.5 miles
  • Superior Loop
    Trail length: 1.5 miles
  • Triple Trail
    Trail length: 3 miles
  • Union Mine Trail
    Trail length: 1 mile
  • Union Spring Trail
    Trail length: 4 miles
  • Visitor Center Nature Trail
    Trail length: 1.4 miles
  • Whitetail Path
    Trail length: 0.8 miles
tent outside a campsite on river in michigan

Camping in Porcupine Mountains

Camping in Michigan State Park’s is a fun and rewarding experience, and what better place to experience the great outdoors at its finest than at Porcupine Mountains?

The park has several campgrounds available, both modern and rustic, for you to select from. I have listed each of the camping options here, along with a phone number to contact for more information. Keep in mind that while the general rules and regulations of the park apply to all areas, some campgrounds may have their own additional regulations to abide by. 

  • Porcupine Mountains Backcountry Camping
  • Porcupine Mountains Group Sites
  • Lost Creek Rustic Outpost Camp
  • Presque Isle Rustic Campground
  • Union Bay Modern Campground
  • White Pine Rustic Outpost Camp
  • Union River Rustic Outpost Camp
Guide to glamping in Michigan

Lodges, Cabins, and Yurts in the Porkies

  • Backcountry Rustic Cabins
  • Union Bay Tiny Quill House
  • Kaug Wudjoo Modern Lodge
  • Backcountry Wilderness Yurts
sea kayaking in michigan - copper harbor

Kayaking and Canoeing at Union Bay in the Porcupine Mountains

Kayaking and Ccanoeing are peaceful ways to enjoy the beauty of Michigan’s nature and to unwind with a breath of fresh air in the great outdoors.

Union Bay is a great place to go boating, where you can paddle through the vast sparkling waters of Lake Superior. Lake of the Clouds and other rivers and streams within Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park are too shallow for boats, but the Ontonagon River is another option, if you would like to take a serene backwoods trip just outside of the park.

Beach Day Fun at Union Bay

Have some fun in the sun at the 2-mile-long beach at Union Bay, accessible from multiple points on M-107. Build sandcastles, collect rocks, have a picnic, and stick around to watch the gorgeous sunset. If you’re brave, take a swim in the chilly and ferocious Lake Superior!

Porcupine Mountains in Michigan's Upper Peninsula waterfall
Waterfall at Porcupine Mountains in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

Hunting and Fishing in Porcupine Mountains

Lake Superior and the inland lakes and rivers of the Upper Peninsula are considered outstanding spots for fishing, with an abundance of trout, walleye, bass, salmon, pike, and more.

The Porcupine Mountains are a great place for fishing, with many water access areas. Even Lake of the Clouds is open to fishing with plenty of bass, but it’s catch-and-release and only artificial bait is allowed. The shoreline at Union Bay is another great spot, offering various species of trout and salmon, and you don’t have to release after catching.

Hunting is permitted in Porcupine Mountains during the fall season, including deer, black bear, and ruffed grouse. There are restrictions and guidelines in place, so please contact the park in advance at (906) 885-5275.

Shooting Range

Practice your aim and learn gun and archery safety at the Lake Superior Sportsman’s Club shooting range. Some events and activities are open to the public, but please contact the facility in advance for further information.

Lake Superior Sportsman’s Club
Address: 31433 M-64, Ontonagon, MI 49953
Phone: (906) 885-5334 (Club President)

Disc Golfing at the Porcupine Mountains Winter Sports Complex

Enjoy a fun game of disc golfing during your stay at the park! The Porcupine Mountains Winter Sports Complex offers an 18-hole course which winds through the woods leading to the ski hill, with beautiful panoramic views surrounding the area.

It’s a fun activity the whole family can enjoy, and it’s a great way to get some fresh air while staying active. The course is free to use and open from late May through mid-October. If you didn’t bring your own discs, they’re available for rent at the store near the Union Bay Campground on M-107.

Lake of the Clouds in Porcupine Mountains
Lake of the Clouds in Porcupine Mountains

Winter Recreation in Porcupine Mountains

While the main roads in the park including South Boundary Road are closed for the winter season, that doesn’t stop winter recreation enthusiasts from enjoying the winter trails! Porcupine Mountain Wilderness State Park is a beautiful Winter Wonderland during the snowy season, and it’s a great place to have some winter fun—especially for snowmobilers. Here are some fun activities you can enjoy in the snow at the park, along with information on how to get the best of it.

Skiing, Snowshoeing, and More

Enjoy some wintertime fun with activities such as snowshoeing, skiing, snowboarding, and fat-tire biking. Experience the beautiful frozen nature around you as you traverse through over 25 miles of groomed trails or take to the hills and fly like the wind!

For more experienced cross-country skiers, there are also nearly 90 miles of ungroomed ski trails deeper into the park, offering more challenge to your winter adventure. Don’t have skis or snowshoes? No problem! The Winter Sports Complex provides rentals and all the gear you’ll need, as well as lessons with expert staff.

Because the majority of the roads in the park are closed for snowmobiling, you will need to take M-64 to get to the Winter Sports Complex, which serves as your wintertime visitor center.

Porcupine Mountains Winter Sports Complex
Address: 36672 M-107, Ontonagon MI, 49953
Phone: (906) 885-5209

Snowmobiling in the Porkies

Roads going through Porcupine Mountains are closed during the winter, offering over 350 miles of groomed snowmobile trails! Enjoy gorgeous views of Lake Superior and the surrounding wilderness as you ride the trails and additional stretches of untouched snow, and make sure to stop by the various shelters around the park to warm up and unwind.

For your convenience, there are parking areas just off to the side where each road ends. Forgot to bring some gear? Visit the Winter Sports Complex to find what you need!

porcupine mountains waterfall
Porcupine Mountains Waterfall

Porcupine Mountains Nature Programs

Nature programs are a fun way to get involved at Porcupine Mountains, with outdoor activities, sustainable arts and crafts, and nature-based learning.

Some of these programs include archery, guided hikes, knot-tying, learning about plant and animal species, fun games, and much more. Interested in catching a program? The Visitor Center provides an online event calendar which is updated weekly!

Porcupine Mountains in Michigan's Upper Peninsula in autumn

Beautiful Fall Foliage Viewing at Porcupine Mountains

There are many great places to view the fall colors in Michigan, especially in the Upper Peninsula. However, in my personal opinion, Porcupine Mountains is THE BEST place to view the colorful foliage.

There is a big reason why tourists from all over the world travel to Michigan each year to visit Porcupine Mountains during the peak color changes of the fall season.

Nowhere else can you find views as magnificent as those from the viewing platforms overlooking Lake of the Clouds, or from the ski lift at the Winter Sports Complex. You will be astonished by the fiery hues of red, orange, and yellow spanning for miles across the sparkling reflective lake, as well as along the Lake Superior lakeshore.

Words cannot begin to describe how breathtaking the sight is, so I encourage you to go see for yourself. It’s an experience you won’t want to miss.

Also, make sure to check out the My Michigan Beach Fall Color Map, while you’re here!

Seven places to upper peninsula michigan fall colors

FAQs About Porcupine Mountains

How Much Does It Cost to Get into Porcupine Mountains?

There are no upfront costs to get into the state park—However, recreational passports are required. If you do not have one, they can be purchased at the visitor center. Costs will vary depending on residential status.

Are Dogs Allowed at Porcupine Mountains?

Yes, but please bring a leash and pick up after your pet.

Are There Bears at Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park?

Yes, Porcupine Mountains is home to black bears, but they are relatively timid compared to other bear species. Always use caution when you see them, however. Wearing a bell while hiking may help keep bears away.

What Other Wildlife is in Porcupine Mountains?

The state park is home to a wide abundance of wildlife, such as white-tailed deer, moose, porcupines, beavers, otters, migratory birds, gray and red foxes, coyotes, squirrels, and many other species. Cougars and gray wolves are occasionally spotted, but not common.

How Many Days Should I Stay in Porcupine Mountains?

This really depends on what you plan to do! If you would like to go camping and really enjoy all the park has to offer, plan to stay for at least three days. If staying in a cabin or lodge, some have minimum stay requirements which vary by season. Contact the park in advance for more information.

How Many Waterfalls are in the Porcupine Mountains?

There are over 90 named waterfalls within the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park and its surrounding areas. These waterfalls range in size and accessibility, offering visitors a variety of options to explore and admire the natural beauty of the region. Some of the notable waterfalls in the Porcupine Mountains include Manabezho Falls, Manido Falls, Nawadaha Falls, and Summit Peak Falls, among many others.

What Towns are Near Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park?

Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park is located partly in Ontonagon County, which includes Ontonagon, Greenland, Silver City, Rockland, Mass City, and White Pine. The rest of the park is part of Gogebic County, which includes Bessemer, Ironwood, Watersmeet, Marenisco, and Wakefield. The nearest major city is Houghton, located in Houghton County, which neighbors Ontonagon County to the northeast.

What is the Highest Point of the Porcupine Mountains?

Summit Peak is the highest point of Porcupine Mountains, reaching 1,958 feet above sea level.

Can You See the Northern Lights from Porcupine Mountains?

The state park is a great place to go for this magnificent natural phenomenon, but the lights are rarely seen from the mountains themselves. Going to the Union Bay lakeshore should give you a better view, as they’re more visible just above the horizon of Lake Superior.

How Old are the Trees in the Porcupine Mountains?

Trees in this old growth hemlock forest are multi-aged, ranging from 80 to 550 years old. The mountains themselves are estimated to be around 2 billion years old.

Is There Cell Service in the Porcupine Mountains?

The modern campgrounds offer phone service, but the rest of the park is all wilderness, and you might not get good reception, minus a few spots high in the mountains.

What is the Most Scenic Trail in Porcupine Mountains?

The Escarpment Trail and Lake of the Clouds Overlook are certain to give you the most breathtaking views in the park.

What Michigan Islands are Near Porcupine Mountains?

The nearest island to Porcupine Mountains is Michigan Island (roughly 36 miles from the park), which is actually part of Wisconsin, despite the name. Much further north of the Keweenaw however is Michigan’s Isle Royale (roughly 94 miles from Porcupine Mountains), home to Isle Royale National Park.

What Other Major Parks Can I Visit Near Porcupine Mountains?

The nearest major park to Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park is Ottawa National Forest (nearly 22 miles), located in Bruce Crossing, MI.

Does the North Country Trail Pass Through Porcupine Mountains?

Yes, Porcupine Mountains is located within the Ni-Miitanaake Chapter of the North Country Trail, along with Ottawa National Forest and Gogebic County Forest.

More Top Travel Spots in Michigan

guide to river camping in Michigan
best pictured rocks campgrounds
10 best pizza places in the upper peninsula
mackinac island ferry guide

About the Author-

Aiden Peltier is a content writer for My Michigan Beach who is currently in their senior year studying at Grand Valley State University, with a major in Writing. They have enjoyed writing and drawing since they were a child, and they take a lot of inspiration from music and nature. They are currently exploring many opportunities in the writing field and plan to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree in December 2022.