Nature is so healing. I could be in a horrendous mood, but the minute I step outside, breathe in the fresh air and get my body moving, the stressors slip away, and all feels well in the world. One of the things I missed most living in Florida was the change in seasons and a landscape for hiking. So, having weekend getaways like the one we just had left me feeling so full and happy. The Upper Peninsula is a short 4-hour ride away, and we used my husband’s family cabin as our base and traveled to the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park to get some incredible views of the fall foliage and do some hiking. I can’t tell you enough how beautiful this place is, and it should certainly be a destination for anyone visiting the Upper Peninsula.
A few things worth noting:
Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park is in TWO time zones. For awhile we were confused about the time… our phones said one thing, and the car said another. After looking into it more, we realized that this state park is both in eastern and central time.
This park is comprised of 60,000 acres and sadly, is only one of a few large wilderness areas in the Midwest.
Want to sound like a pro? Just reference this state park as “The Porkies” – get some street cred while also saving yourself a mouthful.
There are over 90 miles of hiking trails and camping is allowed, with certain restrictions of course.
Before our hike, we stopped off at the visitor center to get a map and more information about the park. The center showcases some of the park’s wildlife and offers a short video providing a glimpse of the park’s history. As a visitor in Michigan, all that was required was a $9.00 non-resident daily recreation pass to have displayed on the dash of the car. I would recommend seeking and utilizing the staff’s knowledge and recommendations before setting out to hike or camp, as they know the park best.
The first hike we decided to do was to the Lake of the Clouds. Now, I am sure you have heard or seen photos, but nothing compares to seeing this view in person. It was a bit overcast and pretty cold (happy I packed that hat and gloves) but the view still did not disappoint. We may have just missed the peak of the autumn colors with a sea of gold and orange, but I couldn’t be happier. This Florida girl hasn’t witnessed a change in season for 3 years, so I was pleased with mother natures display. There can sometimes be a crowd, so make sure to get there early in the day if you want to beat the rush.
We then ventured to Summit Peak Tower Trail. It was in this location where snow and frost lined the trails. We shouldn’t have been surprised because the mountains are subject to heavy lake-effect conditions from Lake Superior. At the end of the path is an observation tower a handful of stories up. You’re rewarded at the top with views of Lake Superior in the distance and a colorful panorama view of the forest. At this point, the sky had cleared, so the contrast of the lake, mountains, and autumn colors looked like a painting. This is actually the highest point of the wilderness state park!
Our last trek was to some waterfalls – there are 3 in the park – Manabezho, Manido, and Nawadaha Falls. Smaller in size than to what I’m used to seeing, but I’ve never met a waterfall I don’t like. Just don’t expect to see Niagara is all I am saying.
After a full day of exploration and trekking, we took the hour and a half ride back to the cabin to relax and reminisce on all that we saw. Which, may I excitedly add, we saw 3 bald eagles on our road trip through the Upper Peninsula!
If you reside in the Midwest and haven’t made it to the UP for seasonal travel – you absolutely must! I can only imagine how wonderful the hiking and camping is in spring/summer and the fall foliage alone is worth the trip in the fall. And winter must deliver the most heavenly views of white amidst the snow-topped evergreens!
Tell me, have you ever been to the Upper Peninsula? What haven’t I seen? The Apostle Islands are definitely on my list.