17 mi (27.4 km)
North Country Trail
The Gales of November Remember.
Lake Superior can be one of the most beautiful and most harsh locations in the North. The Lake Superior Hiking Trail is located near some of the best hiking in Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park.
Even though the trail itself is only 17 miles long, it's surrounded by side trails that can be combined for a week long backpacking trip. Don't be deceived, however, as the terrain here is some of the most rugged in Michigan.
Beware the "Gales of November" that sank the Edmund Fitzgerald. During late fall and early winter Lake Superior is known to being in crippling storms. This trail follows the shoreline for many miles and could be potentially dangerous in the most severe of weather conditions.
Because of its easy access the trail makes a perfect launching point for a multi-day backpacking trip. The park is designated "Wilderness" which means that camping is allowed almost anywhere in the park. You'll have to follow specific rules, though, so be sure to check with the rangers.
If you've never explored the far reaches of the American North, this is the place to do it. These areas are rich in colonial and native history!
When to go
During peak color season in mid-October you may find that the park is overly busy with bustling tourists. To avoid this try hiking in early November or simply be happy to have other hikers around to enjoy the view if you want fall colors.
Hiking is best during peak colors but severe weather rolls on on the heels of October so watch out for late season hiking. During off-season times you'll find the park often largely deserted. It's in the middle of nowhere!
Getting to the park is a real challenge. It's easily a 10 hour drive from the Detroit airport in Michigan. Smaller airports are available but finding affordable flights can be difficult.
Duluth or Minneapolis Minnesota may be your best bet for getting to and from this area. The drives are closer to 3 hours from there.
Know before you go
- Fresh water is abundant as Lake Superior contains a modest 3 quadrillion gallons of it.
- Dunking your legs in Lake Superior can be irresistible after a long hike. The average sub-surface temperature of 39 degrees Fahrenheit makes it more than a little refreshing.
- Historians argue the details but agree that somewhere between 6,000 - 25,000 ships have sunk in the harsh waters of Lake Superior.
For more information:
- Check with the local ranger district and call the park headquarters with questions before you leave.