Lake of the Clouds, Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park (ID 191241937 © Beautynature | Dreamstime.com)

Campfire tales & starlit nights in Porcupine Mountains

Explore one of the most remote state parks in Michigan

There’s a magic that happens when families gather around a crackling campfire, trading tales of adventure from the day, and weaving in a few spine-tingling ghost stories.

The scent of toasted marshmallows fills the air, promising the sweet indulgence of a perfect s’more. As night falls, a last glimpse of the starlit sky is savored before retiring to the tent to be lulled to sleep by crickets and the gentle rhythm of Lake Superior’s waves lapping against the shoreline.

Head North with us as we explore family camping in Michigan’s remote Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park.

EXPLORE & EXPERIENCE

At the western edge of Upper Peninsula of Michigan, the Porcupine Mountains, affectionately known as “the Porkies”, boast a rugged landscape of peaks and valleys within the expansive Porcupine Mountain Wilderness State Park. Spanning 60,000 acres, this pristine wilderness offers a tapestry of old-growth forest, roaring waterfalls, Lake Superior shoreline, winding rivers, and picturesque trails. With its breathtaking vistas, Michigan’s largest state park draws outdoor enthusiasts year-round for hiking, snowmobiling, fishing, and camping.

Porcupine Mountain Wilderness State Park offers many different camping opportunities, including two organized campgrounds: Union Bay Modern Campground and Presque Isle Rustic Campground. For the more adventurous, the park also offers many hike-in backcountry sites, cabins and yurts, and rustic outpost camps.

Located along the rocky shoreline of Lake Superior, Union Bay Campground, the park’s sole modern campground, offers 100 seasonal sites from mid-May to mid-October. Campers can enjoy amenities like electrical service, a sanitation station, a modern restroom with showers, and a boat launch. From cozy spots perfect for tents to larger sites suited for RVs, there’s a variety of options to suit every camper’s needs, all while hearing the soothing sounds of waves crashing along the shore.

If you forget something, check out the Porcupine Mountain Outpost just outside the campground entrance. The Outpost offers snacks, souvenirs, supplies, clothing, and the perfect ice cream treat on a warm summer day. Located near several of the park’s main attractions, Union Bay Campground is an ideal staging area for exploration.

Lake Superior (ID 84457556 © Steven Prorak | Dreamstime.com)
Lake Superior (ID 84457556 © Steven Prorak | Dreamstime.com)

Just up the road from Union Bay Campground lies the stunning Lake of the Clouds, a pristine lake nestled amidst the mountains, offering awe-inspiring vistas of the surrounding landscape. Considered one of the park’s main highlights, the lake is an absolute must-see for visitors. In late spring and summer, the valley below is bathed in emerald green of old-growth forest. In the fall, the trees burst into a fiery pallet of oranges, yellows and reds, making it understandable why this is the most photographed feature within the park. With a fully accessible boardwalk and overlook, everyone is welcome to take in the view.

For a more rugged camping experience, there’s Presque Isle Rustic Campground, situated on the park’s West end. It has 50 campsites nestled near the scenic Presque Isle River and the stunning Lake Superior shoreline. Facilities include vault toilets and hand pumps for water. The campground is divided into two loops—the east loop is open to generators, while the west loop offers a quieter, generator-free experience.

Additionally, six walk-in sites are situated along Lake Superior’s high bank, just a short walk from the parking area.

DAY HIKES

Hiking (ID 40969539 © Shsphotography | Dreamstime.com)
Hiking (ID 40969539 © Shsphotography | Dreamstime.com)

The 2.3-mile Presque Isle Waterfall Trail is a favored destination for park visitors. Situated along the western edge of the park near the campground, it follows the Presque Isle River for approximately one mile on each side, creating a loop. On the east side of the trail, a multi-level stair and boardwalk system leads down to the mouth of the Presque Isle River, where the trail begins and ends. A timber suspension bridge provides a perfect viewpoint of the kettle formations sculpted by the swift river current. Each trail segment meanders through cedar and hardwood forests, following the riverbanks. The west trail features a series of boardwalks and overlooks, providing stunning views of three waterfalls: Manido Falls, Nawadadha Falls, and the impressive 25-foot-high Manabezho Falls. The east side of the trail is well-marked and maintained, though it can be challenging at times due to tree roots that gracefully shape the trail into grand staircases. The Presque Isle River loop offers a unique opportunity to connect with nature’s raw power and tranquility, making it a must-visit day hike.

The Union Mine Trail in the Porcupine Mountains, situated a few miles south of M-107 on South Boundary Road, tells the story of the area’s rich mining history. As you traverse the 1.1-mile loop, you’ll encounter a series of plaques that narrate the region’s exciting tales and rich history of mining.

Manabezho Falls on the Presque Isle River in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan surrounded by autumn colors on a misty morning (ID 96698993 © Craig Sterken | Dreamstime.com)
Manabezho Falls on the Presque Isle River in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan surrounded by autumn colors on a misty morning (ID 96698993 © Craig Sterken | Dreamstime.com)

A family camping trip to Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park promises a peaceful interlude before the hustle and bustle of the school year takes over. Whether seeking the thrill of hiking, the joy of lakeside relaxation, or the simple pleasure of a campfire under the stars, the Porkies offer a secluded blend of adventure and tranquility for a memorable family retreat.

Travel Tip icon

Travel Tip
Be sure to stop into the Porcupine Mountain Visitor’s center for park maps and helpful tips from DNR staff. The center also has an exhibit hall displaying the history of the Porcupine Mountains from prehistoric copper miners to the lumber camps of the early 1900’s.

TOP PHOTO: Lake of the Clouds, Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park (ID 191241937 © Beautynature | Dreamstime.com)


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