Family Fun, Summer, Travel

Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park/ U.P. Michigan Trip Report

I was surprised by how many people online seemed interested in knowing more about our U.P. trip or said the U.P. was on their bucket list to visit, so here is a very long, detailed trip report (with lots of pictures!) for anyone who is interested! Feel free to drop any questions you might have too- my family has been going there for years and can probably help point you in the right direction if you need more info about anything. 

Warning: I’ve been making a point to keep my posts shorter and easier to read, but this one is a longer one! 🙂 


Thursday, July 16

We left home around 8:15 a.m. and drove north, stopping in Minoqua to buy some (over-priced) groceries. By mid-afternoon we made it to Michigan but took a short detour to check out a remote campground just over the WI/MI border that my parents used to stay at. It’s called Henry Lake and is way down a long, long dirt road in the middle of nowhere. It’s very peaceful and was almost empty- definitely a place you could really “get away from it all!”. We walked out on the fishing pier and enjoyed the scenery for a few minutes before piling back in the car and continuing on to our final destination.



Upon arrival to Silver City, MI (the tiny town near the entrance to Porcupine Mountain Wilderness State Park), we checked in at our hotel (an AmericInn, the only real hotel up there besides some cabins or campgrounds) and then went to the Two Loons for pizza (basically the only restaurant open in the area, too- and sadly, they are closing up next weekend! The pizza was AMAZING! Just not enough business right now plus not enough help to work). It’s a pretty scarcely populated area to begin with and COVID probably hasn’t done them any favors. Normally the hotel has a bar/grill, but it was closed temporarily too due to lack of help.

After an early dinner, we drove down to the other end of the state park to visit Lake of the Clouds. This is a short, paved walk through the woods and then sweeping overviews of a lake nestled among the forest that is shaped like a cloud- hence the name! It’s beautiful up there and a definite “don’t miss” in the area.


On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at a deserted beach area so the kids could see Lake Superior up close and they decided to jump right in! They had fun playing for a while in the calm water. We ended the night back at our own beach behind the hotel with possibly the most beautiful sunset I have ever seen! We also had a bonfire with s’mores and it was just a pretty magical end to our first day.


Friday, July 17
I got up early and headed outside with my journal and a cup of tea. I sat along the water and enjoyed about 45 minutes of peace and quiet before Ivan joined me, then Ethan and finally Asher. It was a calm, sunny morning and the lake and river that ran alongside the hotel were all as smooth as glass. We skipped rocks and the boys swam, having fun building a “boat” out of big pieces of driftwood. They did this many times over the course of the trip- I’ll always remember that! It was funny to watch them “sail” away 😉




We enjoyed our hotel’s bagged breakfast outside (no buffet due to COVID but the bags to go were a nice option!) and then packed up stuff for a picnic lunch. We headed into the park and stopped at the Visitor Center where they have nice exhibits about the park and wildlife in the area, etc. Normally there’s a great introductory movie but it’s not being shown due to COVID restrictions in the theater. 

We then drove 25 miles to the far end of the park to Presque Isle Falls. From the parking area it’s a short hike down a trail to wooden stairs and then long walkways along the beautiful waterfalls. The kids loved it and we parked ourselves on some huge slabs of rock in the shade along the water to have our picnic lunch. It wasn’t busy at all and was incredibly peaceful.



Following lunch, we left my Mom with our picnic stuff and her book by the waterfalls and the rest of us headed up a more difficult hiking trail (a portion of the Lake Superior trail). It was gorgeous in the dense woods and the boys had fun climbing over lots of tree roots, ups, downs and through a deep valley.

Once we made it back to where my Mom was waiting, we took the trail the other way and ended up down at Lake Superior, near where the waterfall river empties into the lake. We hung out there for an hour or so, the boys swam (and made another boat!), I read my book perched on a big log and we just enjoyed the beautiful day.

 
We eventually had to leave and drove to the Summit Peak trail. I think this hike was only about a mile or so in and led to an overlook (so many trees!!) with the lake in the distance, and also a large wooden lookout tower which we climbed as well. Our legs were getting tired from the hiking and also all of the stairs (lots on the way down to the waterfalls), so by 6:30 or so we headed back to the hotel.

It was another perfect night, weather-wise, and we took stuff down to the waterfront and made another bonfire to roast hot dogs for dinner! We hung out there all night, just relaxing along the water, enjoying the fire. The sun sets late this time of year which made it feel earlier than it was. Every night we stayed out there until close to 11 pm (the temperatures were just perfect- warm and comfortable) and then still went in the hot tub until midnight! It was wonderful.

Saturday, July 18

It stormed overnight on Friday night, and we originally thought weather looked like a bust for Saturday too. Fortunately, we woke up to clearing skies and it ended up being another gorgeous day! We took a slower morning around the hotel pool/ hot tub and by late morning headed to the Little Carp River Trailhead to hike out to the Greenstone Falls cabin. This state park has many “rustic cabins” situated all over the backcountry that people can reserve and stay in- you have to backpack in with your stuff, but there are bunks, a wood stove, dishes, an outhouse, etc. that you can use. It’s a pretty awesome and unique experience- my family stayed at some when I was a kid and my Dad and Uncle have stayed in many of them. You have to reserve them far in advance as they are really popular!




Anyway, we hiked one of my favorite hikes out- all along a babbling brook with some small waterfalls- it’s just beautiful. The kids loved the hike. There are lots of obstacles and it’s a fun, interesting hike. We checked out the cabin (we weren’t staying, but I wanted the kids to see what they are like) and then also showed them one of the remote tent camp sites out there nearby too (along with the bear pole to hang your food on!).


After the hike we stopped at an overlook area along Lake Superior and had another picnic, relaxed on a blanket for a while and the kids skipped more rocks! We checked out an old copper mine along the road too before going back to the hotel in the late afternoon. The kids wanted time to swim and I wanted some time to just relax and read my book. The hike was long and it was a really great day. The whole evening was fantastic too, just enjoying the water, the sun and the waves. We of course built yet another bonfire for the evening, but got take out pizza again from the restaurant! A storm rolled in across the lake later at night, and I got some really cool video of the lightning bolts going down into the lake.

Sunday, July 19

We were up late Saturday night so we took a slow morning again on Sunday and requested late check out. We had breakfast and Ivan and I sat outside along the water for a long time. The kids swam in the river as the lake’s waves were finally woken up after the storm Saturday night! We all went to the pool and hot tub too before packing up everything to leave.

 
After leaving the hotel, we drove to the Union Spring trail and did a 4 mile hike total in and out to the Union Spring. It was a good hike but pretty challenging in some sections as it was quite muddy! We had to maneuver through it, stepping on rocks, tree branches and logs to get through the mud. It was a beautiful, remote area of the woods too. 

Part of it was a cross-country ski trail and there is another small rustic cabin along it. It would be pretty cool in the winter to ski in and then stay at the cabin!

We had some snacks at the spring before hiking back out. By this time it was after 3 pm, so we needed to start driving the 4.5 hours home.

 


All in all, it was a fabulous getaway and it felt longer than the few days we had! The weather was just incredible and we felt so lucky. I loved the hotel we stayed at, too. Many (most?) people camp in the state park, of course, but we aren’t big campers and this was a perfect compromise this time. The bonfires and lakefront areas at the hotel were amazing- I kept saying, it’s like all of the best parts of  camping, but I don’t have to sleep outside!! Hahaha 😊 I’d like to take the boys back to stay at one of the rustic cabins someday, though.

If you live in the Midwest, or even if you don’t, you should definitely consider adding “the Porkies”, as the state park is affectionately nicknamed, to your travel list! 
Daily Gratitude:
I am grateful for this wonderful trip. We love to travel and of course with COVID all travel has been pretty disrupted for almost everyone. This felt like a little sliver of normalcy, a new family experience, a short “vacation” from the pandemic. I’m so grateful for the memories we made and that we were able to go.

8 thoughts on “Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park/ U.P. Michigan Trip Report

  1. That sounds like a perfect vacation! I love reading people's trip recaps. Plus you'll be glad you typed this up if people ask for tips on what to see/do/where to stay. I also tend to recap my trips so I can remember what we did and share the info with others.

    This trip reminds me of a camping trip we took to the north shore of Lake Superior on the MN side in August of 2017. I was in my first trimester of pregnancy but was feeling pretty good at that point so we did a ton of hiking. It was our first time camping and we haven't camped since. I really enjoyed camping but I don't see us doing that again until our kids are older. There is a resort close to where we camped that I would also consider staying at. Phil and I had talked about going there in August and leaving Paul with my parents but that isn't happening due to COVID. So I guess our kid-free getaway will have to wait until our 2nd is old enough for me to feel ok leaving him. It took until Paul was 2 for me to feel 'ready' for an overnight trip without him. So maybe by summer of 2023? Ha. That is a LONG ways off!

  2. We've talked about going "camping" when Avi's a bit older and doing all the parts we enjoy about camping like making a fire, s'mores, stories, and so on before heading home and sleeping in our own bed. We're lucky in Colorado that we have so many campsites close by 🙂

  3. Great idea!! We have a fire pit in our backyard so we have done that kind of thing a lot. I've been meaning to set our tent up and "camp" in the backyard sometime too. Colorado probably has awesome camping! We were there last summer but we hoteled it or air b'nbed it every night 😉

  4. I bet you might feel differently with #2! With 2 little ones running around, you may feel ready for an overnight getaway after, like 1 month!! Hahaha!! 🙂 I think we left my second around 6 months or so for a few nights, but maybe I was a mean mommy! I guess I just needed a little break….what can I say. 🙂

  5. I have never enjoyed outdoor camping. Your "camping" trip sounds ideal for me. I would LOVE to enjoy all the other aspects of the outdoors besides the sleeping in a tent on the dirt with no A/C. I guess there are just some of us that prefer to wake up, take a shower, and drink a cup of coffee before taking on the other elements of the outdoors! 🙂
    I will be adding the UP to my travel lists because now that I am in Minnesota it can't be that far! 🙂

  6. Haha! Really, this hotel was perfect! Like I said, we totally had the best parts of camping without ACTUALLY camping! Keep it in mind if you go there someday! I bet it's not too far from you in MN.

Leave a Comment! And, what are you grateful for??