Spending time in the Porcupine Mountains feels a lot like stepping back to a time when the wilderness ruled over the Earth, and that’s because the state park exists to preserve the natural beauty of the area while allowing people to also enjoy their favorite activities in the over 60,000 acres of forest land.
Even the mountains themselves make it clear that the area is unique. While the Porkies may not have high peaks like the Rockies, their silhouettes stand out on the horizon. In fact, the Porcupine Mountains got their name from the native Ojibwa people, who viewed the mountains as appearing to look like porcupines crouching down.
Similar to other parts of the Upper Peninsula, the Porcupine Mountains have a rich history that includes once being the site of several copper mines. The mines were active between the mid-19th century and remained operational through the early 20th century. Fortunately, the beauty of the forest remained largely unscathed, and it was established as the Porcupine Mountains State Park in 1945. A couple of decades later, Michigan’s 1972 Wilderness and Natural Areas Act was passed, which led to the park being named the Porcupine Mountain Wilderness State Park.
Today, the area is affectionately referred to as the Porkies, and it’s become known as a popular outdoor adventurer’s paradise. Visiting the state park for the weekend is a great way to experience the unique attractions the mountains offer, and following this guide to the Porcupine Mountains gives you a strong starting point for maximizing every minute.
What Are the Top Attractions In the Porkies?
If there’s one thing that you can bet on when you visit the Porkies, it’s that you’ll never be bored.
On top of being located close to the best Upper Peninsula motel where you can enjoy prepping for your adventures, you’ll find that the mountains offer a wide variety of activities to engage in during your weekend stay. Depending upon the time of year you visit, you can enjoy skiing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, hiking and cycling. People also come to the mountains for aquatic activities that include kayaking and canoeing.
The Porcupine Mountains sports complex is one of the most popular destinations for people who visit the park. While it is the most active during the wintertime, it also offers breathtaking chair lift rides in the fall that allow you to take in the most fantastic view of the colorful foliage that takes over the area around the end of September through October.
When’s the Best Time to Visit?
No guide to the Porcupine Mountains would be helpful if it didn’t mention that the Porkies undergo dramatic changes each season. Most people visit during the summer to early fall when the temperatures are more comfortable for outdoor excursions. However, the mountains become a winter wonderland as the temperatures drop, which means you’ll want to come here during that time if your goal is to go skiing or view the waterfalls in their majestic frozen state. Every season of the year has something to offer, which means the best time to visit greatly depends upon your plans for the perfect vacation.
Can You Bring Dogs to the Mountains?
You sure can! There’s no better way to spend a day with your pet than to enjoy hiking through the mountains together. Most areas of the Porcupine Mountains allow pets, provided that you keep them on a six-foot leash and follow the guidelines regarding waste disposal. You’ll also find that the best Upper Peninsula motel offers pet-friendly accommodations and other amenities that include ample free parking throughout your stay.
What Should You Pack for a Weekend Trip?
The nice thing about staying at a US 2 hotel is that it’ll give you a safe place to store any gear or clothing that you don’t need during your daily excursions. When you venture out to the mountains, you’ll want to make sure that you have plenty of water to stay hydrated for the day. You’ll also want to bring along these items during your time outdoors.
- sunscreen, bug spray, and a wearable fly net
- compass, map, or other navigation device
- snacks and a first-aid kit
- camping equipment, if you’ll spend the night outdoors
- waterproof clothing and shoes
Where Can You Go Hiking?
Before you head out on your trip, you’ll want to check out the local trails and their details to pick out a few that match your abilities and interests. But this list of popular hiking trails can help you get started.
- Escarpment Trail-known for giving the best views
- Lake of the Clouds-another scenic route that gives you a beautiful view of the lake
- Presque Isle Falls Loop-a waterfall chaser’s dream come true
- Summit Peak Observation Tower-takes you to the highest point in the park for amazing views
What Types of Lodging Are Available?
The majority of Porcupine Mountain visitors start by finding the best Michigan motel to use as their home base at the beginning and end of their trip, if not for the whole weekend. However, you might also choose to rent a house if you have a large group. Or, you could check out the cabins and yurts that are available in the state park. If you want to try camping in the mountains, then you’ll also find several different campsites in the park, along with options for backcountry camping areas.
Are Sports Equipment Rentals Available?
Fortunately, there are several places to rent equipment in the Porkies, and you’ll find kayaks, canoes, and more at the Porcupine Mountain Outpost. River’s Edge Boat Rentals is another option for finding pontoons and kayaks. If you’re looking for ski equipment, then the Ski Shop is another place to head to for your gear. The state park also offers some gifts and other items at the Visitor’s Center when it’s open.
What Rules Should Visitors Follow?
Visitors are encouraged to explore and enjoy the mountains to the fullest. But there are a few basic things to know about staying safe in the mountains and preserving their natural beauty. You’ll first want to stop by the Visitor’s Center for the most up-to-date guide to the Porcupine Mountains that fills you in on the current weather, trail conditions, and potential closures. You can also pick up your Recreation Passport and any necessary permits while you’re there.
Next, you’ll want to follow the same basic best practices that you would in any other natural area. Respect the wildlife by maintaining a safe distance during sightings, and stick to the trails to avoid harming the local vegetation. You’ll also want to pack out anything you bring into the park on your trip. If you opt to camp in the park, follow the rules pertaining to your specific site, and come prepared for the current weather conditions. Making sure that you are dressed in the appropriate clothing and have the right gear, food, and water to stay comfortable during your explorations means that you’ll end the weekend with nothing but beautiful memories of your time in the Porkies.
As a final note, keep in mind that there are so many things to discover about the Porcupine Mountains that it’s hard to include them all in this general guide. Once you arrive at your Ironwood hotel, feel free to lean into the friendly nature of the town and ask our staff any questions you have as you begin your trip. From helping you figure out how to register for a Recreation Pass to filling you in on some of the local lore, our team is here to help you make the most of every moment of your trip.