Hiking the Upper Peninsula’s Untamed Wilderness

No matter what brings you to the U.P., you will want to take advantage of the wilderness that surrounds you and get out on your feet. The Upper Peninsula is home to some of the best hiking trails in Michigan. Desire a short trail with a show-stopping view? Or a long strenuous hike to test your abilities? The Upper Peninsula has you covered.

Bare Bluff Trail Photo credit: @harborandpine

Hiking in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is as close to an untamed wilderness as you will find in the contiguous United States. The trail systems let you explore the ins and outs of the peninsula on your feet while also offering more privacy than you generally find elsewhere. Lower traffic trails without sacrificing the views bring you a truly peaceful hiking experience.

The Upper Peninsula offers four-season hiking:

  • Spring gifts you with fresh blossoms, singing birds and roaring waterfalls.
  • Summer brings about warm weather and post-hike dips in the lake.
  • Fall means the famous changing of the leaves. Seeing the peak fall colors in the Upper Peninsula is truly spectacular.
  • Winter transforms the landscape into a snowy wonderland. (You will want to be properly prepared as the Upper Peninsula gets a lot of snow.)
Canyon Falls Photo credit: Aubrieta Hope

Stepping out onto any piece of public land in the U.P will provide you with a scenic hike, however, there are some trails that you must experience while you are here.

Bare Bluff Trail—Moderate Difficulty—Located in Mohawk, Bare Bluff Trail is a 3.1-mile loop trail that features an iconic view of the tip of the Keweenaw jutting out into Lake Superior. Part of the trail requires some climbing up (or down pending on route) rocky terrain, so plan accordingly.

Sugarloaf Mountain Photo credit: @travelwithalexandra

Canyon Gorge Trail—Easy Difficulty—Near L’Anse, this 3.9 mile-out-and-back trail brings you up close to Canyon Falls and the canyon that the Sturgeon River cut from the earth. Featuring a beautiful natural canopy from the overhead trees, this is a perfect trail to get outside but away from the sun during the summer heat. A short walk along this trail will net you spectacular views of the canyon and the falls if you aren’t feeling up for a 3.9-mile trek.

Sugarloaf Mountain Trail—Moderate Difficulty—Outside of Marquette, Sugarloaf Mountain Trail is a 1.2-mile loop that is capped with a jaw-dropping overlook of the forest surrounding Marquette and Lake Superior’s deep blues. This trail is heavily trafficked for the Upper Peninsula and does require ascending quite a few stairs so be prepared for the climb.

Escarpment Trail in winter Photo credit: @nathaninvincible

Escarpment Trail—Hard Difficulty—Located in the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, the Escarpment Trail is an 8.2-mile-out-and-back trail featuring lots of elevation change and incredible views of the Lake of the Clouds. Highly recommend taking this hike in the fall to witness the autumn foliage.

Chapel Rock Photo credit: @thirdcoasttribe

Chapel Falls to Chapel Beach Trail—Moderate Difficulty—A trail within Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Chapel Falls to Chapel Beach Trail is a 6.8-mile-out-and-back trail that provides multiple rewarding views and a beach to cool down on. This trail will get you up close to the colorful cliffs of Pictured Rocks.

When hiking in the Upper Peninsula you will want to make sure you are prepared for the trails and their conditions. Spring and early summer bring about lots of bugs so bug repellant is a must. Have the necessary water to remain hydrated and snacks to keep you going, especially on longer trails. During the winter, many trails may not be open. The open ones typically require snowshoes or some form of traction to handle the ice and to stay above the snow.

Getting out into the Upper Peninsula’s wilderness is a reward that keeps on giving. With lower populations and a respect for keeping nature natural, you will experience some of the best hiking in Michigan. The scenic views and tranquil hikes will have you coming back for more and more. Plan your U.P. trip today!

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