Call of the wild

Venture to a place you can stretch to your fullest without touching any edges.
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Lars Jensen autumn porcupine mountains

On a map, Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Parklocated along Lake Superior on the Upper Peninsula’s western edge — might look too far from home.  Once there, feeling worlds away is where the beauty of Michigan’s biggest state park begins.

“While Bond Falls plummets 50 feet over a craggy belt of fractured rock into myriad cascades, Lake of the Clouds can be viewed from 300 feet above on an escarpment overlook.”

Established in 1945 to preserve the largest tract of virgin hardwoods and hemlock remaining in the Midwest, an ancient stand of towering timber encompasses over half of the Porkies’ 60,000 acres. While well-marked trails invite easy hikes into the heart of this mystic “forest museum,” visitors can also embark on miles of rugged backcountry treks to secluded lakes, agate-dotted beaches, rushing rivers, scenic peaks and countless waterfalls.

First stop: The Porcupine Mountains Visitor Center in Ontonagon brims with insights about this vast park’s rich wilderness heritage, most striking geologic features and recreational activities, from camping and canoeing to mountain biking and skiing. Explore more through special programs including Astronomy, Geocaching and Stick Your Head in a Bear Den Hikes (michigan.gov/porkies).

Sites to see

Porcupine Mountains Lars JensenLake of the Clouds. This shimmering stretch of blue slicing through dense forest is dramatic seen from 300 feet above on an easily accessed escarpment overlook. Take in sweeping views of the Carp River Valley and Porcupine Range, too.

Porcupine Mountains Fall Colors by Lars JensenSummit Peak. An observation tower that tops the Porkies’ highest point of 1,958 feet adds 40 more for an extraordinary panorama.

Porcupine Mountains Autumn Trees by Lars JensenEast and West River Trails. Boardwalks and viewing platforms accessed from these pathways paralleling the wildly rushing Presque Isle River enliven views of its waterfalls and rapids.

Porcupine Mountains Waterfall Lars JensenBond Falls. Plummeting 50 feet from the Ontonagon River’s Middle Branch over a craggy belt of fractured rock into myriad cascades, this scenic site along with Presque Isle Falls is a park favorite.

To learn more about the Porcupine Mountains, lodging and other regional attractions, go to: porcupinemountains.com;

explorewesternup.com and thewildsofmichigan.com, or call the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (Porkies’ Park Headquarters), (906) 885-5275. For county-by-county highlights across the Upper Peninsula, Michigan’s 5-Star Wilderness, visit uptravel.com.

— Lisa M. Jensen, Michigan BLUE Magazine. 

*Photography by Lars Jensen

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