Nestled in the rugged wilderness of Michigan’s Northwestern Upper Peninsula, lies a hidden gem. The Porcupine Mountains, also known as the “Porkies,” often escape the limelight. They were named by the native Ojibwa people because their silhouette had the shape of a crouching porcupine.

In the Shadows of Pines: Unveiling the Secrets of Porcupine Mountains

Amidst the whispers of rustling leaves and the soft murmur of flowing rivers, Porcupine Mountains have witnessed more than just hikers and nature enthusiasts. Legends speak of elusive creatures, mysterious sightings, and a history steeped in intrigue. As the sun sets behind the towering pines, the wilderness comes alive with stories waiting to be uncovered.


Hungarian Falls Porcupine MountiansThe Porcupine Mountains, also known as the Porkies, are a breathtaking natural wonder located in the northwestern Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Spanning Ontonagon and Gogebic counties, this majestic range is home to the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park. Part of Michigan’s largest state park, which covers roughly 60,000 acres. The park boasts a 35,000-acre old-growth forest, stunning waterfalls and miles of rivers and streams. Yet, despite its vastness, only a fraction of its secrets have been revealed.

The park offers a wide variety of outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, fishing, canoeing, swimming, mountain biking, and skiing. The mountains are also recognized as a National Natural Landmark and a legally dedicated wilderness area. They are noted for their magnificent forests, scenic vistas, over 90 miles of hiking trails, and striking geologic formations.

Lesser-Known Attractions and Activities

  • Explorers Falls and Little Union Gorge Falls. These are stunning natural attractions that offer impressive views, especially after the snow thaws in spring.
  • O-Kun-de-Kun Falls. This is a slightly more challenging hike, but the reward is a breathtaking waterfall, making it a highly rewarding adventure.
  • Porcupine Mountain Music Festival. A unique experience set amidst the beautiful scenery of the Porkies, offering live music, jam sessions, workshops, and children’s activities.
  • Copper Peak. The tallest artificial ski jumps in the world, offering 360º views and a chair lift ride to the top. Copper Peak is a must-visit for adventure enthusiasts.
  • Black River Waterfalls. Located just a short distance from the Porcupine Mountains, these waterfalls offer a serene and picturesque experience, usually without the crowds.
  • Union Spring and Union Mine Interpretive Trail. These are hidden gems within the park, offering the opportunity to explore the second-largest terrestrial spring in the Upper Peninsula and an easy, scenic one-mile loop trail with historical significance.

These activities and attractions provide a glimpse into the diverse and lesser-known wonders of the Porcupine Mountains. These attractions offer a unique experiences for visitors beyond the well-known highlights of the park.

Natural Beauty

Lake of the Clouds Porcupine MountainsThe Porcupine Mountains are not only a haven for nature lovers but also a testament to the awe-inspiring beauty of Michigan’s natural landscapes. As you delve into the unique features of this remarkable destination, you will discover why it has captured the hearts of so many of the 600,000 annual visitors.

The park’s popularity is further underscored by a recent study that ranked it as the “most beautiful” state park in the United States. This recognition is supported by the park’s diverse attractions. Places including the iconic Lake of the Clouds, the Presque Isle River, the Summit Peak observation tower, and the Porcupine Mountains Ski Area. The Porkies’ allure is also evident in visitor reviews. An overwhelming 88.89% of reviews emphasizing the park’s beauty.

Rich History

The history of the Porcupine Mountains unfolds like a well-worn map with faded trails and hidden corners. The Porcupine Mountains hold a rich history and are home to a variety of wildlife. The park’s old-growth forest and diverse ecosystems provide a habitat for numerous species. The park is a haven for nature enthusiasts and wildlife photographers. The park’s extensive trail system offers opportunities for exploration and adventure. Visitors can immerse themselves in the area’s unspoiled wilderness.

The mountains were the site of copper mining in the 19th century. One of these mines is the Nonesuch Mine, which operated sporadically from 1867 to 1912. The Porcupine Mountains were established as a state park in 1945. One of the goals was to protect the area’s large old-growth forest, and they are now part of the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park.

The mountains are approximately 2 billion years old, making them a section of one of the oldest mountain chains in the world.

Native American Legends

Presque Isle Falls Porcupine MountainsNative American legends weave tales of spirits guarding the ancient trees, and pioneers carved their stories into the landscape. How many footsteps echo through time, lost to the wind? The answer lies in the heart of these woods, where every rustle of leaves seems to whisper secrets of days long gone.

Now, let us talk about the sightings that defy explanation. From ethereal lights dancing in the night sky to whispers of elusive creatures deep within the forest, the Porcupine Mountains have become a haven for those seeking the extraordinary. While skeptics may dismiss these accounts, the locals swear by the otherworldly aura that permeates the air.

As we venture deeper into the narrative, we encounter the resilient spirit of Porcupine Mountains—a land that has weathered the storms of time and embraced the footprints of generations. The echoes of laughter around campfires, the silent conversations between trees, and the dance of shadows on the forest floor—all are threads in the rich tapestry that is the history of Porcupine Mountains.

The Porcupine Mountains are not merely a destination, they are a living story, waiting to be read by those who seek more than the surface. As the sun sets over Lake Superior, leaving the wilderness bathed in hues of orange and purple, one cannot help but wonder what other tales lie hidden in the folds of these ancient hills?

Trip to the Porkies

Read more about the Porcupine Mountains and see all the pictures taken during a recent trip in The Ultimate Guide to the Porcupine Mountains on our sister site Adventures in Northern Michigan

Porcupine Mountains Historical Marker

Lake of the Clouds Porcupine MountainsTwo World Wars and the Depression (1915 – 1945) – Registered in 1957 and erected in 1958 – ID # S167

Located on M107 in State Park, Carp Lake Township – Lat: 46.81938600/Long: -89.70568600

From Lake Superior the main range of mountains looks like a crouching porcupine, thus their name. Machinery, rock dumps, and old adits are ghostly reminders of forty mining ventures in the years from 1846 to 1928, none of which succeeded. Some logging took place around 1916. As late as 1930 a few trappers eked out a living here. Finally in 1945 the area was made a state park to preserve its virgin splendor.

Learn more about the rich history of the Western Upper Peninsula.