Summit Peak, Fall Colors, Porcupine Mountains

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You don’t have to exert a lot of effort to reach the summit of a hill in the middle of the Porcupine Mountains.  Summit Peak is an easy, half-mile walk from the parking area.  Sure, it’s uphill — you’ll need to gain about 300 feet.  But, the trail is easy, and in many places, there are boardwalks and stairs to take you up the hill.  The reward is an excellent view of the Porcupine Mountains, which gets even better in early to mid-October when the fall colors approach their peak.

Location

Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park is located west of Ontonagon, Michigan, and east of the Wisconsin state line.  From Ontonagon, you can access the Porcupine Mountains by heading west on M-64, then continuing west on 107th Engineers Memorial Highway, which leads into the park.

To reach Summit Peak, turn

If you’re coming from Wisconsin, take US 2 to Wakefield, then head north on County Road 519, until it enters the park on the west side.  Then, the park road will take you around to the east side, to access Lake of the Clouds.

My Visit

I was on Day Seven of my U.P. vacation, and finally, I was seeing some good fall colors. Summit Peak is located just inland enough from Lake Superior that there were more Autumn colors showing up (at the end of the first week of October).

This short side-road takes you from the main road through the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park to the trailhead and parking area for Summit Peak.

The trail begins here.  It quickly goes from the pavement…

… to a dirt track, but it’s wide and easy to hike, even though you’ll need to gain some altitude to get up to the summit.

Before long, the dirt trail runs into the stairs and boardwalk which help finish the journey.  Not only does the boardwalk make the hike easier, it also lifts you up into the trees, adding to the beauty of the hike.

Your first chance to peek out onto the landscape comes at this viewing platform.  As you can see…

… those trees were really starting to turn!  However, earlier in the day, when I was at Lake of the Clouds and the Escarpment Trail, the fall colors weren’t nearly as vivid.  Mid-October might be the best time to catch the colors here and at Lake of the Clouds (assuming other years are similar to Autumn of 2017 when I visited).

Continuing towards the summit, the boardwalk winds through the trees.

Summit Peak – Observation Tower

When you reach the peak, there’s an observation tower that lifts you above the trees…

… and allows you to look down on the treetops…

… and the trail below.

From the observation tower, you’ll have a great view towards the north and west (some trees will block your view to the south, unfortunately).  To the west, you’ll be able to see Lake Superior, and to the north (roughly the direction of this picture, I think), you’ll be able to see the Escarpment Trail area, although you can’t see Lake of the Clouds from here.

The trip back down is pretty great, too!  I spent even more time photographing the boardwalk and the trees on the way down than I did on the way up.

Want a longer hike?  From the summit, you can continue on the Summit Peak Side Trail to the South Mirror Lake Trail, which leads to its namesake lake.  There are a couple of options for the return route, which could total a hike of several miles. 

Drivelapse Video

Here’s a look at the drive through Ontonagon and Silver City into Porcupine Mountains State Park…

… and the drive through the park:

The Bottom Line

You’ll love the view from Summit Peak, and it doesn’t take a lot to get there.  The half-mile trail gains 300 feet in elevation, but boardwalks and stairs make it relatively easy.  The views during October, during fall colors, make this trail even better, because you will be totally surrounded by trees!

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