The Escarpment Trail in Michigan is located in Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park in the western part of the Upper Peninsula.
It’s a hike along the Escarpment Ridge of the Porcupine Mountains which means it comes with views!
If you are looking for the best hikes in Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, then the Escarpment Trail will give you some of the best views in the Porcupine Mountains!
This is also one of the best hikes in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
It can start from the popular Lake of the Clouds overlook…
And then you can continue hiking to see different viewpoints of the Lake of the Clouds along the way!
This is an out-and-back trail, so you’ll return to where you started from. A little more on your options for starting the trail in a bit.
One way is around 4 miles, so this makes it around an 8 mile round trip hike. (Add on a little more distance for wandering around at the Lake of the Clouds overlook.)
More for your trip to the UP beyond the Escarpment Trail
If you’re interested in the Escarpment Trail the Porcupine Mountains, then you may also be interested in these things around the UP:
- Tahquamenon Falls (map)
- Kitch-iti-kipi (the bubbling big spring of Michigan!) (map)
- Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (map)
- Presque Isle Park (map)
- Crisp Point Lighthouse (map)
- Bond Falls (map)
- Things to do in Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park
- Best places to visit in the Upper Peninsula (for VIEWS!)
- Best hikes in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (views!)
Backcountry camping in the Porcupine Mountains along the Escarpment Trail
If you’re interested in backpacking the Porcupine Mountains, you can find a backcountry campsite along the Escarpment Trail.
Starting the Escarpment Trail
This is an out-and-back trail, and you can start it from either end of the trail.
So you would either hike the Escarpment Trail:
- From the Lake of the Clouds overlook and back
- From the Government Peak trailhead and back
You’ll take the same road to get to both of them.
As you’re driving to get to the start of the trailhead, no matter which spot you start at, first you’ll first pass by Lake Superior’s Union Bay! (There is the Union Bay campground on this side of the state park.)
Then you’ll pass the Government Peak Trailhead where you’ll find a parking area and right nearby is the trailhead that will take you to the Escarpment Trail and the Lake of the Clouds overlook.
Or you can keep driving to the end of the road where you’ll find the Lake of the Clouds parking lot. (Dead end.) Then you will follow the signs to the Lake of the Clouds overlook.
BUGS (and an alternate way back)
I found the bugs to be REALLY annoying on the Escarpment Trail!
Generally if you read about complaints about bugs on trails in the UP, it’s about biting flies. It’s said that bug spray won’t work on these types of bugs, so I hadn’t really used bug spray.
You may also see recommendations to wear long clothes (pants and/or shirt) on some trails when in the UP. On the Escarpment Trail, I was wearing shorts and my legs were not bothered. The bugs were swarming my neck and face area and I was constantly swatting away at them.
The bugs were enough to make me not want to go back on the same trail! I spent 2 weeks in different parts of the UP, and the Escarpment Trail was the absolute worst I’d experienced the biting flies! (In fact, this was really the ONLY notable terrible biting flies experience I had!)
I started the trail at Lake of the Clouds, and instead of taking the hiking trail back, I reached the main road at the Government Peak trailhead. Basically there’s a short trail at what can be considered the end of the Escarpment Trail on this end.
Then I walked back in the direction of the Lake of the Clouds overlook trail on the main road.
There are no shoulders on this road and cars are likely going 50+ mph, so it’s important to be careful when walking on this road.
IMPORTANT: If you're going camping, read about Michigan's campfire warning!
When you’re starting from the Lake of the Clouds overlook, this is what it may look like!
You’ll see a sign at the Lake of the Clouds trailhead that indicates the direction to the Escarpment Trail that is straight.
But to see both of the Lake of the Clouds overlooks (that offer different viewpoints), take the trail to the Lake of the Clouds to the RIGHT. This will allow you to see both of the main overlooks without backtracking. It’s not that much distance between the 2 overlooks, but it will save you a few steps!
So once you’ve taken in the view of the Lake of the Clouds from the official overlooks, you can get started on the Escarpment Trail to get different viewpoint of the lake!
The trail alternates between going through a forest and being out in the open on the ridge (escarpment).
And that’s a bit about what you can see on the Escarpment Trail!
And more ideas for the U.P.
- Marquette hike with amazing views
- Best quick stops in the Keweenaw Peninsula
- Things to do on the drive from Munising to Marquette
- Best of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
- The bubbling Big Spring
- Lake Superior lighthouse road trip
- Michigan waterfalls road trip
Plus, the best of Michigan’s national lakeshores.
HAPPY HIKING THE ESCARPMENT TRAIL IN THE PORCUPINE MOUNTAINS!
The most important places in the UP to know about are Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Tahquamenon Falls State Park, and the bubbling Big Spring of Kitch-iti-kipi.
Make it a Michigan camping trip to remember by going camping near Lake Superior.
Lighthouses are also a thing, so stop by one of the Lake Superior lighthouses (or many more!), like Whitefish Point and/or Crisp Point. You can also go to the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum to explore why Lake Superior has a reputation for being Shipwreck Coast and the Graveyard of the Great Lakes.
Many people don't make it over to the western part of the Upper Peninsula. But if you want to, you will want to know about Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park and the Keweenaw Peninsula.
Then, on your way back down south, you can make a detour to go to Mackinac Island (ferry required) or Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. (Or, you can do these things on your way up north!)
Read the details: Best places to visit in the Upper Peninsula
Take care when camping!
Message from the State of Michigan Department of Natural Resources:
Michigan is currently experiencing unprecedented hot and dry conditions, causing extreme fire danger.
While we desperately await some much-needed rainfall, it's important to note that you could be the difference between a campfire and a wildfire.
We strongly suggest you refrain from any outdoor burning at this time.
If you do decide to have a campfire, be sure to:
- Keep a water source next to your campfire.
- Properly extinguish your campfire when you are finished by dousing with water and stirring dirt in with a shovel.
- Use the back of your hand to detect if heat is still coming from the fire or ring. If you can feel heat, the fire is not out. Douse and stir again.
- Spray down the metal ring of your campfire. The heat from that can cause dry grass to catch fire.
- Never leave your fire unattended, not even for a minute.
Read more from the State of Michigan.
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