If you’re a local to Upper Michigan you probably know about the Porkies. It’s one of the last untouched wilderness locations along the Upper Peninsula of Lake Michigan. Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park has 5 built-in camping grounds that all offer something for everyone. So let’s explore each of them.
What is Porcupine Mountains known for?
The Porkies are best known for their scenic hiking trails throughout the park itself. Its majestic views and lush forests are always spectacular no matter what time of year you happen to hike there. Among the highlights include the beautiful Lake of the Clouds overlook and various waterfalls along the miles of hiking trails.
You can also see a wide variety of animals that thrive in this amazing State Park. If you are lucky you can spot rare Peregrine Falcons that return to the Porkies every year in the spring. Be sure to bring a good pair of binoculars and your camera, that’s not the only animal you’ll encounter either. While this is bear country, it’s not uncommon to see Black Bears throughout the park. It’s recommended to keep a distance, they don’t like being disturbed.
When bears aren’t trying to catch smallmouth bass at Lake of the Clouds, they’re foraging in 60,000 acres throughout UP’s wilderness. You can also see Bald Eagles, Herons, and various rare Warblers. It’s a great bird watching adventure as well. You might even see porcupines, white-tail deer, beavers, and even otters. Most folks around Michigan never knew this virgin territory even exists! This makes it the perfect place to discover with your friends or family.
What is the best time of year to go?
Without a doubt, the best time to have your Porcupine Mountains camping experience is in August. This is when you get to see the colors change and trees will be at their brightest start of autumn. The best part is that the mosquito and black fly season is over so it’ll be mostly bug-free. Bring repellant and beware of ticks since this is the wilderness. A general citrus spray will keep most bugs off you, so bring some along just in case.
Early spring can be nice as well since the flowers will bring out a whole new texture of colors. If you’re a real nature lover, Porcupine Mountains is as raw as it gets.
What campsites are there?
I’ve found 4 of the best campground sites while you visit the Porcupine Mountain national park. Some are more suited for RV and tenting, but also can allow essentials like electricity, showers, and toilets too. You might find a new favorite place or one that’s high up in the back county likewise.
Union Bay Campground
Union Bay is perfect for day-trippers who are visiting Porcupine Mountain. It has parking for RV’s and has ample space for pitching a tent across the campsite itself. You can enjoy the luxury of having toilets, showers and they have an RV dump station to boot. What makes it perfect is that it’s close enough to the beach and local hiking as well. They can accommodate up to 100 campers at this location.
Rustic Cabins in Backcountry
Within the backcountry of Porcupine Mountain, you can rent a rustic cabin for your stay as well. They have 18 cabins that will need to be reserved beforehand. They are furnished with the basics, but you’ll need to bring lighting and cooking supplies. This is especially popular with local folks who like to get away from it all. Booking times last from May 15 through October 15. Grab ’em while they last!
Presque Isle Camping Ground
Right along the Presque Isle River, you’ll find 50 great campsites at the Presque Isle campground. It’s equipped for tenting and RV owners alike. What makes it extra special is that it’s deep within the park itself, making hiking and activities closer to you. There is no electricity and water can be hand pumped. Toilets are sort-of country style septic holes but are perfectly fine for roughing it.
Big Bear Union River Campground
Located just a stones-throw from the park itself is a family oriented site called Big Bear Union River for those with RV’s and want to set-up tents. It’s especially popular for those who need electricity and snacks. Not so much living in the wilderness but great for weekend getaways. It’s always open in Spring through Fall and provides all the camping comforts you’ll need. They even sell camp firewood, ice, and various camping supplies.
Things to know before going?
What most people don’t know is that the freshwater from streams and waterfalls can have bacteria called Giardia. It can cause stomach aches and pains so all water collected needs to be sterilized or boiled before drinking. Bring a water filter or a kettle designed for camping if you go. There will be mosquitoes too, so bring repellent in the high season of spring and summer. You can also expect black files that are also annoying but not dangerous. Bring some citronella candles to ward them off.
You should also bring a first-aid kit, a map and a compass, and especially a walkie-talkie that can signal emergency channels. Those who are hiking within the 60,000-acre forest might get hurt or lost, so you need to be prepared. You can bring your dog, but they need to have their rabies and current vaccination shots. A dog will not be charged when you enter the park itself, but you need to observe all park rules accordingly.
Since this is virgin territory, you should also keep trash and other disposables with you. When you find a garbage bin, throw them into these containers so animals like bears cannot get to them. Also, be sure to hang your food storage up in a tree based on the park guidelines. Black bears will want to get your food and this will prevent them 100%. The state park will have pamphlets to show how to do this properly.
Should you go camping at Porcupine Mountain?
Among the best reasons to go to Porcupine Mountain is to have an experience that raw nature can deliver best. It’s not just for camping either since the winter activities have become quite a big draw in recent years. There is skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing. Sadly there is no fishing allowed even though Lake of the Clouds is teaming with smallmouth bass… You can still fish locally at the Union Bay campground by the beach.
Various attractions might be interesting if you stay for a week or longer. Among the more off-beat adventures you can enjoy are tours of local mines that are safe to explore. You can hike to Copper or Summit Peak if you like a thrilling climb. And there is even the Porcupine Mountains Music Festival. Is that still not enough? How about catching a glimpse of the legendary Paulding Mystery Light!
If you like winter fun, the Snowburst Winter Carnival might tantalize your winter senses. There is also the Old Victoria restoration and Ontonagon Lighthouse if you like local historic places. While you’re there visit the Ontonagon County Historical Society Museum for a look into the past! You can’t go wrong with a visit to Porcupine Mountain this year and we’re sure you’ll return years afterward also.
The final words
Nature is never far from the civilized world and for most locals to the Upper Peninsula, they know it well. Why not take the time to make some Porcupine Mountains camping to experience breathtaking beauty on your vacation. It might take away all the stress and help calm you from your worries. Some might say it’s the best way to get away without leaving the State!
See you there!