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Favorite Great Lakes Hikes

Bruce Trail Spectacular Limestone Cliffs along Georgian Bay

Coastal Trail 65 Km of Lake Superior Shoreline in Lake Superior Proincial Park, Ontario

Grand Island: A wonderful alternative to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan's Upper Peninsula

High Country Pathway A week of hiking in elk country and the largest block of undeveloped land in the lower peninsula.

Hoist Lakes Foot Travel Area Two looped trails providing about 20 miles of hiking among 7 lakes in northeast lower Michigan.

Jordan River Pathway Two day loop in the very beautiful Jordan River Valley.

Lake Superior Hiking Trail A 200 plus mile Minnesota gem.

Manistee River Trail Very scenic two day loop hike in Manistee National Forest

North Country Trail: Grand Traverse Hiking Club section

North Manitou Island Forest, Miles of Lake Michigan beach, and lots of history.

Pukaskwa National Park Another 60 Km. of Canadian Shield, Boreal Forest and Lake Superior Shoreline

 

 

Coastal Trail: Lake Superior Provincial Park, Ontario

The park is a 1.5 hour drive north of Sault Saint Marie, Ontario

We hiked the “Coastal Trail” which follows the shoreline of Lake Superior for about 65 Km.

August 1-6, 1999

My friend Dick and I left Traverse City about 9:00 A.M. Sunday, August 1 and arrived at the Montreal River, at the south end of the park, about 2:30 P.M. This is where we had arranged for our shuttle. It took a couple of hours to pay our park fees, and spot the car. We drove in to Gargantua“Garr-Gan-Twah”) Bay, where we began our hike, leaving the car to be spotted at Katherine Cove, about 35 Km. south, where we planned to finish our trip sometime Thursday afternoon or Friday morning. We set up camp at the bay, ate dinner, and had time to do just a little exploring on the trail north of our camp.

Before continuing let me say a few things about the week: After weeks of hot, humid weather in Michigan this week was almost perfect. We had a few sprinkles of rain on Tuesday night and that is all. The temperature was mid 70s in the day all week with low humidity. Great hiking weather. I began the hike with a pack weighing 26 lbs. which included food for five days (10 lbs.) and 2 lbs. of water (1 L). I was very comfortable the whole trip. This was my test trip for the Safewater Anywhere Inline filter and it worked great. It was so convenient to dip into Lake Superior, filling my water bladder, but not having to stop and pump the filter.

Monday we set off south about 9:00 A.M. and hiked until 5:00 P.M. where we camped about three hours walking time south of Rhyolite Cove. People had told us that the walk south of Gargantua was rugged and, yes, it was rugged. My trekking poles paid for themselves on this trip. But what an absolutely spectacular shoreline! We had it all to ourselves as we saw no one the whole day.

Tuesday we hiked just two or three hours and arrived at Beatty Cove. What greeted us was a beautiful deserted cove with a sandy beach and a little stream that flowed into the big lake. We were ahead of schedule so immediately decided that this was far enough for the day. We set up camp and went for a swim in water that was as warm as Lake Michigan is during a normal summer in Traverse City. It was 12:30 P.M. when we arrived and finally about 4:30 P.M. a couple of very tired young Canadian hikers arrived, carrying huge loaded packs. Trish, a Canadian Kayaker also arrived. The four of us had a campfire that night and sat up 'till 12:30 A.M. swapping stories.

We were the first to break camp on Wed. Our Canadian friends caught up with us at lunch time. Wouldn't you know it, five minutes after we left Beatty Cove a cow moose and her calf had come down to the water to drink.

Wednesday afternoon we arrived at Orphan Lake. There were several campsites occupied here and quite a few day hikers as there is direct access to this site by hiking a short distance from the highway. After dinner we hiked the loop trail up to Orphan lake which has beautiful vistas of Orphan lake and Lake Superior.

What I remember about the hike south of Orphan Lake on Thursday is the great views of Superior from the headlands, and the long stretches of boulder hopping that we did. We arrived at Catherine Cove about 3:30 P.M., went for a swim to clean up a bit, and headed home.

This was a hike that Dick and I both were so glad we didn't miss. We traveled only 35 Km. or so, but you can't really measure distances in kilometers or miles on this trail and accurately convey how much hiking you really did. Most of it is up and down, in and out of the bush, and up and over rocks. All of it ruggedly spectacular!

For park information, go to: Lake Superior Provincial Park You will definitely want to purchase the $5.00 map which shows, in detail, all trails and water routes in the park.

Coastal Trail: Pukaskwa National Park
August, 2000

Pukaskwa (Puck-a -saw) is a Canadian National Park protecting the north shore of Lake Superior and lies 406 km (about 250 miles) northwest of Sault Saint Marie, Ontario or 305 km (about 190 miles) east of Thunder Bay, Ontario. This is great canoeing, kayaking, and hiking country. There is always the possibility of seeing bear, moose, or even one of the few remaining woodland caribou. The Lake Superior shoreline is, of course, well...as always - superior, with rocky bluffs alternating with beautiful protected coves complete with secluded sandy beaches.

The coastal trail begins at the park visitor center at Hattie Cove and continues for 60 remote kilometers down the shore and inland to North Swallow River. Hattie Cove is the only access to the trail by automobile so it is truly remote. You can hike out and back as we did, or do as many people do and hire a boat to take you to North Swallow River, then hike back. Park literature suggests that you take 10 - 12 days for an out and back hike. My first impression upon reading this was- hey no way! How about four days in and four days out. It is after all only about 37 miles each way. Well guess what, 10-12 days is about right. The trail is very rugged. Basically you walk for several hours through the bush away from the lake, then come back to it and a beautiful secluded cove. If you push on, you are going to miss the best part of the trip which is to spend some time relaxing and exploring these beautiful beaches. There are no trail blazes. When in the bush you follow the beaten path, when on rock there are cairns. Sometimes it is tricky. It helped to have two of us so we had four eyes looking ahead instead of two. At some places it helped to look for worn spots on the lichen covered rock to get an idea of where to look for the next cairn. This is not a place to go solo. Here is the day by day report of our trip:

Dick and I left Traverse City the morning of Monday, Aug. 7, 2000 hoping for great weather. After lunch and heading west from Sault Saint Marie, we ran into a cold hard rain that locals said had been going on for three days. That's good news right? If it has been going on for three days, it must be about to end. We arrived at the park visitor center at Hattie Cove just before 4:30 P.M. I had reserved our back country campsites in May, spacing them so we would make the end of the trail in four days, then turn around and retrace our route. We knew that a pre-hike orientation was required, but didn't realize that the visitor center closed at 4:30 P.M. Fortunately we made it in the door just before closing and the friendly ranger was nice enough to stay an extra 20 minutes to deliver our orientation. There is a 67 unit car campground at Hattie Cove, so we found a site, set up camp and took the one hour hike around Half Way Lake.

Tuesday, Aug. 8 We were up and away by about 8 A.M., hiking first along Hattie Cove, then into the bush, in the rain, with many very slippery roots and rocks, our destination a place called Willow River. About two hours out we came to the first campsite located on the end of Hattie Cove - pretty spot with nice views back toward the visitor center. In another hour we came to the high suspension bridge over the White River Gorge. We stopped to enjoy the scenery, then pushed on through mossy boreal forest. It was about 5 PM when we reached the mouth of the Willow River - very tired after a long first day out. This was a typical designated backcountry camp with sites carved out of the trees just behind the beach. There were four or five of these sites, an outhouse and a shared bear box which is a heavy metal box where food is placed. These are great - much better than the hassle of hanging food bags. We went for a very abbreviated swim in the frigid water, cooked dinner and set up camp. I was camping in my 8 X 10 tarp with bug bivy and Dick was sleeping in my NomadLite tent. We met three people from Toronto who were camping here also. We invited them to share a campfire on the beach later that evening. The fire was prepared, they arrived and great conversation began about the time the rain rolled in big time. So much for that! It rained the rest of the night. Back in the tent and under the tarp we looked again at the itinerary and made a decision. If we stuck to the schedule we were going to be hiking all day, everyday. So we set a new destination of Oiseau Bay (about half way to the end of the trail). So we would only be hiking 3-5 hours per day with lots of relaxation and exploration time.

Wednesday Aug. 9: Slept in, enjoyed the beach and got underway about 11 A.M. Once again it was into the bush, in the rain. About 3 PM we arrived at Morrison Cove, found a nice grassy campsite and enjoyed the Cove. Hurray! the rain stopped.

Thursday Aug. 10: Hiked from 9:45 AM to 11: 30 AM (aren't we getting lazy!) to Fish Harbour (Canadian spelling). The rain began just before we left camp and ended as we arrived at the new camp. Shortly after arriving a flotilla of Kayaks came into the harbour for a lunch stop. It turned out to be Caribou Expeditions, a commercial outfitter out of Sault Saint Marie, Ontario. Sue, one of our hiking club members, has taken a couple of great trips with this outfit. One to Quebec in which they kayaked with whales on the Saint Laurence Seaway, and another along Lake Superior where they camped virtually among the Woodland Caribou. After some conversation, we left them to their lunch, and they soon went on their way. We had the beach to ourselves for the rest of the day

Friday Aug. 11. Left Fish Harbour at 10:40; arrived at Oiseau Bay about 1 PM. We had beautiful, warm sunshine all day. The hike was all in the bush with many low thickets. Three people from Wisconsin (Peg and Burnie with son Andy and dog Dave) hiked in just ahead of us. This was teenager Andy's first backpacking trip and he was having the time of his life. Andy and the dog were doing the dog thing - we would see them way up ahead of us, then they would come back to check on us, then off they would go again. Such is youth! This is a huge bay and the established campsites were not all that great. There was a swampy sort of canal between the trees where the campsites were and the water. So we walked past this swampy area and found a protected spot against some large boulders but still on the beach. We dragged enough driftwood to make benches around a fire ring and we were snug as a bug in a rug. That evening we shared a campfire with Peg, Burnie and Andy. Dick and I supplied the fire, Peg supplied tea and a very nice cherry cobbler. These people, like us, had made over ambitious hiking plans which they wisely changed. They were going to stay here at Oiseau until Saturday and hope to catch a boat ride back with Bruce who runs the boat shuttle up and down the shore. There was no guarantee that he would stop here, but they had asked several returning hikers to get a message to him, so they may still be waiting at Oiseau to this day, but probably not.

Saturday Aug 12: Woke up to lots of condensation on the tent and tarp. Staked both out to dry. This is where my tarp really simplifies life as it dried in just a few minutes. As we packed up the wind was shifting form east to southwest and clouds and wind were arriving - all signs of rain ahead. So we got underway about 10:15 AM, arriving a Morrison Harbour about 2:30 PM. We had intended to stop at Fish Harbour, but didn't want to walk the rocks north of Fish harbour in the rain tomorrow, so kept going.In camp there was a huge wind and it sure looked like impending rain, so we ate supper at 4 PM to beat the rain. I'm sure that it really rained on someone somewhere, but we never received more than a few sprinkles. So I did some reading, washed myself and clothing in the big lake and listened to the wind.

Sunday Aug. 13: Morrison Harbour to White River. The only rain was a light shower at about 1 AM and it lasted just minutes. By morning the wind had abated and we woke up to heavy fog. We left camp around 8:30 AM, headed to White River which we reached about 3:30 PM. The hike was through the bush and over many rock outcrops. North of Willow River we met two kayakers who had pulled in the day before, chased in by the wind. That is a problem with kayaking. At least you are not quite so subject to nature's whims when you are walking. There is a suspension bridge just north of Willow River. It is all metal and has a very narrow V shape with lots of projecting nuts and bolts. I started across only to stop after a few feet when I heard the foreboding sound of ripping nylon. Sure enough, the mesh side pockets on both sides of my G4 Pack had caught on some of the protruding hardware and each side had a 3" tear. I took the pack off and carried it across over my head. The fog lifted about noon and we enjoyed sun and a nice breeze the rest of the day. At White River we took the 1.6 mile spur trail to the designated campsites. A group of canoers from Toronto arrived about the same time, carrying canoes and gear up the spur trail-glad it was them and not me. After setting up, we had a nice swim in the river. I returned to camp to find that a ground squirrel had chewed through my food bag and helped himself. Always hang your food!! We slept to the sweet sound of cascading waterfalls.

Monday Aug. 14: End of the trip. We hiked the 3 hours back to Hattie Cove, did the required check out with the park, and made the long drive back to Traverse City. Nice trip (have not had a bad one yet)!

Gear Notes: Tarp, bug bivy, and Rab Top Bag (17 oz sleeping bag with mesh on the bottom) all worked great. I began the hike with a 10 lb. base and 16 lbs. of food. I got carried away with food. If we had kept to our original rigorous schedule I probably would have gone through it all, as it was I had quite a bit left at trips end. The G4 pack felt too heavy with the 26 lbs.starting weight. After three days or so it felt much better. Since I have cut aluminum stays for the pack which I will use when carrying more than 20 lbs. Thanks Leapfrog for this idea.

Trip Notes: You will want the Coastal Hiking Trail Guide published by the Friends of Pukaskwa. It has maps and a nice natural history of the first part of the trail (Hattie Cove to Oiseau Bay). Contact the park at 807-229-0801, or visit the web site.

 

Superior Hiking Trail
Caribou River Wayside to Cascade River State Park
(About 50 miles)
August 1 -6, 1998

Rated one of the best 10 trails in the US, the SHT follows the ridge line adjacent to Lake Superior, through the Arrowhead region of Minnesota, for some 200 miles starting at the town of Two Harbors and extending northeast to the Canadian border. Two Harbors is a few miles northeast of Duluth. The trail is maintained by the Superior Hiking Trail Association and is one of the best kept trails that I have traveled. Expect it to be well marked and there are designated campsites along the trail, each with a fire pit, benches or logs to sit on, and a primitive pit toilet. Some day this is to be a part of the north country trail - I hope it happens soon.

For most of it's length the trail stays a mile or two inland from Lake Superior, so your views are panoramas with the lake forming the backdrop.It does cross seven Minnesota State Parks, several of which are located along rivers that flow south and east toward the lake. The trail follows several of these rivers which are wild, beautiful, and offer opportunities for swimming in rocky pools at the bases of cascading waterfalls.

Dick solo hiked the southern 60 or so miles of the trail in the summer of 1997. In August of 1998 I joined him for a 50 plus mile hike in the mid-section of the trail. Here is a brief synopsis:

Saturday 8/1 Drove the 11 or so hours from Traverse City to the Caribou River wayside and campsite (northeast of Crosby-Manitou State Park). We stopped along the way in Two Harbors for dinner and a visit to the SHTA headquarters. Here you can purchase the trail quide (which is excellent) and, of course, T-Shirts, mugs, patches etc. Later we parked at the wayside and made the short hike to Caribou River campsite where we set up camp along the Caribou River.

Sunday 8/2 Hiked from Caribou River to Cross River (about 9 miles). This was our best camp as there is a wonderful pool for swimming among cascading waterfalls.

Monday 8/3 Crosby River to the Onion River campsite just southwest of Oberg Mt. Stopped for lunch at Carlton Peak. The trail follows the Temperance River south to the state park, then back north again. We thought of crossing over, but reconsidered which was a good decision as the path along the river canyon was spectacular.

Tuesday 8/4 Onion River East Campsite to Poplar River campsite (between Lutsen Ski Area and Lake Agnes). Great views from Oberg Mt. and Moose Mt.

Wednesday 8/5 Poplar River to Cascade River State Park.This was a long day highlighted by an encounter with a cow moose and her calf that came up out of Lake Agnes and stopped on the trail about 25 feet in front of us. We waited and finally mom ran into the bush to reunite with her calf who had run ahead. We camped about a mile past the state park at the Billygoat campsite. It is well named as it is perched on a very tiny bluff above the river, barely enough room for our tents on the sloping ground.

Thursday 8/6 Hiked out the the road and hitched a ride back to the car. We spent a few hours taking in the tourist sites by car- Split Rock Lighthouse State Park and Gooseberry Falls State Park, then headed home.

This was a great trip. I look forward to hiking more of it. The section around Devil Track river and Mt. Pincushion is supposed to be especially nice (deepest canyon in Minnesota).

There is an excellent guide book, revised in 1998, that I would definitely consult before and during any hike on the SHT. Visit the SHT web site to order the book and learn about the shuttle service that operates in the summer.

Manistee River Trail / North Country Trail Loop

Photo

This hike is becoming very popular for good reasons. It is about 20 miles in length, the right length for a two day, one night hike, and the views are wonderful. These trails are on the east and west sides of the Manistee river, the North Country Trail on the west and the Manistee River trail on the east. The latter is maintained by the National Forest Service. The former is part of our National Scenic Trail System which is administered by the National Park Service.

The loop is between Red Bridge and Hodenpyl Dam in Manistee County. The NCT continues both north and south from the loop. I suggest hiking the NCT from south to north first, crossing the Manistee River on the suspension bridge (The" Little Mac" )and continuing south on the Manistee River Trail. There are numerous campsites on the Manistee River Trail side and several of them offer great views of the river. The NCT side, however, is set back in the forest so that, when the leaves are on the trees, there are no river views. Be sure to start out with water bottles full because for the first seven miles or so the trail on the west side of the river is high and dry.

To find the trail head travel east from the town of Brethren on Coats Hwy to the parking area at Red Bridge. You may begin the trail here, but I traveled back toward Brethren about a mile to find the trail where it crosses Coats Hwy and heads north. Contact the Huron-Manistee National Forest for information and a great map of the trail and other trails in the National Forest.

Jordan River Pathway

Photo

This was my first backpacking trip after returning to the sport after about a 25 year break. It was a good choice for it is scenic, and is an 18 mile loop, just the right length for a shakedown trip. You will encounter the Jordan River and its tributaries several times along the hike, and be treated to "wistful vistas" of the Jordan River Valley.

To reach the trail head, travel 6 miles north of Alba on U.S. 131 and turn west on Dead Man's Hill Road. It is about 2 miles to the DNR parking area. All camping is at the Pinney Bridge Campground, about 8 miles down the trail. It has a water pump, and outhouse, and widely spaced campsites which are not directly accessible by automobile. From there you begin your 10 mile walk back to the trailhead.For more information contact the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Backpacker magazine had a nice little article about this trail in April, 1997. The map above is from that article.

 

 

High Country Pathway

This is a 70+ mile circle route through the Pigeon River Country of central northern Michigan. It is the home of a unique Michigan elk herd (largest wild herd east of the Mississippi), and is managed to protect this herd and to maintain this large block of public forest land in an undeveloped condition.

If you thru hike the trail, plan on about a week. My friend Dick and I hiked the northern section one year and the southern section the next year. There are also smaller paths connected to the main trail; the Shingle Mill Pathway is an eleven mile loop used for xc-skiing in the winter, the Sinkholes Pathway is just over two miles, and the Clear Lake-Jackson Lake Pathway is seven and a half miles long.

The Pigeon Bridge Campground might be a good place to begin. Get there by heading east 11 miles from Vanderbilt (just off I-75) on Sturgeon Valley Rd. The Shingle Mill Pathway begins here as does the High Country Pathway. The Pigeon River State Forest Headquarters is just a couple miles away and is worth a visit for current trail information and interpretive displays and literature.

I enjoyed the northern section more than the southern. It is more remote with fewer road crossings. Also in the southern section we passed through several clear cut areas where no respect had been given to the trail. It is too bad that a buffer zone of un-cut forest could not have been left in logging areas through which the trail passed.

The pathway is supported by the Pigeon River Country Association and you will definitely want to get their trail guide. Write to them at P.O. Box 122, Gaylord MI 49735

Grand Island

Photo

If you are seeking an easy, relatively short, but very beautiful hike, check out Grand Island. It lies out in Lake Superior just a five minute ferry ride from the village of Munising in Michigan's upper peninsula. Munising is much better known as the gateway to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, and during the busy summer season, one can avoid the crowds at the Lakeshore by choosing to hike Grand Island. The island is part of Hiawatha National Forest, is managed as a National Recreation Area, and has a 21 mile long trail that follows the shoreline and the 200-300 foot sandstone cliffs that dominate the landscape on the north and west sides.

Stop at the shared National Lakeshore/Hiawatha National Forest Information Center as you enter Munising and pick up a map and the ferry schedule. The ferry dock is a mile west of town. We caught the 3:30 P.M. ferry and hiked the two miles or so from Williams Landing at the southern tip of the island to Trout Bay (see map)where there are several campsites behind a wonderful beach. Backcountry camping is permitted on the island or you can use one of the provided sites which will have a bear pole (bears are a problem although we did not see any).

The campsites at Trout Bay are the nicest on the island. I wouldn't pass them up. Our second day we hiked in a counterclockwise direction from Trout Bay about 15 miles to the west side of the island. The trail was a road at one time so is wide and accessible to Mountain bikers, but I was surprised that we only saw a few. The most scenic overlooks are concentrated on the north and west sides of the island. On the west side, the established campsites are in the forest, but within a few hundred feet of another great beach.

After sleeping in a bit and going for a brief swim in the frigid Lake Superior water, we hiked a couple more hours and arrived in time to catch the noon ferry back to Munising.

 

 

 

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