Summit Peak and Mirror Lake Loop

Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, Michigan

Trip Date: Friday, August 12th, 2016
Last Updated: Thursday, July 27th, 2017
By Ricky Holzer

Hike Information

Rating ★★★★☆(4/5)
Overall Difficulty Moderate
Navigation Difficulty     Easy
Distance 5 miles roundtrip
Time 2.5 hours
Terrain Hilly
Best Seasons Spring, Summer, Fall
Family Friendly No
Dog Friendly Yes
Accessible No

Highlights

Hike Walkthrough

Summit Peak is the third highest point in Michigan, so it is definitely a worthwhile endeavor to conquer this climb. Although I have given this hike only 4/5 stars, I suspect that if the weather would have cooperated during my visit, the view from the top of the observation tower would have boosted the rating an additional star. Even so, the other parts of this hike are beautiful -- there is something magical about the forest in the Porcupine Mountains that just doesn't feel the same as other forest in northern Wisconsin or Minnesota. Don't let my dark, cloudy pictures scare you away. This is definitely a must do hike if you are in the Porcupine Mountains.

I hiked this trail on a Friday afternoon, and there were not many people on the trail. Weekends are most likely busier, but given the remoteness of this park, I wouldn't expect a huge crowd. Dogs are allowed on leash. This entire loop is probably too long for most children; however, the observation tower on top of Summit Peak only requires a 1 mile roundtrip hike if you go directly there and back -- doable for kids if you take your time on the ascent. The only other note for this hike is to bring lots of bug spray and a rain jacket in case one of the frequent light drizzles occurs. In July and August, expect biting flies in addition to mosquitos, so wear pants and long sleeves unless it is oppressively hot.

When I originally did this hike, I climbed straight to the top of Summit Peak, then after arriving and having more energy, decided to do the loop described here. I suggest going the opposite direction I did so you end at Summit Peak, saving the best part for later. Otherwise, you finish after a long hike through nothing but dense forest and feeling of "Am I done yet?". From the parking lot, head west on the flat Beaver Creek Trail rather than ascending the route to Summit Peak. You will cross a marshy area that may or may not look like the photo below, then the trail will end at a T intersection. Turn right here to take the Little Carp River Trail heading northeast.

The marshlands on the Beaver Creek Trail

The marshlands on the Beaver Creek Trail
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This next section of trail follows a creek on your right side and will take you to Mirror Lake. Some sections will have boardwalks to protect the muddy forest floor, as shown in the picture below the page title. Once you reach Mirror Lake, there will be an intersection with the South Mirror Lake Trail. If you want to find a good spot for lunch by the lake, continue hiking straight here and look on your right for openings in the vegetation leading to the lakeshore. The lake is calm and beautiful, reflecting the deep greens of the surrounding forest -- definitely worth at least a moment to stop and admire. To continue hiking towards Summit Peak, turn right onto the South Mirror Lake Trail.

Up until this point, the trail will have been mostly flat. Soon there will be some hills, leading up to the final climb to Summit Peak. Watch for the sign pointing to the Summit Peak Side Trail, then turn right as indicated by the sign. Here is where the real climbing starts. When you reach the top, you will see an observation tower that will take you above the canopy, hopefully providing you with panoramic views. At the top of the observation tower, you are actually at a higher altitude than the tallest point in Michigan. However, clear days seem to be rare here, so your view may look more like my picture below.
The inspiration for the Instagram logo probably originated from this sign at the base of the observation tower

The inspiration for the Instagram logo probably originated from this sign at the base of the observation tower
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My cloudy view from the top of Summit Peak's observation tower

My cloudy view from the top of Summit Peak's observation tower
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When you are finished at the summit, continue on the trail for a short descent to the parking lot. I hope you enjoyed the fantastic nature featured in this loop hike! If you are staying in the park longer, be sure to check out the Presque Isle Waterfall Trail

Directions

The Porcupine Mountains are in a remote part of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, so be prepared for a long drive. You will need to enter the park from the east so you can pay the fee at the Park Headquarters. Take Michigan Highway 64 north to Silver City, then turn left on Lincoln St (107th Engineers Memorial Highway). Turn left on Boundary Road and look for a sign for the Park Headquarters. Turn right onto Headquarters Rd, pay your fee, then return to Boundary Rd and turn right. Now enjoy a long drive on a winding road through the wilderness. Watch for a sign for Summit Peak, then turn right onto Summit Peak Rd. Continue until the road ends at a parking lot.

Google Maps Directions

Parking, Fees, and Facilities

Stop by the Vistor Center and Park Headquarters to pay the vehicle fee. Michigan residents can purchase a Recreation Passport for $11, and it is good for an entire year. Non-residents may purchase a daily pass for $9, or an annual pass for $32. More details here.

External Links

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