Backpack the Big Carp River and Lake Superior Trails in the Porkies

Rate this Adventure Lake of the Clouds Overlook Parking Lot, Ontonagon, Michigan, United States

  • Activities:

    Camping, Backpacking, Hiking

  • Skill Level:


  • Season:

    Spring, Summer, Autumn

  • Trail Type:


  • RT Distance:

    18.2 Miles


A great experience. Our group of four (one expert, two experienced, and one beginner) enjoyed all 18 miles of the adventure. Two day trip with lots of potential for trailrunners.

We started our hiking in the afternoon at the Lake of the Clouds parking lot. Our original plan for the hike was to thru hike the Lake Superior Trail, however, due to muddy conditions and recent rain, we chose the Big Carp River Trail as a dryer route to get to our mid-camp point near the Big Carp cabins. 

The beginning of the hike offered fantastic views of the overlook area. The cliffs and shelving off the side of the mountain was something else. Starting at the top of the overlook, our first couple of miles were sloped downward until we began to bottom out on the trail, roughly past the third backpacking site available. (BC#3)

Once on flatter ground, the trees and the forest began to open up. Due to a recent storm and multiple big storms earlier in the summer, there were many downed trees and wet brush everywhere, but beautiful nonetheless. 

By the end of our first day, we didn't make it to our goal destination, however, we stopped at another campsite close to our mid-camp goal. The site was BC#7, right next to the Shining Clouds Falls. The place was magnificent. The sounds of the water crashing against the rocks was tranquil and serene. Our group of four each had their own tent/hammock, so we set camp, cooked dinner, sat around the fire, and crashed to get an early start the next day. 

Over the course of our trip, we had four river crossings. One was made by foot with no downed trees, and the other three along logs located roughly 50-100 meters from the trails. I assume most of the trails would be dryer during a different time of year without recent rainfall, but this was my first time in the Porkies without anything else to reference. 

We arrived at the Big Carp cabins and many of the other backpacking sites along the lake. The shoreline was wonderful. The cool air helped with the beginning of our hike, or at least the first 45 minutes of it. We quickly dove back into the forest for the remainder of the Lake Superior Trail. Lots of mud, accompanied by walkways and lots of creeks. The trail began to clear up after reaching the Speaker's Cabin (2.1 miles from western trail-head). 

In the afternoon, we reached the Presque Isles waterfalls. We reached our second vehicle and proceeded to return 45 minutes to our starting point. 

BP Campsites Available on Trail: 20

Cabins Along Trail: 5 (reservation only)

Longest Distance without Water Source: roughly 5 miles (Lake of the Clouds trail-head to first river crossing on Big Carp River Trail)

Backpacking Map available at

Pack List

  • Summer/Fall Backpacking Checklist (two-day)

Recommend Extras: 

  • Water Filtration
  • Trekking Poles
  • Water Crossing Shoes
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Matt Johnson

Executive Director, Solutions Recovery Inc. - Program Director, Recovery In The Wilderness

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