Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Trap Hills of Michigan

My dad passed onto me a deep appreciation for wild places and trails that are off the beaten path.  It's rare finding such places without hiking long distances.  But my folks and I enjoyed such a hike on the North Country Trail in the Trap Hills in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  This 20-mile long escarpment receives far fewer visitors than the more popular Porcupine Mountains, which were only 6 miles away.  
The Trap Hills.
We parked in a small, overgrown, unmarked lot on the west side of Norwich Road where it crosses the North Country Trail just north of the intersection of FS 630.
A premier hiking experience indeed.
After crossing Norwich Road, we climbed east up the bluff on the North Country Trail.  The trail was well marked, blue paint splattered along trail showed just how recently the blazes were refreshed.
Fresh blue blazes on the North Country Trail.
My dad flew up the steep, muddy trail.  I sure hope I can hike like that when I'm in my 70's!

The trail passed through a diverse, predominately maple forest, with occasional hemlock.   The understory was rich with mosses and ferns, the trillium and solomon's plume already gone to seed.

After passing by a few smaller viewpoints, we lingered at the expansive overlook of Norwich Bluff, soaking in the sweeping views of Lake Superior, the Porcupines, and the higher reaches of the remarkably picturesque Trap Hills.  Butterflies and birds (but surprisingly no mosquitoes!) fluttered around the rocky outcrop amongst the dense flowers. 
Harebell amid a meadow of flowers.
Compared to the Porcupine Mountains, this was arguably less dramatic as the view from the Lake of the Clouds overlook.  However, I instantly loved it more for it's rugged beauty and the quiet that allowed sounds of nature to dominate.  It was also remarkable because we didn't encounter anyone else all day- another thing my dad and I agree is a gold standard of a truly wonderful hike.  What's so special about these unspoiled landscapes?  I suspect it goes beyond mere aesthetics.  For me, it also reinforces my identity as an adventurous, independent, non-conformist who is daring enough to venture places that few others do.

I felt really lucky to have shared this hike with my parents that we all agreed was really wonderful.

For more information on the Trap Hills:

-Peter Wolfe Chapter of the North Country Trail Association's great webpage with maps, elevation profile, trail description, and history.

-North Country Trail Association map MI-13 (Alberta to Cascade Falls) is available here.

-Backpacker Magazine article on the Trap Hills.


  1. Sweet! I love hiking outside of my normal areas. Sometimes I go back and forth on trails being busy or not---I love the quietness of a less traveled trail but then think that it would be nice if more people were actually hiking and enjoying nature than actually do.

  2. Yep, Misti, it sure is refreshing to visit new areas. I do know what you mean about liking it when people are getting out. At one of the lakes we visited, there were a bunch of kids out on canoes, laughing and playing, and we could hear their voices clear across the lake. I was just so glad to see kids enjoying themselves, and hopefully developing a love for the outdoors.