Ontonagon County’s trails are one of its best tourism assets, particularly because of the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park (Porkies), located in Carp Lake Township, which contains over 100 miles of designated routes for hiking, mountain biking, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing. Approximately 145 kilometers/90 miles are located within the County. Hikes can be arranged for both day trips and multi-day backpacking excursions, though the park is perhaps best suited for the latter. Most trails are interconnected long-distance point-to-point paths rather than local loops. Trails are well-maintained and clearly marked. Due to the breadth of the trail system and the scope and detail of information available at the park’s website, an inventory will not be included here. It is worth nothing, however, that a 23-mile segment of the North Country Trail runs through the park.
The North Country Trail stretches across all of Ontonagon County. Outside of the Porkies, the trail crosses Highway M-64 and continues to weave east to the old community of Victoria before dropping south and east to cross over into Houghton County. On the way, the trail passes by numerous waterfalls and other geological features of interest, running mainly through public land.
The Ottawa National Forest offers an extensive system of gravel forest roads suitable for multiple uses.
Local trail systems in the county are listed below. Most of these are trails over land; water trails are denoted with .
- Bergland Ski Trails are located 1 mile north of Bergland off M-64.Trails consist of a 5.1 kilometer/3.2-mile main cross-country ski trail plus a more challenging 5.5 kilometer/3.4-mile loop. Trails are groomed weather-permitting.
- Gogebic Ridge Hiking Trail is approximately 8 miles long including a 0.5-mile lakeside loop. The trail passes over a variety of terrain and offers wildlife viewing opportunities. Beginning at F.R. 250 north of Merriweather, the trail stretches northeast across M-64 and Old M-64 to terminate at the North Country Trail.
- Courtney Lake National Forest Campground is near or provides direct access to three trails. One of these is an equestrian trail; the other two trails are closed to horses:
- Circle of Life Interpretive Trail is a level, 2.2-mile, one-hour, wheelchair-accessible (no other vehicles) hike.
- Courtney Lake/Old Grade Road Ski Trail is located at Courtney Lake National Forest Campground off M-28 7 miles west of Nisula. The gently sloping trail is 6.8 kilometers/4.2 miles long plus a 2.4-kilometer/1.5-mile loop and is groomed weekly.
- Courtney Equestrian Trails lie on both sides of the West Branch Firesteel River with access points from HWY M-38 and the Dishinaw Road. The loops are enjoyed by cross country skiers, snowshoers and intersect with hiking trails. Here you will enjoy approximately 14 miles of horse trails on diverse forest landscapes that carry you through areas of hardwood, pine, mixed foliage and forest vegetation. Horsemen can pack and camp the backwoods at will. This is a peaceful retreat with well-marked trails, cared for by MI-TRALE, local skiers, and the Ottawa National Forest. Click here for a map and here for a document with more information.
Carp Lake Township:
- Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park: See introduction.
- Riddle Farm Ski Trails, located on Aspen Lane off M-26 between Mass City and the U.S. 45 intersection, offer 5 kilometers/3.1 miles in four loops groomed and tracked for beginner-level cross-country skiing.
- Bond Falls Trail is a 0.5-mile loop around the general area of one of the most notable waterfalls in the Upper Peninsula. Steps and bridges allow passage over the river below the falls. The site is located on Paulding Road east off U.S. 45.
- Cascade Falls Hiking Trail is located about 8 miles north and 1 mile east of Bergland off F.R. 400. The trail is 1 mile in length, offering two routes to reach the small waterfall. The Twin Peak route is moderately difficult and includes an overlook; the Valley route is easier without strenuous climbing required. This section is one of several loops and other short-distance hiking opportunities part of the North Country Trail in the Trap Hills area of the Ottawa National Forest.
- Norwich Mine Interpretive Trail is located north of Matchwood off Norwich Road at the intersection of F.R. 642 and the North Country Trail. The 1.2-mile trail passes through the historic mine complex. Like the above section, this section is one of several loops and other short-distance hiking opportunities part of the North Country Trail in the Trap Hills area of the Ottawa National Forest.
- Ontonagon Township Park Hiking Trail is a 1-mile nature trail leading throughout the park off Lakeshore Drive north of the Village of Ontonagon and connecting with the Village’s lakefront sidewalk/pathway.
- O-Kun-De-Kun Falls Trail is a 1.3-mile segment of the North Country Trail that leads to the Baltimore River waterfall. The trail passes a smaller waterfall before O-Kun-De-Kun itself; the main falls is located just above a suspension footbridge. The trailhead is located at a signed parking lot on U.S. 45 halfway between the M-26 and M-28 intersections.
- Ontonagon River, Main Branch: The Ontonagon River watershed is the largest on the south shore of Lake Superior. This makes for an incredibly diverse stream system with four branches in addition to the main stem. This primary 24-mile downstream stretch of the river has depth and water volumes suitable for full-size boats in addition to canoes and kayaks. The Main Branch is at least 150 feet wide for most of its length. The vast majority of the stream is calm flatwater, with only a 3-foot-per-mile gradient. However, the stream can become volatile during spring runoff and in fall. Access sites are at the Military Hill Roadside Park at U.S. 45, the Victoria Road gauging station three miles downstream, and Ontonagon Harbor in the Village of Ontonagon at the rivermouth at Lake Superior.
- Ontonagon River, East Branch: Upstream of M-28, the East Branch is primarily a (trout) fishing stream with a riffle-run pattern. Many of the runs are deep enough for obstacle-free paddling, but the shallow, gravel-bottomed sections necessitate a lot of carries. Access is available at many road crossings on federal forestland, the most prominent of which are at the Lower Dam campsite (upstream of M-28), Sparrow-Kenton Wayside (with facilities) at Kenton just north (and downstream) of M-28, and Sparrow Rapids National Forest Campground several miles downstream accessible by a federal forest road just north of Kenton. Downstream of Sparrow Rapids, access is minimal for many miles until the North Country Trail crossing. Onion Falls is the most notable feature on this segment; it is located about midway between Sparrow Rapids and the North Country Trail.
- Ontonagon River, Middle Branch: This is the largest branch and follows the logical course of the upper main stem. The river can be divided into segments upstream and downstream of Bond Falls Flowage. Bond Falls, located down from a power generation dam, is the largest waterfall (and one of the most developed) in the Western Upper Peninsula. Agate Falls, farther downstream, is another large drop. Public access is available at each, though Agate Falls (at a roadside park on M-28) does not offer suitable boat access downstream of the falls.Access is minimal for many miles between Agate Falls and the Middle Branch’s confluence with the East Branch; however, access can be afforded via the North Country Trail, which crosses the stream approximately two-thirds of the distance downstream on this segment. Upstream access is available at Burned Dam National Forest Campground east of the community of Watersmeet, at U.S. 45 (a dedicated canoe access site) in Watersmeet, and at several roads bordered by federal forestland near and above U.S. 2 west of Watersmeet. The segment between Burned Dam and Bond Falls is approximately 11 miles long.Stream character varies from slow, low-gradient (with some rapids) segments upstream of Bond Falls to long, faster segments of shallow rapids downstream.The stream reach from Watersmeet to Bond Falls is conducive to paddling throughout summer.
- Ontonagon River, West Branch: This is the largest branch and follows the logical course of the upper main stem. The river can be divided into segments upstream and downstream of the Bond Falls Flowage and power generation
- Ontonagon River, South Branch: The 25-mile segment between M-28 and the Victoria Dam is low-gradient and mostly conducive to paddling except the 2 miles above Victoria Dam. The dam and M-28 are the only public access sites. Lake Gogebic, the largest in the Upper Peninsula, is the source of the South Branch.
- Ontonagon River, Cisco Branch: This branch, which begins at Cisco Lake in the Thousand Island Lakes Chain west of the Sylvania Wilderness, becomes the South Branch in southern Ontonagon County.
Click here or on the map below for a printable PDF map and land-based trail information table.
Due to the small scale and level of detail in the map, we recommend using Adobe Reader version X (10) or higher to print in tile format or to print a selected area of the map.