Hiawatha National Forest Overview
Above the oven mitt that is mainland Michigan, a finger of land juts outward from Wisconsin toward Ontario. This is the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, a spectacular region known for its natural beauty, historic landmarks, and extreme temperatures. Hiawatha National Forest comprises roughly 880,000 acres in the central and eastern part of this remote territory that touches the shores of three Great Lakes. In the forest, visitors find incredible opportunities for outdoor fun without the crowds that usually come with such a breathtaking setting.
Poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's "Song of Hiawatha" provided the name for the Hiawatha National Forest, which touches the shores of Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, and Lake Huron. Opportunities for hiking, biking, viewing wildlife, and all manner of outdoor activity abound.
Most of the folks around here, known as "Yoopers" after the abbreviation U.P. (for Upper Peninsula), are descended from immigrants who came to log and mine copper during the mining boom of the late 19th and early 20th century. Although the mines have now closed down, those who remain seem to enjoy the isolation and rugged terrain that define this picturesque area.
Make Tracks on Bruno's Run
Whether the wildflowers are just beginning to bloom or deep snow blankets the earth, Bruno's Run Trail is one of the most popular destinations in Hiawatha National Forest. The warmer months are perfect for hiking and horseback riding over the gently rolling terrain of this 7.25-mile loop trail. When winter arrives, snowshoes are the ideal method for getting into the thick of nature. Be sure to stop at the scenic overlooks for a view of the lakes and meadows below. A highlight near the finish of this loop is a walk through "Hemlock Cathedral," a dense grove of mature hemlock that survived logging in the area. Permits are not required for camping along the trail or for campfires.
More on hiking in Hiawatha National Forest
Mountain Bike Valley Spur
After you warm up with a good hike, accelerate your heart rate with a trip to Hiawatha's Valley Spur Mountain Bike Route. Two-wheel through 26 miles of northern hardwood forest past meadows, hemlock groves, 40-inch diameter white and red pine areas, and several small lakes. Four separate loop trails combine to offer a marathon's length of dynamic backcountry cycling. The trails run the gamut in intensity and difficulty: Trail 2 is the most difficult; Trail 4 is the most accessible to all skill levels. A brown trail marker with a white bicycle symbol marks each loop. Route numbers (three-inch numbers on blue diamonds) are posted at each intersection. The routes are open daily during daylight hours from May to November. There is no trail fee.
Canoe the Indian River
Beauty and tranquility await the paddler who ventures onto the Indian River. Perfect for a one- or two-day trip into the heart of Hiawatha National Forest, the 36-mile Indian River Canoe Trail represents the best of what the park has to offer. This gently flowing National Wild and Scenic River Canoe Trail drifts past conifers, northern hemlock, white and red pine trees, marshlands, and rolling hills as you make your way from Fish Lake to Indian Lake. An observant visitor is sure to spot an abundance of the wildlife that make their home along the river. Novices take note, midway through the journey you will experience a bit of fast water.
Drop a Line
The most difficult part of angling in Hiawatha National Forest is getting through the decision-making process. Once you've chosen between warm-water and cold-water fish, you must cast your ballot for one of the many lakes, streams, rivers, or bays in the forest. If it's warm-water fish you're after, Brevoort Lake on the southeastern end of the peninsula is your best bet. Brevoort is a 4,233-acre lake offering good fishing for walleye, perch, smallmouth bass, and a wide variety of other fish. For cold-water fish, the Carp River, Taylor Creek, and Buck Bay Creek are all excellent choices. A wide variety of salmon as well as brown, brook, and steelhead trout frequent these areas. Be sure you've got your Michigan fishing license on you; it's required to fish anywhere in the state.
Horseback Ride on Pine Marten Run
Saddle up and explore the lakes and streams, gently rolling hills, bogs, and wildlife openings on Pine Marten Run Trail. Pine Marten Run is composed of five loop trails with interconnecting spurs. Each loop provides another opportunity to see the raw beauty of the Upper Peninsula. This 26-mile system of trails is best viewed on horseback. From Rumble Lake to Triangle Lake, horseback riders will gain a different perspective from the hikers and bikers who share the trails. The fall colors are especially beautiful here due to the variety of trees—including beech, birch, maple, pine, and hemlock. Parking areas suitable for vehicles with horse trailers are available at each trailhead.
Go Nordic on Rapid River
The Rapid River National Cross-Country Ski Trail offers skiers five loops of Nordic skiing opportunities as well as two skating loops. The trail is widely recognized as one of the most beautiful in the Upper Peninsula as it winds through pine-covered dune ridges and drops into lowland swamps. The topography offers beginner through expert skiers a wide range of challenges, from gentle, flat terrain to long, steep hills.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication