In mid November I woke up to a fresh layer of snow on the ground, covering all of the trees in a most delightful manner. I thought to myself: damn, this would be a perfect day to go out for a hike. After a couple of days of a wintry freezing rain mix (which dashed my hopes of doing an overnight backpacking trip), I really wanted to get out and do something. I went through my mental to-hike list and settled on hiking up Hogback Mountain, just north of Marquette Michigan.
The trailhead for Hogback Mountain is part of the Little Presque Isle Trail Network, managed by the Michigan DNR. Other points of interest in the trail network include Sugarloaf Mountain, Harlow Lake, Bareback Ridge, Wetmore Pond and a beautiful beach on the shores of Lake Superior.
Unlike neighboring Sugarloaf Mountain, which has a short trail, and wooden steps to the peak, going to the top of Hogback is a bit of a backcountry adventure. If you are looking for solitude and a challenge skip Sugarloaf and the crowds of people it attracts.
The parking lot for the trailhead is located on highway 550 about 1/2 a mile past the one for Sugarloaf. You will see a sign for the Harlow Lake Pathway on the West side of the road. If there is a lot of snow on the ground be careful when parking as it can be hard to get out of.
From the trailhead it is approximately 2.1 miles to the top of Hogback. With some loafing around for pictures and what not, there and back took us about 3 hours. Make sure to pack some water and snacks.
The trail leading up to Hogback Mountain is quite muddy in places (where in the UP isn’t it?). The recent snow melt and rain didn’t make it any better. Prepare yourself for foot deep sludge puddles. There is also a small creek crossing. Bring your boots if you don’t want wet feet.
After hiking for about half an hour, we came across a rocky outcropping providing a nice view of the peak we were about to conquer. While certainly not the most prominent peak, it is an imposing summit that is unusual for the area.
Standing at 1220′ above sea level, Hogback may not be and extreme mountaineering adventure (or even a true mountain, being under 2000′), but this does make it the second highest peak in the Upper Peninsula. #1 Being Mount Arvon, further west in the Huron Mountain range.
After the clearing, you will come across another trail, a now defunct spur of the Lake Superior and Ishpemining Railroad which used to carry timber products from Big Bay to the Presque Isle Railyard. Cross this rail trail over a small foot bridge to continue on the path to Hogback. After the crossing it may look like you have taken a wrong turn, but look out for some pink ribbons to the left marking where the path is.
Up until now the terrain has been relatively flat. Sure there are rolling hills with short climbs and descents, but no real elevation gain. This is about to change as the trail comes to the base of Hogback Mountain.
The last section to the summit is quite steep with an elevation gain of around 600′ in the last half mile or so. The last push is particularly steep, requiring a scramble up to the summit. With all of the melt/rain, the rocks were quite icy when we went up there. Do be careful as this isn’t a walk in the park. It would have been nice to have some microspikes for this part to reduce the risk of slipping.
After clambering up the incline, we finally reached the summit of Hogback Mountain. The view from up here is incredible. Not much else like this in Michigan. There isn’t much of any vegetation at the top, offering a 360° view of the surrounding landscape.
After taking a quick break to rest, rehydrate, and photograph, it was time to head back down. There is a loop trail that goes down the south side of the mountain, but I couldn’t find it in the snow, so i opted to return the way we came. Climbing back down the steep icy earth was a little scarier than going up it, but we made it.
After the descent it was easy going all the way back to the car, where we thoroughly enjoyed the heated seats on the ride back home. I will definitely be making a return to Hogback, as well as exploring more of the trail network in the Little Presque Isle area.