Marquette County has one of the best singletrack trail systems in the continental United States, full stop. There simply aren’t many better places to get out into the woods on your skis, snowshoes or bike.
Of course, singletrack trails are also good for a simpler use, one that doesn’t even require specialized equipment aside from a pair of sturdy shoes. Yep, people have been hiking for millennia, and that’s not going to change anytime soon. So if you’re looking for a great workout that also happens to include some great scenery, check out these five Marquette County hiking opportunities.
Due to its distinctive humped shape and bare peak, Hogback is probably Marquette County’s most famous mountain, despite the fact that it’s not even close to being the area’s highest point. Beginning from the Wetmore Pond parking area, the hike to Hogback includes a leisurely meander through rolling land owned by Plum Creek Timber, a pleasant traverse across an exposed rock field, and an inspiring walk through an old-growth hemlock forest.
The climb doesn’t begin until the last two-thirds of the hike, when the trail meets Hogback’s steep sides and pitches upward through rocky terrain. The last bit involves a scramble up a smooth, occasionally slippery rock face, so definitely wear your hiking boots. But the view is totally worth it: Lake Superior to one side, deep highland forests to the other, Marquette in the middle distance, and occasional glimpses of the Keweenaw highlands and Pictured Rocks on crystal-clear days.
Just a mile or two closer to the lake, Sugarloaf is like Hogback’s younger cousin. As one of Marquette County’s most popular hikes, it’s also super-easy to climb, thanks to a succession of staircases leading up the steep upper half. Sugarloaf is also great in any season, though the staircases aren’t cleared in winter.
The bare summit is perfect for photos — on clear days, it seems like you can see every building in Marquette, and the Lake Superior views are even more expansive than from Hogback.
There are several different variations on this basic hike, all of which include the Noquemanon Trail Network’s northern singletracks. For a leisurely experience that takes no more than a couple hours and can easily accommodate dogs, start at one of the trailheads in the Forestville area and make your way east. You’ll pass several small ponds and lakes, as well as a larger storage basin, and occasionally catch superb views of the Huron Mountains. (You can also access the last third of the Hogback trail from a spur here, cutting off part of the ascent in the process.) The trail ends at Tourist Park in Marquette, which also happens to be a great place to reward your party with a picnic.
The Iron Ore Heritage Trail is the crown jewel in the NTN system. Stretching nearly 50 miles from the Michigamme area to Chocolay Township, it’s host to a variety of popular events (including the marquee Ore to Shore Mountain Bike Epic) and nationally recognized as a silent-sports destination. But it’s also great for a leisurely walk through the woods or along the lakeshore. The best stretch for hikers is arguably the flattest: the lakefront expanse from downtown Marquette to Harvey.
With rugged terrain, great views and multiple waterfalls, the NTN South Trails network is a hiker’s paradise. If you’re looking for the full flavor of the South Trails, check out Pioneer Loop, a multi-stage trail that completes an energetic circuit of the entire area. Look for views of Marquette Mountain, Mount Marquette and Mount Mesnard — there are at least a half-dozen viewpoints here. If you don’t have all day, just do an out-and-back hike of one of the four trail segments.