Nestled in the wilderness of Marquette, Michigan, lies an ancient and relatively giant rocky peak called Hogback and it offers those who make it to the top an unparalleled view of the surrounding area. It is often viewed as the older cousin to the more popular Sugarloaf Mountain. You may ask yourself, why is Sugarloaf more popular? Well, mainly because Sugarloaf is more hiker friendly with staircases and a wide, clearly marked trail. Also with Sugarloaf, getting to the summit is much more manageable.
The trail to Hogback is more of a back country trail that has narrow sections, trails that twist through the forests and intersect other back country trails, rocky and swampy areas, and an almost vertical rock face section that requires you to use hands and feet to scale. The last half-mile is definitely the section of the trail that tests hikers the most and is the most strenuous, but the view is so rewarding.
Distance: 2.8 miles (entirety)
Elevation Gain: ~ 540 feet
Route Type: Out & Back
Payoff: One heck of a view
To get to the trail head for Hogback head about five miles north of Marquette on County Road 550. First you will notice the clearly marked parking area for Sugarloaf on the right side of the road, then about a half mile later there will be a small dirt parking area on the left side of the road. Once you pass Sugarloaf pay close attention to the left side of the road for the parking area is easy to miss.
After parking and getting all squared away for the trek, head to the left of the parking area and follow the path that leads to the start of the trail or take a peek at the sign of all of the back country trails in the area in the parking space to find your way. Once you begin it is very important that you follow the blue markings on trees to ensure you are on the right path. As I mentioned earlier, other trails intersect this one and it is pretty easy to make a wrong turn if you are not paying attention.
While it may be only a little over a mile one way, this trail takes you through all sorts of terrain and scenery. You will walk on rocky patches, uphill sections, near vertical sections, swampier terrain, through sections of conifers and past large rocks and cliff faces. This hike really does give you a little bit of everything, which is one of the aspects that makes it unique and adventurous.
The last section of the hike, and you will know it when you get there for things will start to go uphill, is definitely the toughest part. Aside from a relatively large and steep uphill section of dirt trails with patches laced with tree roots, you will reach a section that is nearly vertical. Luckily this section has a very rough natural stair like pattern to it so you won’t be scaling a wall, but there is a very good chance you will have to use all fours while you make your way up this section. Hang in there though, because a view full of beauty is right around the corner. As you climb your way up the slope of Hogback you will catch glimpses of the view to come, eventually you will reach one final steep section that is a somewhat smooth rock face to find you way up. Make sure your footing is good and you use your hands and feet. You got this!
When you make it through the steep climb you will reach the top of the rock outcrop and have a 360 degree view of the surrounding area, from which you can see for miles. In the south you will notice the city of Marquette and the famous Superior Dome as well as the shoreline of Lake Superior. During a clear day to the east it is possible to sometimes view Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore some 40 miles away. In the west you have miles of tranquil forest and the beginning of the Huron Mountains. Finally in the north and east, an unrivaled view of the wonder of Lake Superior, along with the multiple islands near the shoreline such as Little Presque Isle. You can also notice the smaller and more popular Sugarloaf peak, but when you notice it you will be glad you went with Hogback. Don’t’ be afraid to climb both though, for Sugarloaf puts you closer to Lake Superior.
Take your time at the top, snap pictures, take in the wonder, and enjoy the feeling of being on top of the world. It is one of those views that can make you feel invincible for a little bit. This is a very rewarding hike and I find it to be poetic in the sense that you have to work to experience the view, you have to earn the view, connecting you more with nature. The view is like a treasure that requires a little bit of extra work to get to, and a treasure that needs to be protected.
When to hike this bad boy
The best time to hike Hogback is definitely in the fall right when the leaves begin to change colors, creating a view of pure magic as an array of colors are put on display for you. Almost like nature is the artist and the trees are its canvas. You will also have cooler weather as well during this time, which beats hiking in the heat of the summer.
That being said, this hike is also great in the summer months as well, primarily August and September when the bugs aren’t as bad. I would recommend avoiding this hike in the spring and winter months for the melting snow in the spring and snow and ice in the winter would make the last section of this hike (covered earlier) pretty difficult and dangerous. Happy exploring!
– Dustin from The Asharu Team