The Trap Hills: 40 Miles of Pure Gold in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

The North Country Trail (NCT) stretches more than 500 miles across Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, but the 40 miles of it that cross the Trap Hills pack in more sweeping vistas and rugged terrain than all the rest of it combined. Located in the Ottawa National Forest and adjacent to Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, the Trap Hills offer some of the best hiking in the Upper Midwest. Whether you’re the day hiker looking for instant gratification or the itinerant section-hiker looking forward to a pay-off involving clifftop photo ops, the Trap Hills area has something for everyone.

The Trap Hills Section of the NCT At-a-Glance

  • Length: 34 miles, although this can easily be extended or shortened
  • Expected completion time: 2-3 days; 15-20 miles per day
  • Location: The Northwest Corner of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula
  • Best season to hike: Fall, especially early October during peak colors
  • Trail type: Out and back, or shuttle
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Scenery, Terrain, and Navigation

The trail winds through heavily wooded hills and alongside precipitous, rocky cliffs where the trees give way to sweeping views of the undulating forest and sparkling lakes below. There are gurgling streams with small, idyllic waterfalls along the way, and the occasional glimpse of majestic Lake Superior yawning on the distant horizon.

There are several 200-foot ascents and descents that can be fatiguing as well as a few short stretches over scree. However, the trail is quite forgiving with well-packed tread. It is not so rocky or steep that it would be considered dangerous. The forest canopy offers shade and water sources are frequent.

Note: There is a ford at the West Branch Ontonagon River at the east end of Segment 18 (technically outside the Trap Hills area) that can be intimidating and even dangerous to the inexperienced or careless. Caution and patience are advised while making the crossing. Be aware that the river is near a dam and therefore water levels may change rapidly. Hikers whose itineraries extend beyond the Trap Hills area can skip this crossing via the high water bypass route.

Ed. note – Per the Peter Wolfe Chapter of the NCTA:

The highwater bypass follows Victoria Dam Rd and US 45 on this route: This route is only 3 miles longer than staying on the trail and takes you into Rockland where there is dining, supplies, a post office (limited hours) and lodging and a possible ride back to the NCT from where you buy supplies at the store if they are not too busy. If you are westbound, get off the NCT at Mile 118.3 at the O Kun de Kun Falls trailhead, go north on US45 to Rockland then go SW on Victoria Dam Road to the Victoria Historical Village and the NCT shelter and get on the NCT there. If you are eastbound, get off the NCT at mile 110.8 and walk NE on Victoria Dam Road into Rockland then south on US45 to Mile 118.3 where the trail continues east to O Kun de Kun Falls.

The NCT is well-marked with blue blazes and the occasional emblem, and it’s easy to stay on the trail. There are adjoining side trails that are clearly marked. Free maps of the NCT are available on its website, and PDF files specific to the Trap Hills section are found under Michigan Western Upper Peninsula, pages 13 to 18 (MI 76.0 to MI 110.0).

Getting There

There are several places to park throughout the Trap Hills, and therefore it’s possible to day hike the entire stretch over the course of several days. The guidelines below detail how to section hike the entire stretch in one go, but if you’re looking to shorten your hike, refer to the maps provided by the North Country Trail Association (NCTA) on alternate places to park within the Trap Hills area. Part of the beauty of this stretch is the flexibility in distance afforded by the numerous parking locations along the way.

Hiking point-to-point in the Trap Hills will require a shuttle. There are not many shuttle services in the Upper Peninsula, and I recommend reaching out ahead of time to the local chapters of the NCTA (Peter Wolfe Chapter or No-Miikanaake Chapter) for advice. Their volunteers are friendly and may be able to connect you with someone willing to offer a ride. Just be sure to offer generous and fair compensation to any volunteer willing to provide a shuttle, and be sure to make a donation to their chapter if you can.

For a westbound hike, park at M-64 and take a shuttle to the trailhead at Old Victoria Historical Site.

For an eastbound hike, you’ll park at Old Victoria and take a shuttle to the trailhead at M-64. (If leaving your car overnight at Old Victoria, please park at either end of the lot to leave the central spots open for visitors to the historical townsite).

trap hills fall colors


Hiking the NCT through the Trap Hills can be done in either direction without any major advantage or disadvantage to whichever direction you choose to go.

Why Hike The Trap Hills

The Trap Hills section of the NCT is short and sweet. Its challenge is the constant ascents and descents that serve up vistas of the rolling, forested hills of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The hilltop vistas of the Trap Hills are all the reason you’ll want to go. Old Victoria provides some historical interest as well as the very unique trail feature of hiking right through the ruins of an old stone building.

old victoria trap hills

One of the log houses in Old Victoria.

Climate and Weather

The climate in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is humid continental, which means hot, humid summers and cold, wet winters. Severe winter weather can occur as early as mid-October and as late as May, and hiking the trail in this time period is recommended only for experienced hikers prepared for extremely cold temperatures and heavy snow. Spring is cold, wet, and muddy and often stretches into late June. Summer can be hot and humid with frequent rainstorms in addition to swarms of mosquitoes and ticks.

The most comfortable and safest time of year is fall, especially late September to mid-October, where daytime temperatures typically range from cool to warm, humidity is lower and overnight temperatures are comfortably cool. Expect more traffic on the trail on weekends, especially around peak fall color, which generally happens around the first week of October. If you can hike the trail midweek, you’ll get a lot more privacy and solitude.Trap Hills

Gear Suggestions

Make sure to have rain protection, which is highly recommended no matter where you hike or what time of year you hike in the Upper Midwest. Dress appropriately for the season, and if you’re hiking before October, bring bug protection and sunscreen. Good ankle support is recommended in your footwear for climbing up and especially coming down the hills.


There are not any designated, developed campsites along the NCT in the Trap Hills. However, most of it is in the Ottawa National Forest and a permit is not required for dispersed camping. There are plenty of great places to camp along the way. You’ll know when you see one, and you shouldn’t have to hike too long before finding a nice spot. Note: Camping is not allowed within Old Victoria Historical Site, but there is a shelter right outside the area where campers can find a night of refuge.

The Old Victoria shelter.

Trap Hills Highlights

Remote and lightly trafficked: The Trap Hills are quiet, especially compared to the neighboring Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, where hikers abound.

Old Victoria Historical Site: Near the eastern end of the Trap Hills is Old Victoria Historical Site, an old mining settlement built in 1899. The trail passes by restored log houses and literally cuts right through the ruins of an old stone house, which is one of the most unique experiences found on any long-distance trail.

The trail goes straight through the doorway of this ruined house near Old Victoria.

Water Sources in the Trap Hills

The stream crossings in the Trap Hills provide ample and reliable water sources along the way.  You won’t have to go very long between sources with the longest dry stretch being no more than five or six miles.

READ NEXT – Trekking the North Country Trail

Resupply Options

The Trap Hills area isn’t long enough to require a resupply. The trail crosses several roads, but most of them are lightly-trafficked forest roads and therefore hitching out may be difficult if you decide to end your trip early. There are several towns nearby that offer a hot meal, last-minute supplies, mail services, and lodging should you need them before or after your hike:

  • White Pine: 4.7 mi north of the trail on M-64; lodging, dining, groceries, mail
  • Bergland: 7 miles south of the trail on M-64; lodging, dining, groceries, mail
  • Silver City: 12 miles north of the trail on M-64 (on Lake Superior); lodging, dining
  • Rockland: 3 miles north of the trail (NE of Old Victoria) on US45; lodging (Da Bunkhouse 906-390-0808), dining, limited groceries (Rockland Depot 906-886-2650), mail (limited hours Post Office)

Closing Thoughts

The Upper Midwest doesn’t get enough credit when it comes to long-distance backpacking. Minnesota’s Superior Hiking Trail gets more and more acclaim these days, and places like Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park have long been a backpacker’s playground. The Trap Hills section of the NCT has flown under the radar and rewarded those lucky enough to have found it with physically challenging terrain, spectacular vistas, and historical relics. A hidden gem in the truest sense of the word, the Trap Hills is a must-hike in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Further reading: The Peter Wolfe Chapter of the NCT is a wealth of information for anyone looking to hike this section. Check out their website for maps, local resources, FAQs, and a mile-by-mile trail guide.

This profile was updated on 6/28/2022 with several corrections:

  • The article previously stated that the Ontonagon River ford is within the Trap Hills area. This ford is east of the Trap Hills boundary. 
  • The article previously stated that westbound hikers should park at Forest Road 733. FR733 is outside the Trap Hills area and there is no shuttle to this remote crossing; most westbound Trap Hills section hikers park at Old Victoria.
  • The article previously suggested resupplying in the towns of Ironwood and Marquette. The towns of White Pine, Bergland, Silver City, and Rockland are closer and offer most services hikers would need.

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Comments 2

  • scott a hepler : Nov 11th

    Nicely written and a marvelous layout of his hiking journey’s in the NCT trails of the Upper Midwest.

    Keep up the tremendous articles on your future hiking journey’s.

  • Brandon Hawker : Nov 13th

    Great write up! Looks like the Trapp Hills are in my near future. The Porkies are great but would love fewer crowds and dispersed camping.


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