The Mountain on the Menu...
The weekend had been great. My family and I had just spent the last couple of days exploring the Trap Hills and something like a dozen area waterfalls. The last evening before packing up and heading south we decided to treat ourselves to dinner at the Hilltop Restaurant
in L'anse. The Hilltop is a regional landmark, mostly for the sweet rolls they make that are the size of a childs head...
After making my selection I closed the menu and set it down in front of me. That's when I noticed a pretty little photo on the front of the menu labeled "Little Mountain, L'anse" and showing the most beautiful birds-eye view of Keweenaw Bay and the neighboring community of Baraga. I was intrigued. I found a map of Baraga County hanging on the wall in the entryway and spent a few minutes scanning it. After a short while I spotted a little dot labaled Little Mountain just south of L'anse only a few miles from the restaurant. I walked back over to the dinner table and announced we had one more place I wanted to check out...
Golf Course Road
Little Mountain is located just south of L'anse about an hour and a half west of Marquette or a half hour south of Houghton. The Huron Mountains
lie just to the east, close enough that it could probably be included with that range.
To reach it head south out of L'anse on US-41 about 3 miles to Golf Course Road. Head west on Golf Course Road
and simply follow it until it dead ends at a small dirt parking area. At the west side of the parking area are a few large boulders and a small brown sign
simply stating "Little Mountain Hiking Trail." The trail heads out from there.
Exploring Little Mountain...
The path begins with a gentle, grassy descent amongst a forest of birch and maple
. After a short while you'll cross a small foot bridge
and abruptly enter a woods dominated by hemlocks
. It's at this point you'll notice that you're following a large rock face
that rises dramatically from the forest floor to your left. About 5-10 minutes later the trail makes a sharp left turn up into a cut in the rock face. The trail makes its way through the rock cut
to the opposite side of the rock face then makes another left and begins the ascent to the summit. As the terrain becomes increasingly rocky you'll notice the surrounding woods transition over to a forest of widely scattered conifers
. The trail ascends steadily but is never really that steep. You'll climb for about 10 minutes at which point you'll break out
onto a small rock clearing at the summit.
The views at the summit are somewhat broken but the glimpses
through the trees make you feel like you've climbed much higher than the actual elevation of just over 1100' would suggest. Immediately to your front is the view out over Keweenaw Bay
, a rock ledge ahead provides for a better vantage point
. You can clearly see the communities of Baraga and L'anse below sitting on opposite shores of the deep blue waters of Keweenaw Bay. Wander around a bit.
There are open rock ledges on all sides of the summit. Heading over to the east side of the mountain you'll be treated to a beautiful panorama
of the Huron Mountain Range
including Michigan's highest point, Mt. Arvon
. An open rock ledge to the south provides another wonderful view
of the surrounding hills. Little Mountain is, quite simply, one of the finest small peaks I've ever climbed. I probably could have spent a couple hours scrambling around on the rock ledges but I visited just before sunset so I had limited time.
The other interesting aspect of Little Mountain is the forest atop its summit. The conifer woods that calls this rocky peak home is in rough shape
. A number of skeleton trunks dot the area giving you the feeling that the forest here may be on its way out. I've not been able to find any information to explain this but it looks to me like the peak may have suffered a serious fire in the past that allowed the most of the soil on the peak to be removed through erosion. The trees that have remained stand stubbornly against the cool winds off Lake Superior, clinging
to what thin soil remains. Its a very unique environment, I found it very interesting.
To get back to your vehicle simply retrace your steps down the mountain. The one trail guide I've found states it as a 2.5 mile round-trip but my 3 year-old son made the trek down unassisted in about 25 minutes so I'm guessing the real mileage is somewhat under 2 miles. The summit sits about 300 vertical feet above the trailhead.
Camping & When to Go...
This hike is a short one. You could easily do it on your way through L'anse if you have a couple hours to spare. If you are interested in staying in the area there are a number of lodging options in nearby L'anse and Baraga.
There are a few nice campgrounds in the area also. Modern facilities with hookups can be found about 5 miles north either at Baraga State Park
or the Ojibwa Recreation Area
. For those who like things a little more rustic there are a number of State Forest Campgrounds in the surrounding area. Check out this DNR map
and click on a campground for more info.
I imagine Little Mountain would be a great hike any time of the year. Like anywhere else in the North Woods bugs can be a concern in the early summer. I visited in the fall and the colors made for quite the visual treat
. Being downwind of Gitchee Gumee
Little Mountain recives copius amounts of snow each winter. Yearly snow totals in excess of 300 inches is not uncommon in the surrounding highlands. Don't let this deter you, though. Yoopers are great at keeping their roads clear and I imagine even Golf Course Road is kept clear as there houses along the road within a half-mile of the parking area. Little Mountain would be an excellent place to spend an afternoon snowshoeing.
You won't find much info concerning Little Mountain online but here are a few links to help you around the area...
Trails.com Info Page
- The only info that Google could come up with is what little is located on this page.
Baraga County Attractions
- Courtesy of the Baraga County Chamber of Commerce. A good source of what there is to see in the area.
Baraga County Map
- Golf Course Road and Little Mountain are labeled on this map.
- Shameless self promotion...come visit my website for more pics of Little Mountain and other places that I have wandered off to in recent years...
- You have to try one of their giant sweet rolls while you're in the area...they're a local legend.