McCormick Tract - NCT

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Location Lat/Lon: 46.64200°N / 88.0467°W
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Nov 5, 2007
Activities Activities: Hiking
Seasons Season: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Into the Wilderness in search of a Highpoint...

The McCormick Tract is an area I’ve been wanting to visit for a while. Encompassing something like 17,000 acres, the McCormick Tract preserves some of the wildest and most rugged terrain in Michigan. There are only around 6 miles of trail within it leaving the majority a true trackless wilderness. It is located in the center of the Huron Mountain Range of Upper Michigan. You can access the area from two points, one north and one south. The southern access point is really the only practical option, however as the northern access is reserved for those possessing off-road vehicles and an intimate knowledge of the Huron Mountain back roads.

Our plan was to make a short 4-mile round trip east along the North Country Trail to an unnamed peak marking the highest point in Marquette County. We would then spend a cozy night among the pines listening to the snow fall around us. Oh, did I mention that there was a Winter Storm Warning in effect? Well, here’s our little adventure…

Heading in...Heading In

Access to the McCormick Tract from the south is off County Road 607 about nine miles north of US-41 near Champion. A small parking area sets next to the bridge over the Peshekee River which leads into the wilderness…

The North Country TrailThe NCT

Shortly after crossing the bridge the North Country Trail breaks right. There are no signs marking the junction but it is quite obvious. This is the only trail blaze we found as wilderness rules prohibit any signage.

Home, Sweet HomeHome, Sweet Home

Expecting heavy, wet snow we pitched our tent under some sheltering jack pine. Camping is permitted anywhere within the wilderness. We opted to stay close to the river (for water) and the van (for the beer of course!).

Getting on the TrailOn the Trail

1:25pm – We quickly headed out as the snow continued to fall. Very little was sticking at first but we knew if it cooled much it would pile up quick falling like this…

Rock OutcropSmall Clearing

1:46pm – Before long the trail reached this small rock outcrop. As always, I started out with WAY to many layers so we took the opportunity to peel a few off…

Not Making Great Time...Lots of Pics

2:10pm – The surrounding woods were full of interesting rocks and flora so the camera didn’t stay in the holster for long at a time. Needless to say we weren’t making the greatest time at this point…

Looks Fun!Fun, Fun!

2:27pm – Now this looks fun! About an hour in we passed this interesting jumble of rocks. Looked ripe for some scrambling, unfortunately the snow was keeping things a bit slick…

A Big Rock...Big Rock

2:35pm – Don’t you always feel a bit cooler when you’re standing on a big rock?!

A Granite Ledge...Ledges

2:41pm - The granite ledges along the trail were very impressive. These features would literally rise out of the forest with no warning forcing the trail to wind about quite a bit…

Rock tripeWhat?

2:42pm - I couldn’t explain these. They had a rubbery texture and were attached quite solidly to the surface of the rock. Some kind of fungi I assume but if anyone could be more specific I’d love to know…

Starting to Stick...Starting to Stick

3:01pm – The snow gradually began to stick more making the unmarked trail even that more interesting to try to follow…

More Ledges...More Ledges

3:07pm – You could spend a days worth of scrambling along this bit of trail. The snow and the time kept us moving though…

No Problem!No Problem!

3:14pm - My brother asked me to use a more confident looking face when trying to locate the trail. This would then be my “No problem, I know exactly where we are going” face…

Huge Erratic...Huge Erratic

3:18pm – I found these lone boulders quite impressive. Unlike the surrounding rock outcrops this boulder just seems to be lying around all by itself. If this is a glacial erratic it’s one of the largest I’ve ever seen!

Hiding the Trail...Hiding the Trail

3:26pm – It was easy to be distracted by the transformation of the forest around us. Unfortunately, the trail was being hidden in front of us and covering our tracks behind…

Old Growth?Old Growth

3:38pm – Every so often we would pass beneath enormous solitary white pines. I have to believe that a tree this size would have to be old growth…

Reaching the Ridge...The Ridge

3:44pm – Rounding a sharp right-hand turn told us we were passing the highpoint. After rounding the turn the obvious ridge to the right marked our target…

Marquette County HighpointThe Highpoint

3:48pm - After a short 20 yard climb off the NCT we topped out on the ridge that is the highpoint of Marquette County. Several large boulders set along its crest…

Buried Treasure...Buried Treasure

3:48pm – I thought it would be impossible to find the summit register with the blanket of snow. As it turned out, it took me less than a minute to spot a pair of trees with a curious pile of rocks beneath them. Sure enough, there was the can! Kinda’ felt like finding buried treasure!

Marquette County Highpoint - 1932 Summit Register

The notebook inside confirmed that we had indeed reached the highest point in Marquette County. For those that don’t speak metric we had reached a lofty 1932’ of elevation…that’s only 45 feet lower than nearby Mt. Arvon, the highest point in Michigan…

Long Time No See...Long Time No See

Did I mention this place is remote? When we opened the register we were shocked to find that no one had signed it in over TWO YEARS!! Since the register was placed here in 2001 we were the eighth and ninth people to sign it! Awesome!!

Summit Shot...Summit Shot

With an event as momentous as this a summit self-portrait was definitely in order. Forget views, this peak had an appeal all its own…I was loving this!

Time to Head Back...Heading Back

4:05pm – We spent a grand total of about 15 minutes at the summit. In all our extensive planning (yeah, right;) we had forgotten that we had lost an hour of daylight a few nights before. Suddenly we were rushing to get back before night settled in…

Snow on the Pines...Snow & Pines

4:14pm – I didn’t take that many photos on the way back due to lighting and lack of time but I thought these pines were to beautiful to pass up…

Lagging Behind...Lagging Behind

4:24pm – As you can see, the snow was starting to really come down by this point. I’m pretty sure my brother Nathan was wondering why shooting pictures was that important at this point…

Thick Woods...Thick Woods

4:29pm – When we originally looked at hiking in the area we were unaware that the NCT had been completed as far as the highpoint. With the countless rocky cliffs, the snow, and the thick, wet woods it would have been an exercise in futility on this day…

Back to the Playground...Back to the Playground

4:45pm – We eventually made it back to our little rock playground from earlier. The coating of snow made us feel like we were seeing it for the first time all over again…

Last Water Crossing...Water Crossing

5:14pm – Without all the picture taking we made better time back to camp. By the time we reached this last little creek crossing all we could think about was getting out of the wind and getting something warm in our stomach…

Time to Break Out the Cards...Time for Cards

6:05pm - Home Sweet Home. My little 3-season Coleman tent did quite well if I do say so myself. The fact that it was dark out by 6pm could have made for a loooong night so we made sure to pack a deck of cards and extra batteries for the lamp…

Morning View...Morning View

Day 2 – 8:36am - Yeah, so it snowed a little overnight. I really didn’t expect to find that much outside but when I opened up to take a leak I was shocked to see over a foot of fresh, wet snow…

Nice n  CozyNice n' Cozy

Looks cozy doesn’t it? Our campsite had a different feel about it than the evening before…


The surrounding woods were amazing in a thick coating of white. The low light made getting a decent shot near impossible. The picture just doesn’t do it justice…

Peshekee Bridge...Peshekee bridge

You couldn’t tell in the shelter of the trees but the wind was howling. Packing our stuff out across the Peshekee Bridge was a bit chilly…

Peshekee RiverPeshekee River

Looking north over the chilly Peshekee River from the bridge. This shot looks north. My brother pointed out that there was ice already forming along the shoreline, which surprised me…

Now Where s My Snow Brush?Snow Brush?

Good thing we opted to bring the All-Wheel drive van versus the sedan. We would have been SCREWED! I was soon to discover, to my dismay, that I had left the snow brush in the vehicle we decided NOT to take…

Farewell, Wilderness...Farewell

So long to the McCormick Wilderness. I’m hooked. Hopefully I’ll be able to get back this winter to do some snowshoeing. You can actually get back to the trailhead as the county maintains the road out to it…just don’t go out right after a storm. We had to plow our way for 9 miles back out to the highway!

Trip Info...

Trailhead: Peshekee River off County Road 607

Distance Hiked: 4 miles round-trip

Elevation Gained: ~300'

Arrival Snowdepth: 0 inches

Departure Snowdepth: 13 inches

Beefaroni Consumed: 3 cans

Jerky Consumed: 2 - 4oz. bags

Beers Enjoyed: 6

Card Games Won By Yours Truly: All of Them

Experience: Priceless


McCormick Tract Wilderness Area page
- Just about the only worthwhile source of info I could find on the McCormick Tract. Lots of good info and maps. Also tells the story of how this remarkable area came to be.


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Viewing: 1-2 of 2

bluffview - Nov 8, 2007 8:41 am - Hasn't voted

Very nice!

As a lifelng Yooper I've known of this place, just didn't know the history of it until a few years ago. I HAVE to get over there and check it out, who knows, maybe this winter. I'll have all deer season (sitting in a blind) to plan a trip. I'd like to camp at the old settlement but after seeing your photos a trip along the NCT should be included too.


dwhike - Nov 8, 2007 8:50 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Very nice!

Glad you liked it. Yeah, I'm sitting down here kicking myself for not exploring this area more when I lived in Negaunee. I was looking at a couple maps of the area and a nice hike might be from the McCormick Tract to Craig Lake SP. Of course this might be a better idea for the summer as I don't think they plow the road out to Craig Lake. I was also interested to see that the north end of the wilderness contains a number of waterfalls that aren't listed in any guide I have. Access is off the AAA Road from Big Bay to Skanee so a bit harder to get to (unless you have a snowmobile!). Anyway I definately recommend it, a very unique place!

Viewing: 1-2 of 2



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