MARQUETTE - With a total of 304 wooden steps, two difficulty level trails and a beautiful 360-degree view of Marquette, Sugarloaf Mountain is a great destination to visit at anytime of the year.
From Marquette, travel north on Marquette County Road 550 for about five miles. The parking lot is located on the righthand side and is well marked with a large sign.
Immediately from the parking lot, hikers have a choice of one of two paths. They can head left, which will take them straight up the more difficult route, or to the right, a route that wraps around toward the easier course.
Jerod Wolak and Amanda McMillie of Escanaba look out toward the city of Marquette from the eastward facing viewing platform at the top of Sugarloaf Mountain. (Journal photo by Andy Nelson-Zaleski)
Ishpeming residents, from front, Richard LaFlure, Mike Flynn, Al Jenkins and Bob Bucan hike down from the top of Sugarloaf Mountain along the difficult trail to the parking lot off Marquette County Road 550. (Journal photo by Andy Nelson-Zaleski)
The complete loop is only a half mile and for the average hiker takes between 15 to 30 minute one way up the trail.
Richard LaFlure of Ishpeming said Sugarloaf is a hidden gem.
"I've lived in the area for four years and had never been here until now," he said during a recent hike.
He and three friends made the trek up to the top together.
"We chose to go up the easy trail and came down the difficult way," LaFlure said. "The view at the top is spectacular and well worth the hike."
The difficult route has many exposed rocks and tree roots that cross the pathway, making maneuvering the terrain a bit more difficult.
In some areas, the angle of the slope in both direction can be somewhat challenging, as well.
"I wouldn't recommend going up the difficult route unless someone is use to traveling on such terrain as this," LaFlure said.
If the easier trail is chosen, the hike will sport a gradual slope with few rock or exposed tree roots. There are eight sets of staircases with between nine and 19 steps.
Whether the hiker chooses the easier or more difficult route, the two trials meet half way up and begin another assent up a series of 14 sets of staircases.
Once you have conquered the steps to the top, the hiker is greeted by a breathtaking view of Lake Superior and the surrounding countryside.
Recently, Amanda McMillie of Escanaba stood at the top with her friend Jerod Wolak, overlooking Marquette from one of the viewing platforms.
"It's kind of hard getting up here but the view makes it worth it," she said.
There are three observation platforms that provide different views.
One faces southeastward toward the city of Marquette. From here the observer can see the WE Energies power plant, Northern Michigan University's Superior Dome, Presque Isle Park and the Lake Superior & Ishpeming Rail Road's Upper Harbor ore dock.
The second platform faces northward and provides a view of Wetmore Landing and Little Presque Isle Point. This platform is also built around the Bartlett King Memorial, a stone monument with two small copper plaques.
At the age of 15, King blazed a trail for youths everywhere, helping set in motion the establishment of the first Boy Scout troop in the U.S. He fought and died in World War I in France.
The final viewing platform gives an observer a westward panorama of the vast tree canopy and the bare rock face of Hogback Mountain.
If the hiker is more experienced, there is another set of steps off the backside of this platform. This trail will take you down the backside of Sugarloaf.
This route is a little difficult to follow because it isn't well marked. The hiker has to pay close attention for a slightly-worn path. If followed correctly, a set of stone steps can be found.
From there, the hiker will begin to see blue markers on trees, identifying the North County Trail network. Continuing on this marked path, the hiker will be greeted by the last set of wooden steps - 46 to be precise.
At the end of this staircase a hiker will continue down a steep and winding trail to a wooden sign, which points in three directions: one to Wetmore Landing, a second to Hogback Mountain and the third back up to Sugarloaf.
For more information about other Marquette area hiking trails, check back next week in the Outdoors section.
Andy Nelson-Zaleski can be reached at 906-228-2500 ext. 256. His e-mail address is email@example.com.