Elly and I completed our tour around the Big Lake on August 4th, 2018. We set off from The Lake of the Clouds in the Porcupine Mountains of Michigan, biking clockwise around Superior, and returned to our starting point after 23 days of riding. We had completed weekend tours before, but this journey was by far the biggest and baddest either of us had attempted. The quality of the roads was hit or miss. Certain sections of the tour are very bicycle friendly (Highway 61 on the north shore of Minnesota, for example) and other roads can be somewhat dangerous, especially during the summer tourist season with frequent RV traffic, in addition to large semi trucks (e.g. significant portions of the Trans-Canada Highway 17). Here’s a quick breakdown of our itinerary, day by day. If you’re considering doing the tour by bicycle, hopefully you can glean a few ideas from our itinerary. Day 1: [33 miles] Lake of the Clouds (Porcupine Mountains, MI) to Presque Isle Campground. An easy day to start off. A long downhill from L. of the C. to South Boundary Rd. Presque Isle Campground is right on the lakeshore. Day 2: [67 miles] Presque Isle to Ashland, WI. This day was difficult for me. I hadn’t adapted to biking all day yet, and my bike wasn’t well adjusted to my body. A good reminder that, if you have the cash, a professional bike fitting before leaving could be worth it. We stayed with a friendly fellow we met on couchsurfing.com this night, who also made some helpful route recommendations for the next day. Day 3: [60 miles] Ashland to Port Wing. A good day with scenic riding. We took Cty. Hwy. C into Cornucopia (take Wannebo Rd. west out of Ashland, then Church Center Rd. to get to C), and then Hwy. 13 to Port Wing. Cornucopia is a cute town worth spending some time in. We stayed with a friend this night (thank you, Steph!). Day 4: [60 miles] Port Wing to Duluth, MN. A strong headwind this day. Where Hwy. 13 meets up with Hwy. 2 outside Superior, WI, take a bicycle corridor (the Osaugie Bike Trail) to get into the city. Getting through Superior on a bicycle was hairy at times. Not the most bike-friendly town for out-of-towners. Take the Richard BongHi bridge to get into Duluth. Do not bike Hwy. 535 to cross the water. Day 5: [58 miles] Duluth to Tettegouche State Park. Hwy. 61 is great biking. The shoulder is quite narrow for a few miles leading into Tettegouche, however, so be aware. Day 6: [50 miles] Tettegouche to Cascade River State Park. Took the Gitchi Gami Trail from Gooseberry Falls into Cascade River this day. Nice biking in the woods and off of the highway. The state parks along Minnesota’s north shore are beautiful – it’s worth taking some extra time to explore them. Day 7: [82 miles] Cascade River to Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada. Big day. Mt. Josephine on the Minnesota side of the border is a climb, but still mild compared to some of the biking in Canada. There is no camping at Grand Portage State Park in Minnesota, or Pigeon River Provincial Park just across the border. We ended up biking an additional 30 miles to reach a hotel outside Thunder Bay. Day 8: [27 miles] Thunder Bay to the Thunder Bay International Hostel. Note: take Chippewa Rd and James St. to get into Thunder Bay by bicycle (not Highway 61). Thunder Bay is not a very bicycle friendly town. Be careful! The Thunder Bay International Hostel is on Lakeshore Dr. outside of town. Rooms are $25 per person, and camping is $25 per tent. Day 9: [50 miles] TB Int’l Hostel to Nipigon. We linked up with the Trans-Canada (Hwy. 17) this day, which we followed for the next 420 miles. Hwy 17 into Nipigon was quite dangerous at this point in time. The shoulder is narrow and, being near Thunder Bay, there is heavy traffic. It looked like there was construction project underway to convert this section into a divided highway, which could make it significantly safer for cycling. We stayed at the Stillwater Tent and Trailer Park this night. Day 10: [50 miles] Nipigon to Rainbow Falls Provincial Park. A hilly ride. The Rossport Campground at Rainbow Falls was one of the most beautiful camping spots of our tour. Sites close to the water and an excellent view of the islands at the mouth of Nipigon Bay. Day 11: [68 miles] Rainbow Falls to Marathon. This was the most strenuous riding of the entire tour. The terrain is steep and hilly – if we weren’t climbing up a hill, we were going down. The scenery here is also some of the most breathtaking. A sub-alpine environment of forested hills, bluffs and lakes between. We snagged the last campsite at the Penn Lake Park and Campground. Day 12: [17 miles] Marathon to Pukaskwa National Park. Our rest day. The beach at the Hattie Cove Campground is excellent. Day 13: [60 miles] Pukaskwa to White River. White River is a small town. There is a decent grocery store here to resupply, and free camping at the local park. Yes, this is the Winnie the Pooh town. Day 14: [48 miles] White River to Wawa. A cold, wet day. There are a number of motels in Wawa, but none of them are cheap. Yes, this is the town of the giant goose statues. Day 15: [20 miles] Wawa to Lake Superior Provincial Park. Inclement weather had us stopping early this day. We stayed at the Rabbit Blanket Lake Campground. Day 16: [46 miles] Lake Superior Park to Montreal River Harbour. This was hilly riding. We were worn out from the steep terrain at this point, and stopped early at the Twilight Resort, a private campground beyond the south edge of the provincial park. They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner here from a small cook shack. Day 17: [31 miles] Montreal River Harbour to Batchawana Bay. The LaniKai Hotel and Resort offers free camping (or did at the time). Day 18: [72 miles] Batchawana to Hiawatha National Forest, MI, United States. Today we left Hwy. 17 and crossed back into the States. Getting through Sault Ste. Marie on the Canada side wasn’t great but wasn’t terrible either. Biking the Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge across the St. Marys River was exhilarating. I would recommend crossing it before rush hour. We struck south on Hwy. 129 after crossing, then headed west on 28. Dispersed camping in the Hiawatha National Forest is free of charge. Day 19: [60 miles] Hiawatha to Seney. We camped in some lowlands outside of Seney, near the wildlife refuge. I wouldn’t recommend it. Day 20: [43 miles] Seney to Au Train. Munising is a busy summer tourism town. We would have liked to check out Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, but were anxious to finish the tour at this point. I would recommend stopping for lunch (or brunch) at the Falling Rock Café and Bookstore. Great breakfast burritos (and coffee). Again, there is free dispersed camping in the Hiawatha Nat’l Forest near Au Train. Just follow 462 west a mile or so outside of town first. Day 21: [46 miles] Au Train to Ishpeming. We linked up with Hwy 41 outside Marquette, and took that to our stop in Ishpeming for the night (the Country Village RV Park). Getting out of Marquette on Hwy 41 west was horrendous. Expect debris, heavy traffic, and a bumpy ride. We had our first flat tire of the tour this day. Day 22: [57 miles] Ishpeming to Baraga State Park. We took 41 through L’Anse to the park. The riding into L’Anse is a breeze, and it’s a good town to stop and grab some grub too. Day 23: [59 miles] Baraga to Porcupine Wilderness State Park. Hwy. 38 from Barage to the Porkies. The last day was full of rain and flat tubes. But we made it. Hurrah Total mileage: 1,164. We made the route significantly shorter by shortcutting Copper Harbor and the Keweenaw Peninsula. Expenses: $750 each. This includes camping in official campgrounds most nights, a few motels, food etc. Staying at state and provincial parks each night can add up.
John, WI & Elly, MN