North Country Trail Offers Scenic Views of Lake Owen by Sarah Morris, September 17, 2020
I started this hike along Porcupine Lake Road adjacent to North Lake Owen Drive near Drummond. It’s accessible from the Two Lakes Campground (you can also start at the Lake Owen picnic grounds, where you’ll need to have a national forest sticker or pay a $5 day use fee, but you’ll have a parking lot and bathroom facilities).
The first part of the trail is rolling terrain through mainly hardwood forest, which will be especially pretty soon as fall colors start to appear. I startled a number of deer along this section. The trail skirts the Lake Owen Hardwoods State Natural Area before crossing Lake Owen Drive. Folks wanting a shorter hike can park along the road at the marked trail intersection here. The trail then goes along a lovely pond that doesn’t seem to have a name on any online maps (if anyone knows the name of this pond, I would love to hear from you!). After this, you’ll go through mixed hardwood and evergreen woods and cross Horseshoe Road. At this point you’ll enter the Lake Owen Archaeological District. You can’t miss it; there’s a series of very nice interpretive signs thanks to the Bad River Tribe starting right before you encounter the lake.
The Lake Owen shoreline has been settled and utilized by people for over 4,000 years, and you’ll learn a lot on this hike about the indigenous cultures that lived here. It’s unlikely that you’ll encounter any artifacts if you’re just hiking through, but they are around and should not be removed or disturbed — this is both a good artifact ethic and a good leave-no-trace ethic
Lake Owen is home to a number of loons and you’ll probably hear them on the trail. I had some typical fall bird encounters including flushing ruffed grouse, noisy packs of blue jays and hermit thrushes going tree to tree along the trail ahead of me. I had two surprising bird experiences: an uncommon wood thrush making its wobbling-sheet-metal alarm call, and a black-throated green warbler who despite the season just couldn’t keep from singing. The trail winds through some beautiful old-growth hemlock stands and past a few big matriarch white pines that escaped the cutovers of the logging era.
Alert backpackers will spot a small side trail leading to a very nice, small backcountry campsite on a small point on the lakeshore. This was the only spot I saw with room for tents that had access to the water, so be prepared for a dry camp if someone else has already claimed this site.
Towards the end of this segment, the trail goes past Melland Pond, a beaver pond that is so well engineered, the water level is actually above the trail. The beavers were less successful at felling an enormous hardwood tree despite a solid effort. You can leave the North Country Trail here and stop at the picnic area, which has a nice beach and beautiful lake view. I used this as a halfway point, but if you’re not up to an eight-and-a-half mile hike and are with a group, you can park a car at either end of the trail. However you want to tackle it, this hike is worth the effort.