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U.S. Forest Service

Eastern Region Viewing Area


Imp Lake trail: topographic map. Imp Lake trail: topographic map.

Imp Lake trail aerial photograph. Imp Lake trail aerial photograph.

Imp Lake trailhead sign. Imp Lake trailhead. Photo by Sue Trull.

Imp Lake trail near start. Imp Lake trail near start. Photo by Sue Trull.

Imp Lake trail boardwalk. Imp Lake trail boardwalk across bog. Photo by Sue Trull.

Imp Lake Trail

Forest: Ottawa National Forest

District: Watersmeet Ranger District

Description: The Imp Lake Trail threads its way through hardwood-hemlock forest and a treed bog, making a loop to return near its starting point. The trail was designed to be accessible for the first 0.8 mile, with a graveled path and a boardwalk across the bog. After crossing the bog, a small picnicking platform marks the end of the wheelchair/stroller accessible portion. The remaining 0.7 mile is a footpath over terrain that is more difficult. It passes an overlook of Little Imp Lake and ends on a road south of the trailhead.

The hardwood-hemlock forests surrounding the trail provide a variety of wildflowers to view starting in mid-May each year. Examples are baneberry, wood sorrel, bluebead, wild sarsaparilla, Canada mayflower, hairy Solomon’s seal, feathery false lily of the valley, nodding trillium, threeleaf goldthread, jewelweed, bunchberry dogwood, starflower, enchanter’s nightshade, jack in the pulpit, Clayton’s sweetroot, and bigleaf aster. Ferns are common, including intermediate woodfern, interrupted fern, cinnamon fern, sensitive fern, and lady fern. At the bog, one may see stunted tamarack and black spruce trees, Labrador tea, bog laurel, bog rosemary, leatherleaf, creeping snowberry, velvetleaf blueberry, pink ladyslipper, cranberry, cottongrass, sphagnum moss, and insectivorous pitcher plants. These passive-trap plants have funnel-like modified leaves, which fill with water. There are downward pointing hairs near the upper, dry portion of the leaves, so that an insect, attracted to the red lines on the leaves, cannot crawl out, but must enter the water to drown and be digested by the plant’s enzymes. Trapped insects provide nitrogen, phosphorous and other nutrients to the plants. The northern hardwoods - sugar maple, red maple, yellow birch, and basswood - around the trail provide a lovely color display in the fall.

Imp Lake campground is across from the trailhead, featuring two lakeside loops and 22 sites. Water is available and there are pit toilets. Fees are charged for overnight camping. There is also a free day use/picnic area and boat ramp. Imp Lake is an established no-wake lake. Loons are often seen on the lake. A variety of other birds may be seen, including bald eagles. White-tailed deer may also be seen in the area.

Safety First: Visitors should recognize that the trail may be crossed by fallen trees; it is not frequently maintained and no longer is fully accessible for wheelchairs or strollers. The wooden boardwalks can be slippery when wet. Sturdy footgear is recommended for hikers and insect repellent may be advisable in summer. Mosquitoes, biting flies, no-see-ums, and wood and deer ticks may be present. Part of the trail crosses a stand of trees marked for an upcoming selection harvest timber sale. The trail may be closed during the winter active logging period; please check with the Watersmeet Ranger District prior to winter use, such as cross-country skiing on an ungroomed trail.

Directions: From the intersection of Highways 45 and 2, just south of Watersmeet, Michigan, head east on US Hwy 2 about 5.5 miles. Turn south on Forest Road 3978, heading toward Imp Lake Campground. Travel about 1.4 miles to the trailhead, which is on the east side of the road, across from the day use area at Imp Lake.

Ownership and Management: U.S. Forest Service, Ottawa National Forest, Watersmeet Ranger District. Contact the Ottawa National Forest at (906) 932-1330 for more information. Contact the Ranger District at (906) 358-4551 for updates on use of the trail during winter timber harvest.

Closest Towns: Watersmeet, Michigan; Land O’Lakes, Wisconsin.

Additional Photos

Maianthemum canadense Canada mayflower (Maianthemum canadense). Photo by Sue Trull.

Sarracenia  purpurea Pitcher plant cluster of leaf traps (Sarracenia purpurea). Photo by Sue Trull.

Sarracenia  purpurea Pitcher plant flower (Sarracenia purpurea). Photo by Sue Trull.

Smilacina racemosa False solomon seal in fruit (Smilacina racemosa). Photo by Sue Trull.