From the Lake of the Clouds overlook, most hikers head east to walk the Escarpment Trail, a popular day hike in the park. Big Carp River Trail heads west and for almost 2 miles skirts the Escarpment, a 400-foot-high rocky bluff with alpine-like vistas and views of the park's rugged interior.
Within 30 minutes you reach the high point of the day at 1,447 feet. Here you can stand on the edge of the steep-sided ridge and look down to see where the Big Carp River emerges from Lake of the Clouds.
In the next mile, the trail follows the edge of this bluff, passing one spectacular view after another until arriving at a semi-open area. At Mile 1.5, you stand on the edge of a rock cliff and peer down a sheer drop to the Big Carp River in the valley below, a stunning sight. Or you can gaze west along ridge where beyond a gap in the cliff is Miscowawbic Peak in the foreground and 2 miles away LaFayette Peak, marking one end of the Escarpment. There are three backcountry campsites near by and it's easy to understand why they were placed here. This is a beautiful spot to set up a tent.
You resume following the bluff briefly then begin the long descent to the floor of the valley. It’s a half mile descent, sharp at first but gentle most of the way as you drop from the high point of the day of 1,447 feet to less than 1,100 feet. Along the way you move from a beech/maple forest to a stand of stately hemlock.
After viewing the Big Carp River from above, you finally reach the river just beyond Mile 5. This far upriver the Big Carp is 15 to 20 yards wide with a gentle flowing current that swirls through an occasional pool. Anglers would do well to drop their packs and scout the Big Carp up stream for brook trout.actually a large stream with a gentle current that swirls through a series of pools.
The Big Carp is forded and just down the trail at Mile 5.3 is the junction with Correction Line Trail. From here Mirror Lake is a 2.8 miles east and 600 foot climb along the Correction Line Trail.
Lake Superior is 4.3 miles to the west on the Big Carp River Trail which curves to the north to follow the river. Within 2 miles you pass through another impressive stand of hemlock and skirt the edge of a steep gorge until you are standing just downriver from Shining Cloud Falls.
Reached at Mile 8.2, the cascade is stunning, a powerful thrust of water that first explodes from between the narrow walls of the gorge and then drops 35 feet into the river. It's name comes from the ever-present cloud of mist that fills the gorge and creates rainbows on a clear day. Nearby is a backcountry campsite
In the final 1.4 miles you stay close to the river and pass another dozen cascades, all unnamed except the last one; Bathtub Falls. Bathtub is a series of small drops and pools; a giant, ice-cold Jacuzzi where hikers will often kick off their boots and soak their weary feet.
Big Carp River Trail ends where the river does, on the shores of Lake Superior at Mile 9.6. Located here are three wilderness cabins - Big Carp 6 Bunk, Lake Superior and Big Carp 4-Bunk - and three backcountry campsites in the area.
In the evening most backpackers gather at the mouth of the Big Carp River to watch the sun melt into the wide blue horizon that is Lake Superior.