Additional Course Information:
|Total Distance||30 miles 1643 ft|
|Ground Distance||30 miles, 1855 ft|
|Elevation Change||-846 ft|
|Latitude||046° 36' 1.12" N|
|Longitude||087° 30' 51"24 W|
The Noquemanon trail has been described by some as "the most beautiful trail I have ever skied on," by others as "never dull," and by a few as "deceptively tough." It's fair to say that the Noquemanon trail has many faces, ranging from gently rolling hills and flat lake crossings to testing climbs and plenty of downhills. One thing, however, remains constant: the beautifully rugged U.P. wilderness that surrounds skiers throughout the course.
Many a skier - including three-time marathon classic champion Mike Myers of Montana - have even found the need to slow down at some point along the trail to take in the spectacular scenery (In the Noquemanon racers 'code, it's permissible to stop for scenic viewing). As one skier professed, "the snow conditions, terrain and course were so superior to anything I have ever skied."
K50 – K37: Al Quaal Start Line over Deer Lake through Zhulkie Pass and onto Aid Station Two @ Dead River Crossing
Kilometer 50 of the Noque now begins at the Al Quaal Recreation Area at an elevation of 1400 feet. As with many ski marathons, the Noque's kilometers ("km") are marked on the trail in descending order. Views of Teal and Deer Lakes can be had as skiers glide through the beautiful forests and rugged hills of Al Quaal.
Two long downhills bring skiers to Deer Lake and its jagged granite bluffs. You're quickly off the lake and into gentle pine and balsam forests through Aid Station #1 at the 44 km mark. Shortly after this aid station, skiers will face their first serious climbs of the day: the deceptively tough "Three Steps" followed 1 km later by the even tougher Zhulkie Pass (elevation 1600 feet). Several kilometers of fun ups and downs atop the Zhulkie Range end with a speedy downhill into the Noquemanon Valley (its name on the original surveyor's maps, better known today as the Dead River Basin area). The terrain becomes milder with each km.
K37 – K25: Dead River Basin through Granite Point (highest point) to Start Line of mBank Half Noque
As you get closer to the Basin, you’ll hear the Pioneer Kiwanis and their crew at aid station #2 at the 37K mark. Leaving their party, skiers cross South Camp Road and drop onto the Basin for a 1/4 km lake crossing. The rugged hills to the North provide a beautiful backdrop; beautiful, that is, until you realize that they're up next on your Noque dance card! For immediately upon leaving the Basin at km 34, skiers begin a 400' uphill climb into the hills of Granite Point.
The Granite Point area contains old growth white and red pine forests and some of the best scenery on the course, including the cliff top overlook of the Noquemanon Valley and the Basin at km 30. Here you’ll find aid station #3, the Negaunee Lions Club and their bugle playing member. This section is specifically designed for cross-country skiing. Granite Point's trails are a non-stop roller coaster of ups, downs, twists and turns that reward the technical skier. Another tough Granite Point climb at the 29 km mark brings skiers to the highest point on the course - Reany Mountain, elevation 1700 feet. With 27 km's to go, skiers start to reap the rewards for their efforts as they begin the 1,000-foot "net" (key word) descent to the finish line on the shores of Lake Superior. A 2 km long downhill cruise leads to County Road 510, the starting area for the National Ski Hall of Fame Half Marathon.
25K – 11K mBank Half Noque Start through Mead Highlands (view of Lake Superior) to Forestville Aid Station
The hundreds of skiers readying for the Half Marathon and spectators lining the course, along with the free energy gel provided by Hammergel at Aid Station #4, will reenergize skiers. Another 1 km of downhill cruising after crossing 510 doesn't hurt, either!
The Mead Highlands are next on the Noque tour, and as the name suggests, its time for some climbing. Two notable climbs are found in this area, the first after crossing Bismark Creek at the 22 km mark and the second, a full kilometer in length near the 20 km mark. The first glimpse of Lake Superior six miles in the distance is found between these two climbs.
Several downhill km's follow that take skiers into the Forestville plains, a largely flat trail almost 5 kilometers in length. Aid Station #4 is found at 19K. Crossing the powerline at 13 km's, skiers take in a spectacular view of Lake Superior and rugged Sugarloaf Mountain and the Superior Dome! Now one of the longest downhill sections of the day lays ahead - the 2 km descent into the Forestville Aid Station (#5)!
K11-Finish Line! Forestville Downhills and following the snaking Dead River with waterfall and along railroad track to Superior Dome
A series of rolling hills takes skiers adjacent to the Forrestville ponds and over the LS&I railroad tracks. The section beyond the ponds to the 5K mark are a series of turns and small hills. This is a pure pleasing part of the trail. Between the 5K and 4K marker is Aid Station # 6. Immediately after this aid station, there’s one more short, steep uphill and then down you go to river level. From here you follow the Dead River through snaking trail and cross County Road 550 and the Dead River next to the waterfall. After following along the river for another K, skiers come out on the old railroad grade that leads to the finish line 2 km's away.
For the first time since leaving Ishpeming, skiers emerge from the woods! They are well within the Marquette City Limits and just 100 yards from Lake Superior's shores! The umbrella shape of the Dome looms ahead, growing larger with each stride until finally you are there - the finish line and the end of the Noquemanon Trail.