So you want to conquer the South Marble Head Loop Jeep Badge of Honor trail? Strap in and let’s get going.
South Marble Head Loop is located on Drummond Island in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. There are no bridges to the island, which means you can only get your Jeep there by ferry. Don’t worry, we’ll cover all of that and the rest of what you’ll need in this article.
If you aren’t familiar with the Jeep Badge of Honor program, I’ve fully described it in my article here ➡️ Jeep Badge of Honor Program
And if you’d like to know more about the new design for Jeep Badge of Honor, you can do so here ➡️What’s going on with the new Jeep Badge of Honor Design?
Getting to South Marble Head Loop Trail
Getting to the trailhead of South Marble Head Loop is an adventure in and of itself. In my opinion, it’s one of the reasons Jeep selected this trail for the Jeep Badge of Honor list.
To get there, all you have to do is head as far east as you can go on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to DeTour Village, then catch a 15-minute ferry ride. Easy, right?
You’ll need several things to run this trail.
Once you’re on Drummond Island, you’ll need several permits, and you’ll want to snag a map. But don’t worry, that whole process is simple. If you’ve never been wheeling on Drummond Island, make sure you catch up on all my tips here ➡️Our Weekend Overlanding on Michigan’s Drummond Island.
That article I just linked above has all of the details about the ferry cost and procedure, permits required, map of the island, and more.
Fill up with fuel, stock up your water and food supplies, and ensure you’re ready to go before you leave the area of the island where the ferry drops you off.
Once you’ve gotten everything you need, you’ll want to head towards Glen Cove on the other side of the island. There you’ll find the trailhead to South Marble Head Loop.
Last piece of advice before you head out to this trail is to download the map for the area with whatever mapping software you like to use. You may lose connectivity depending on your carrier before you get to the other side of Drummond Island.
South Marble Head Loop Trail
South Marble Head Loop trail is rated as “Moderate to Demanding” according to the Jeep Badge of Honor app. A 3-7 difficulty on a scale of 1-10.
It should be noted that the trail itself doesn’t change much and doesn’t really have any bypasses to speak of, but overall it isn’t that difficult. So why the drastic variance in difficulty rating? My guess is weather conditions.
I can imagine that if you run this trail after a heavy rain or during the snowy months, then this trail could easily jump from a 3 to a 7 on the difficulty scale.
However, we ran the trail in August 2019. The weather was perfect and thus the difficulty of this trail run for us was on the lower end of the spectrum. Probably a 3 out of 10 with a bump to a 4 difficulty rating for the final obstacle–the Marble Head Steps.
The entrance to South Marble Head Loop wasn’t terribly well marked. To be honest, though we were planning on running the trail, we stumbled upon it by accident while looking for a suitable camping location for the night. It wasn’t until we were on the trail for about five minutes that we saw a sign letting us know we were actually on the South Marble Head Loop trail.
One of the reasons we didn’t know we were on the trail is that when you first get on, it isn’t much of a challenge. It’s scenic and fun, but there just isn’t much of a challenge.
The majority of the trail is a two track that runs along gorgeous Lake Huron, mixed in with a few dips and small rock gardens. There is just one really nice spot for a break for lunch (or camping) until you get to the end of the trail. So if you come upon it and it’s getting close to time for a break, go ahead and take it.
You’ll know it when you see it, as it’s the only pull-off along the trail. It’s where we camped, and worthy of a stop to get out and stretch your legs. If you don’t stop here, you’ll be waiting until after the final obstacle.
From that break spot, you’re looking at about 40-50 minutes to the final obstacle.
The final obstacle on South Marble Head Loop trail is the Marble Head Steps. Here you have a choice. Complete the trail by heading down, or stop. This one is up to you. Just remember that it’s one way in and one way out. If you go down, then you must come back up.
We ran into a handful of folks at the top of the steps who made the decision not to continue. But there were also about eight vehicles that made the attempt. The good news is all of the vehicles that went down the steps were able to make it back up. Having said that, we weren’t wheeling alone and wouldn’t recommend you do this obstacle if you’re by yourself.
This final obstacle is the most challenging portion of the trail. The line on the passenger side as you’re heading down, and on the driver’s side as you’re coming up, is arguably the best line. We took a harder line going down and landed on our control arms, but opted for the “easier” line on the way back up, since we needed to be able to drive away. Have we told you our Jeep is our home? Yeah…easier line going up was the right call for us.
Can My Stock Jeep Run This Trail?
There is a saying among Jeepers that the weakest part on any Jeep is the nut behind the wheel.
There’s no question in my mind that a stock Jeep Wrangler with an experienced driver can conquer South Marble Head Loop.
Having said that, a lifted Jeep with an inexperienced driver could have some difficulty with the final obstacle, or with the trail in general in inclement weather conditions.
There are many options for self-recovery if you have a winch because of the trees that line this trail. However, it’s still my recommendation that you not wheel this trail alone for safety reasons, especially if you’re there in the winter months. Also, as I stated earlier, I wouldn’t recommend the steps without a buddy.
The trail is long enough that any sort of first responder assistance will take awhile to get to you, especially at the steps which are at the far end of the trail and farthest from “civilization.” Please keep this in mind and make the best decision for yourself and those you’re off-roading with.
Final Thoughts on South Marble Head Loop Trail
South Marble Head Loop is a trail that can drastically change in difficulty level, depending on weather conditions. It’s absolutely worth doing, though, and will give you a unique experience among the Jeep Badge of Honors that are out there to earn.
A stock Jeep with an experienced driver should be able to run the entirety of the trail. A stock Jeep with a novice driver should be able to run everything but the final obstacle (unless you have a reliable spotter).
The entirety of the trail in good weather can be completed in about two hours.
Downloading the online map ahead of time, getting a hard copy map of Drummond Island, making sure you have your appropriate permits, having a wheeling buddy, and having a winch on your Jeep are highly recommended.
My family thoroughly enjoyed our time on Drummond Island. We loved putting GUARDIAN (our Jeep) through the challenge of the final obstacle, and our 2.5-year-old was in his car seat in the back with a huge grin as we ran the steps.
Hope this article has been helpful to you. Drop us a comment with any questions or your own experience running this trail!
Until next time, keep it dirty and wheels side down.
~ Eric, Brittany, and #LittleNomad