Wonders of the Upper Peninsula
If you came along for leg one of our epic Michigan fall road trip, you know that we explored mainland Michigan, affectionately known by locals as “the Mitten.” Today our Michigan road trip takes us to the Upper Peninsula, known to locals as “the U.P.” The Upper Peninsula is a wilderness wonderland, with spectacular natural scenery everywhere you look. It’s also well-endowed with history. In this tour, we’ll cover both types of attractions in the U.P.!
Sault Ste. Marie and Paradise/Whitefish Point
Start your U.P. portion of your Michigan road trip in Sault Ste. Marie, where you can watch the spectacle of the Soo Locks. Then make your way to Whitefish Point, where you can explore the U.P.’s fascinating history at the Shipwreck Museum. Browse through the museum to see artifacts of Michigan’s seafaring history. The curators here have done a brilliant job of telling Michigan’s story in an engaging and interesting way. This is no stale museum! Then tour the historic lighthouse on site, well staged to take you back in time. Take a peek at the museum shop – there’s a good assortment of treasures here. And before you head out, dip your toes in Lake Superior, right outside! The nearby town of Paradise is a potential stop for dinner or an overnight stay.
No visit to the U.P. is complete without what is, at least in my opinion, the most spectacular natural site of all. That is the powerful and breathtaking Tahquamenon Falls in Paradise. Give yourself plenty of time to stroll or hike here. There are hiking paths as well as a boardwalk around the area for easy walking that allows you to get multiple views of this spectacular sight! Some steep stairs that get you up close and personal with the falls may be intimidating to some. But it’s your choice whether to navigate them or not. You can get amazing views either way! The brownish color of the water is due to the copper content. The rocks and soils are rich with minerals up here in the U.P., especially copper.
Munising and Pictured Rocks
The charming town of Munising, and in particular Pictured Rocks, is second on my list of must-see sights in the U.P. during your Michigan road trip. This town itself is cute and quaint: your quintessential Norman Rockwell “Main Street.” It’s also a great town to pick up a Pasty. That’s a U.P. specialty: a kind of meat pie you can enjoy with your hands for a snack, or order on a plate loaded up with gravy for dinner. Poutine is popular here too – a dish my Canadian friends are likely to recognize, with french fries, cheese curd, and gravy. But the best reason to visit Munising are the Pictured Rocks. You can take a cruise to see the rocks here, or rent a kayak and head out on your own. Here you’ll see pine trees growing out of sheer rock walls, spectacularly striped-with-color rocks, and fascinating rock formations! This is a seasonal attraction available spring through fall only.
Mining Town of Calumet
Calumet is famous for its mining heritage, and you can check out the Mining Museum here to learn more. It’s also another nice quaint little town, with a giant train track snowplow and some…. interesting architecture… Take a drive down some of the side streets and you’ll see what I mean – like the house in the photo above. Start your visit here at the National Park Service’s information center at the Keweenaw National Historic Park. There are many interesting artifacts here on view for free, and you can talk with the park rangers about the things to see not only in Calumet but the surrounding Keweenaw area. The Hungarian Falls, a few minutes from Calumet, for example, provides an excellent scenic detour.
The town of Copper Harbor is another highlight of any Michigan road trip. There’s an abundance of activities to enjoy here, and I recommend staying at least one night, if not more. Brockway Mountain is a good place to start! You can drive your car to the top of the mountain for spectacular views of the surrounding lakes and mountains. (As you can probably imagine, the views during the fall season are particularly impressive!) After getting your bearings on top of the mountain, head back down and head for Manganese Falls and Montreal Falls, and perhaps go for a hike. Check out the iconic Copper Harbor Lighthouse. And then head on over to Fort Wilkins Historic State Park to see an old fort complex from 1844, during the Copper Rush. If you really want to get away from it all, you can take a ferry from Copper Harbor to the United State’s least-visited National Park, Isle Royale National Park. It’s remote, on an island off the U.P., not accessible by car. Facilities on the island are limited, so making reservations ahead is a must.
More Michigan Road Trip!
If you missed Part One of this road trip, the “Mitten,” or mainland Michigan, you can read it here: EPIC Michigan Road Trip Part 1.
Another great resource for planning the ultimate Michigan vacation is Pure Michigan, the official tourist site for the State of Michigan.
And be sure to visit my YouTube channel to see the full video tour of the road trip itinerary, including maps! Thanks for reading! Be sure to leave a comment below – have visited Michigan? Would you be interested in planning a trip there now?