Top Ten Things to do in Upper Michigan
Map of Upper Michigan
Upper Michigan is a paradise for people who enjoy spending time in nature. It boasts fall colors that are second to none, miles of beautiful shoreline, pristine forests, plentiful lakes and rivers, abundant wildlife, and much more. I had the privilege of having been born and raised there. It is hard for me to live in boring and flat Illinois, with all of the beauty of the up there. There are so many things to do in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
Upper Michigan Terms
A few terms you will need to know if you plan to visit Upper Michigan:
Yooper: Resident of Upper Michigan
Troll: Resident of Lower Michigan
The Bridge: Mackinaw Bridge
Pasties: A pastry crust filled with ground beef, potatoes, onions, and rutabaga
Now that you know some of the language, let us look what are the top ten things to do.
Many drives in Upper Michigan could be labeled a scenic drive because of the tremendous beauty that can be found there. I want to highlight the best three drives in my opinion.
Haver you ever been to Michigan's Upper Peninsula?
Manistique to St. Ignace (US 2)
The drive between Manistique and St. Ignace is one of tremendous beauty. The route is approximately 90 miles long and follows US 2 through thick forests and along the northern shore of Lake Michigan. There are a lot of overlooks and places to pull over along the way. Fall is the ideal time to take this scenic drive because of the beautiful fall colors on the hardwood trees. Keep in mind when trailing through this area that it is very remote and be on the lookout for deer in the early morning and late afternoon hours, especially during the fall mating season.
Marquette to Munising (M28)
M28 between Marquette and Munising offers stunning views of Lake Superior. The road is literally feet off Lake Superior in places. It is amazing on a windy day with the big waves crashing on to the shoreline. There are a few public beaches to pull over at and enjoy the view or have a picnic. If you are brave, you can go swimming in the icy cold waters of the lake. If you plan to travel through this area during the winter, be advised that this road is closed often due to heavy snow.
The Keweenaw Peninsula has several scenic drives that are spectacular during the fall months. US 41 between Delaware and Copper Harbor is designated as a scenic heritage route. The unique thing about this route is that you are driving through a thick, dense forest, with the trees covering most of the road. It is nicknamed the “Covered Drive” because of that. This is one of the best drives in the country to see fall colors. Another drive that I recommend taking is the Brockway Mountain Drive. It offers stunning views of Lake Superior and is a great place to watch the sunset.
The Mackinac Bridge is one of the best know Michigan landmarks and is a trip across it. The bridge was first opened in 1957 and is the third largest suspension bridge in the world, behind only the Akashi Kailkyo Bridge in Japan and the Great Belt Bridge in Denmark. The Mackinac Bridge stretches from Upper Michigan five miles to Lower Peninsula of Michigan. It is also the meeting point of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. Winter months can bring a lot of snow because of both of the lakes and Lake Superior is that much further north. One of the unique things about that bridge is that it can sway 35 feet in either direction depending on the wind. It is an amazing sight especially if you are driving east on US 2.
Hunting is a popular activity in Upper Michigan, especially deer hunting.
If you spend any time in the Upper Peninsula, you will probably hear the term “deer camp”. Deer camp is a combination of camping, tailgating, and hunting. Many of the avid deer hunters have their own private land with a camp on it (vacation home, but more primitive). The tailgating portion fits in as it is one big party and for many lots of drinking. Deer season is so popular in Upper Michigan, that the schools are closed during the first few days of the start of the firearm deer season each year. Bow season usually starts around the beginning of October and goes until the firearm season begins around the second week in November. The firearm season runs about two weeks from the middle of November through the end of the month. Michigan also has a muzzleloader season that runs a week or two in December each year. Check with the Michigan DNR concerning what public lands are available for hunting. Do not hunt on private land without permission.
Small Game Hunting
Small game hunting is also very popular. With a small game license, the state of Michigan allows you to hunt cottontail rabbits, snowshoe hare, squirrels, ruffled grouse, woodcock, sharp-tailed grouse, pheasants, quail, wild turkey, and Canadian geese. Check with the DNR to see when each season starts and ends. Pheasant hunting is limited to the southern portions of the Upper Peninsula (all of Menominee County and portions of Iron, Dickenson, Delta, and Marquette counties).
Fishing is another popular activity in Upper Michigan. There are an endless amount of streams, rivers, and lakes to fish. The most popular fish species are trout, walleye, northern pike, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, perch, blue gill, muskie, salmon, and sturgeon. The best place that I like to fish and have had the best luck at is the backwaters of Way Dam on the Michigamme River in eastern Iron County.
In the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, winter does not stop the fishing. People use ice augers to drill through the ice and either fish from the ice or place an ice shack on the lake once it has sufficiently frozen over. An ice shack, if you are unfamiliar, is about small building that is placed on the ice that has a removable floor panel to fish through and many of them have wood stove in them for heat. Many of them also have bunk beds and even televisions.
A Guide to Fishing in the U.P.
Hiking is a great way to see the beauty of the Upper Peninsula, as you get off the beaten path and explore pristine forests.
Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park
The Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, located near Ontonagon, has over 85 miles of trails to hike. There are over 20 miles of trails that over look beautiful Lake Superior as well as traveling through scenic forests. You can also walk right along the shore of Lake Superior on any of the beaches. If you have any ideas of jumping in and going for a swim, it is important to keep in mind that Lake Superior is very cold even on the warmest days of the year. The park has a ton of waterfalls to see as well. The park has an abundant wildlife population that includes white-tailed deer, black bears, wolves, and more.
Tahquamenon Falls State Park
Tahquamenon Falls State Park offers over six miles in hiking trails that are mostly wooded. The highlight however, is the Upper Tahquamenon Falls that is the second largest waterfall east of the Mississippi River. It is roughly 50 feet high and around 200 feet wide. It is a short hike from the parking area. The Lower falls is also worth seeing and is about a five-mile hike from the Upper Falls.
Pier’s Gorge is a nice hike along the Menominee River through the forest. Pier’s Gorge is made up of several small waterfalls and a series of rapids. One warning that I will give you is that the trail can be very muddy in the spring in place, but a relative easy hike overall. As the trails winds closer to the river, you can see the beautiful bedrock walls tower above on the Wisconsin side of the river. It is a beautiful hike in the spring when the river is rushing due to melting snow, but my favorite time to go there is in the fall as the leaves change. When I was growing up, they used to have kayak races there.
Camping in Upper Michigan is another enjoyable activity because temperatures in the summer average around 80 degrees and cool down into the 50s on most night. There are many options when it comes to camping. You can choose camp at a campground with many other people or you can choose a more remote location. The Way Dam area of Iron County has a bunch of nice camping spots, which are a little more remote, with a few other camping spots next to you.
One of the great things about boating in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is that are so many different places you can go. Whether you are interested in fishing, kayaking, water skiing, or just enjoying a day on the water, there is a waterway nearby to enjoy. The best part is that as you go to different lakes and rivers, you will get to see more of the beauty of Upper Michigan.
In Upper Michigan, knowing how to have fun in the snow is important. The closer that you get to Lake Superior, the more dramatic the snow totals gets. Houghton, Marquette, and Sault Saint Marie seem to be always competing to see who can set the record for the most snowfall in a given year. Snowmobiling is huge in the Upper Peninsula and it is rated as one of the best places in the country to snowmobile. There are trails that run all over the U.P. If you have never been in a forested area with freshly fallen snow all around, you do not know what you are missing. It is so peaceful and relaxing there. Do not worry if you do not own a snowmobile, there are places to rent them. Remember not to drink and drive on a snowmobile because they are a lot like a missile driving in close proximity to trees.
The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is a great place for skiing. Some of the most popular ski resorts are Indianhead Mountain Resort in Wakefield, Marquette Mountain in Marquette, Norway Mountain in Norway, and Pine Mountain in Iron Mountain. Cross-country skiing is also very popular with many different places that you can ski. Upper Michigan is also home to several ski jumps. The Pine Mountain Ski Jump, in Iron Mountain, is a world-class ski jump at over 175 feet high. It is also a fun place to climb in the warmer months because of the spectacular view from the top. Copper Peak in Ironwood, takes jumping to a new level called ski flying, which allows jumps of over 600 feet. The top of Copper Peak offers a chance to take an elevator to the top of the jump, where you can see for over 2,500 square miles. My favorite, just because of its name is Suicide Hill in Ishpeming. What kind of a person would jump on a hill named that??
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore reminds me a lot of Acadia National Park in Maine with the rugged and rocky coast. However, I think Pictured Rocks is more impressive due to the size of the cliffs. It is located on the southern shore of Lake Superior between Munising and Grand Marais. The Pictured Rocks are the most popular thing to see in the park. However, the beaches are beautiful too. There are over 90 miles of hiking trails in the park. Hunting and fishing are also allowed in the park based on the laws of the state of Michigan. This is also a great place to camp. One of the great things about Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is that there are not any fees to visit the park.