Upper Peninsula Ultimate Travel Guide (2023)

Upper Peninsula Ultimate Travel Guide (1)

Table Of Contents

  1. Visit the Upper Peninsula Michigan
  2. The Upper Peninsula History
  3. Explore the Upper Peninsula
  4. Eastern Upper Peninsula
  5. Central Upper Peninsula
  6. Western Upper Peninsula

Visit the Upper Peninsula Michigan

Wild, wonderful and untamed natural beauty: it’s the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. If you love naturally beautiful spots, you’re going to love exploring this upper Michigan area.

From Sault Ste. Marie and the Soo Locks in the east, to Gogebic county and Bay De Noc in the west; from Tahquamenon Falls to Mount Bohemia; the Upper Peninsula is pure Michigan travel fun at its best.

It’s a northern playground filled with nationally significant wonders: national forests, national historic sites, historic parks, and a national lakeshore, too!

It’s raw natural beauty: home to black bears and other native wildlife; stunning fall colors, virgin white pine and a sky that lights up with the northern lights at night.

Read on to discover why you need to put Michigan’s Upper Peninsula on your vacation bucket list and start planning your U.P getaway now!

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The Upper Peninsula History

Originally settled by native American’s, it’s hard not feel connected to nature and history when you visit the Upper Peninsula, the once the heart of the U.S. fur trade and mineral mining.

The rich history includes French fur traders traveling up the St. Marys’ River as they headed to the Mississippi, the British military and European colonization, and a run on copper and iron mines that produced more wealth than the California Gold Rush.

You’ll also find three large universities and other colleges here, including Michigan Tech, Northern Michigan and Lake Superior State University. These educational institutions attract a young and diverse crowd, eager to explore natural beauty of the area.

(Video) Our PERFECT RV Road Trip Across Michigan’s Upper Peninsula 😍 - The Ultimate Guide

Combine this history with a lush landscape teeming with lakes and an a wide array of wildlife and it’s hard not to become enchanted with the stunning land that is Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

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Size of the U.P.

Although its’ over 16,000 square miles make up almost 30 percent of the state’s landmass, this peninsula only has three percent of Michigan’s population. And yet, the call to the rugged land is strong: travel of the U.P has more than doubled in recent years.

It’s easy to see why travel has increased here, because the Upper Peninsula is an amazing spot to explore. Think miles and miles of unspoiled land, from high mountain ranges to rugged and sandy shoreline – waiting for you to discover.

If you’re planning your trip and looking for unique experiences, our Michigan guide to the Upper Peninsula will help you find the best places to visit with all of the travel info you need.

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Explore the Upper Peninsula

Rushing rivers tumbling down waterfalls of all sizes; proud and lonely lighthouses standing tall along a quiet shoreline and uniquely-shaped and colored rock formations rising high above azure-striped water…and these are only some of the awesome features of this beautiful land.

Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is special: it’s a place to both explored and savored, for natural beauty of the area is truly rare.

The terrain of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is as varied as the history: that’s why we’ve divided up our travel information into three sections:

  • Eastern Upper Peninsula
  • Central Upper Peninsula
  • Western Upper Peninsula
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Eastern Upper Peninsula

You’ll most likely enter the Upper Peninsula by crossing the iconic Mackinac Bridge, the five-mile suspension bridge spanning the width of the spot where Lake Huron and Lake Michigan meet- also known as the Straits of Mackinac.

As you leave the lower peninsula, you’ll pass historic Fort Mackinac and Mackinac Island, home to some of the most beautiful hotels in Michigan: the Grand Hotel and Mission Point Resort.

Cross the bridge over the Straits and you’ll land in St. Ignace, the gateway to the Upper Peninsula.

From this point in the eastern part of the Upper Peninsula, you can explore dramatically different landscape. To the east, you’ll find the Les Cheneaux islands. These 36 tiny, islands are scattered long 12 miles of the northern Lake Huron coastline. The Les Cheneaux Islands have long been a popular destination for boaters and kayakers. It’s also a great spot for ice fishing in the winter months.

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Drummond Island and DeTour Village

Even farther east are DeTour Village and Drummond Island the second largest freshwater island in the U.S. Drummond Island is one of my favorite spots for a quiet summer getaway it was actually voted one of the best value travel destinations by Lonely Planet.

(Video) The BEST 2 days on the Upper Peninsula: Pictured Rocks, Pasties, Kitch-iti-kipi, & Tahquamenon Falls

You’ll find hundreds of miles of ATV trails, quiet spots for bird watching, and trails for hiking. The shallow, clear Lake Huron waters surrounding the island are great for scuba diving and kayaking over shipwrecks, too.

Tahquamenon Falls

If you head north over the Mackinac Bridge, you’ll hit Sault Ste. Marie and the International Bridge to Canada.

If you head northwest over the bridge, you’ll find one of the most popular tourist destinations in the state, Tahquamenon Falls. Tahquamenon Falls, a set of two waterfalls surrounded by a forest of white pine, is one of Michigan’s most visited spots. In the autumn months, the rushing falls are backlit by brilliant display of fall foliage; it’s a perfect spot for a fall color tour.

You can use our guide to the Eastern U.P. for more detailed information about must-see spots in the area.

PRO-TIP: If you’re looking for some quiet, sandy beach to spread out under the sun or splash on the shoreline, head west on M2 and follow the Lake Michigan shoreline.

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Central Upper Peninsula

Like the rest of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, there’s simply so much to see in the central portion of the U.P.

Along the northern part of the area, you’ll find the overwhelmingly gorgeous Lake Superior coastline: home to the famed Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

This spectacular stretch of the Lake Superior is home to some of the state’s top must-see tourist attractions, from the dramatic waterfalls of Bridal Veil Falls and to the towering Grand Sable Dunes.

Grand Island National Recreation Area, just off the Pictured Rocks shoreline, is worth exploring in both the summer and winter months, when the harsh winds and water form amazing ice caves.

The city of Marquette, the largest city in the Upper Peninsula. It’s home to Northern Michigan University, is a fast-growing spot with much to see and do. Beautiful parks and beaches, which include Presque Isle and McCarty’s Cove, are fun to explore, too.

Be sure to explore Marquette’s Black Rocks, a dramatic part of the coast. It’s popular with cliff jumpers who dive into the freezing Lake Superior here.

The Marquette Harbor and Ore Dock are picturesque spots close to downtown worth exploring, too.

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Kitch-Iti-Kipi

Father south is another Michigan must-see: Kitch-Iti-Kipi, also known as the Big Spring. Located just north of Manistique along the northern Lake Michigan coastline, Kitch-Iti-Kipi is a 40-foot deep, emerald green spring.

The best part? You can travel across it on a hand-operated raft.

Another one of Michigan’s most-visited spots, it’s located in Palms Book State Park and is open year-round.

You can find more information about things to do in the Central Upper Peninsula here.

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Western Upper Peninsula

It doesn’t take long to get used to the sound of quiet when you visit the wide-open western portion of the Upper Peninsula.

The Keweenaw Peninsula and Keweenaw National Historic Park celebrates the rich copper mining heritage of the Keweenaw County area. It’s located in the north part of the area, over the Portage lift bridge in Houghton County.

At this tip of peninsula is Copper Harbor’s beautiful coastline.

Farther west along the shore of Lake Superior are the Porcupine Mountains. It’s dramatic country: the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park is the largest state park in Michigan.

It’s 6,000 acres of pristine forests and streams and “soaring” to 2,000 feet, which is actually pretty high for Michigan.

Even farther west, you’ll find Lake Gogebic, the largest natural inland lake in the U.P. It’s a fisherman’s paradise and receives more than 300 inches of snow in the winter.

See what we mean? It’s dramatic.

Iron Mountain, in Dickinson County, was named a “Michigan Main Street” in 2008, is a fun spot to visit, too.

(Video) Upper Peninsula of Michigan Road Trip 2020

Nearby Iron River is home to Ski Brule, one of the most popular ski resorts in northern Michigan. The picturesque surroundings of this spot make it perfect destination.

In the summer and fall months too, when you can take in the spectacular fall colors.

Click HERE to explore the Western U.P.

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Keweenaw Peninsula in the Western UP

The Keweenaw Peninsula is Copper Country, the northern most part of Michigan. It was once the world’s largest producer of the mineral copper.

Surrounded on three sides by a wild Lake Superior, the Keweenaw Peninsula includes vastly different landscapes: wide, sandy beaches; rushing rivers and waterfalls hidden deep in lush forests and high cliffs overlooking the lake.

Additionally it’s the stepping-off point for travel to Isle Royale National Park, a 45-mile long island in Lake Superior that is 56 miles from the Michigan shoreline.

It would be easy to make separate tours for exploring the area’s waterfalls, beaches and lighthouses…there are really that many.

The true natural beauty of the Keweenaw last through all four seasons: in the fall, the vibrant colors light up the peninsula.

In the spring and summer, the surrounding fresh blue water sets off the green of the trees and in the winter, buried under inches of snow, it’s still easy to see the beauty of this gorgeous spot at the top of Michigan.

We’re passionate about sharing the beauty of Michigan with you. Follow us to discover the best spots in Michigan to Stay, Play, Eat and Beach!

FAQs

What is the best time to visit Upper Peninsula Michigan? ›

Summer is the best time to visit Michigan's Upper Peninsula, namely July and August. June and September are also good months, though less safe: the Upper Peninsula weather is extremely severe, with a high possibility of snow and very harsh meteorological conditions even during Spring and Autumn.

Is Upper Peninsula Michigan worth visiting? ›

If you love naturally beautiful spots, you're going to love exploring this upper Michigan area. From Sault Ste. Marie and the Soo Locks in the east, to Gogebic county and Bay De Noc in the west; from Tahquamenon Falls to Mount Bohemia; the Upper Peninsula is pure Michigan travel fun at its best.

Is Copper Harbor worth visiting? ›

Additionally, Copper Harbor is known for its stellar trail system. It includes 4,020 miles of hiking trails, 1,375 miles of rail trails, and 2,085 miles of biking trails. And it has thousands of other water, equestrian, and winter-recreation trails. You can go on a bike ride or book a guided tour.

What is a Yooper girl? ›

: a native or resident of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan —used as a nickname.

Is Upper or Lower Tahquamenon Falls better? ›

Upper Falls - bigger and more impressive of the two. Great boardwalk that connects several overlooks. The overlooks are great places to take pictures. Lower Falls - not as many overlook areas and not nearly as big/impressive.

What is the number 1 tourist attraction in Michigan? ›

According to a list compiled by the U.S. News & World Report, the most popular tourist attraction in all of Michigan is Mackinac Island. Mackinac Island is known for its famous fudge and Native American historical sites.

When can you see the northern lights in the Upper Peninsula? ›

According to expert sources in Michigan, you are more likely to see the northern lights in the Upper Peninsula between August and April, with the peak months being April, October, and November.

When can you see the northern lights in Michigan's Upper Peninsula? ›

Best time to see the Northern Lights in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. In the U.P. you are more likely to see the Northern Lights between August and April, with the peak months being April, October and November. Choose a clear, crisp, cold night without the threat of lake effect snow.

Is Pictured Rocks worth visiting? ›

Michigan's Munising Falls near Pictured Rocks is definitely worth the trip! Pictured Rocks includes 100 miles of hiking trails ranging from short and easy to long and challenging. We hiked to several waterfalls within the national lakeshore's boundary: Chapel and Miners.

Are there grizzly bears in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan? ›

The only species of bear found in Michigan is the black bear. Michigan's forestland in the Upper Peninsula provides the ideal habitat for the species, with ample food and plenty of cover.

How long is the ferry ride from Copper Harbor to Isle Royale? ›

Schedule. Throughout the season the ship's schedule varies; it typically operates from early May through the end of September. The Isle Royale Queen IV departs Copper Harbor, Michigan at 8:00 am EDT and takes a little over three hours to arrive at Rock Harbor.

Is Copper Harbor a dark zone? ›

Dark Skies – A village with less than 100 residents year-round is a village with pretty minimal light pollution, making Copper Harbor an excellent dark skies destination.

What is the best time of year to visit Pictured Rocks? ›

Fall is fantastic (our favorite month is September for Pictured Rocks) as we like to hike when it's not too hot and the fall colors are tremendous which is great for scenic views and photography. Summer is the best time for swimming and camping but the bugs will be present during certain times.

What nationality are Yoopers? ›

“A Yooper is a person who is native to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. A person who will help his/her neighbor and understands the meaning of the word “hospitality”.

What is the YOOP? ›

The Upper Peninsula [1] (known throughout Michigan and in surrounding areas as "the U.P.", or sometimes "the Yoop") is a region of Michigan. It is not connected (except by a bridge) to the rest of the state but is connected at its southwestern end to Wisconsin.

Can you swim at Tahquamenon Falls? ›

We recommend taking a dip near Tahquamenon Falls' Lower Falls, which will absolutely overwhelm you with natural delight. This family-friendly swimming site is the perfect place to relax after a long day in the great outdoors.

Can you do Pictured Rocks and Tahquamenon Falls in one day? ›

You can see both the upper and lower falls in half a day during the off seasons if you are good with walking and stairs. It will take longer during the busy summer months.

How far apart is Tahquamenon Falls and Pictured Rocks? ›

The distance between Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and Tahquamenon Falls State Park is 54 miles. The road distance is 97 miles.

How long of a walk is Tahquamenon Falls? ›

To reach the Upper Falls, it is a 1/3 mile walk (all flat ground) to the upper accessible viewing area but there are also 94 steps to reach the brink (closer viewing spots). It's so worth it though! You can get great viewing without climbing the stairs too.

What is the world famous Mystery Spot in Michigan? ›

Ignace Mystery Spot, in the early 1950s a few surveyors were exploring Michigan's Upper Peninsula one day when they realized that none of their equipment was working properly. The problems, they discovered after some testing, were only apparently in a circle about 300 feet in diameter. Behold: a mystery spot!

Whats the nicest city in Michigan? ›

Even More of the Best Places to Live in Michigan
  • Bloomfield Hills.
  • Buchanan.
  • Northville Township.
  • Farmington Hills.
  • West Bloomfield.
  • Rochester Hills.
  • Huntington Woods.
  • Lansing MI.

Will 2022 be a good year for aurora borealis? ›

"There will continue to be aurora viewing opportunities in 2022," Steenburgh said. "The solar cycle is indeed ramping up and as solar activity increases, so do the chances for Earth-directed blobs of plasma, the coronal mass ejections, which drive the geomagnetic storms and aurora."

Do the Northern Lights happen every night? ›

No. Huge geomagnetic storms, the kind that can cause very intense displays of the northern lights, don't happen every night, even during solar maximum. During solar minimum, they still happen, just less frequently.

Where is the best place to see the Northern Lights in the Upper Peninsula? ›

Once you're in the Upper Peninsula, anywhere along the south shore of Lake Superior is optimal: Brimley, Whitefish Point, Pictured Rocks, Autrain, Marquette, Big Bay, Skanee, Eagle River, Eagle Harbor, Copper Harbor are just a few of the places that come to mind.

How do you guarantee to see the Northern Lights? ›

Know When To Go

You should also look for clear skies on the weather forecast, and avoid rainy or snowy nights. To increase your chances, spend a few nights searching for the lights rather than just one.

How far in advance can Northern Lights be predicted? ›

As a naturally occurring phenomenon, the appearance of the Northern Lights is notoriously difficult to predict any further in advance than about two hours before it happens.

Do you need to be high up to see Northern Lights? ›

The Northern Lights occur so high up in the atmosphere that they don't pose any threat to people watching them from the ground.

Can you see Pictured Rocks without a boat tour? ›

With a long sandy beach, incredible rock formations, and a variety of waterfalls, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore offers a great deal on dry land too. A trip to Pictured Rocks by no means needs to involve going on a boat.

Can you see Pictured Rocks without being on a boat? ›

The best spots to see Pictured Rocks from land is at the Miner's Castle overlook (it's a very short walk) and Miner's beach is very beautiful with great views of the rocks. Also, if you enjoy hiking, the Mosquito Falls, Munising Falls and Minor Falls trails are breathtaking with lots of rocky formations.

Do I need hiking boots for Pictured Rocks? ›

The Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore has some fantastic hiking trails for visitors to enjoy, but those trails can also be slippery and can have some fairly precarious areas for footing. For this reason, it is important to bring a good pair of hiking shoes with you if you would like to do some hiking while you visit.

Are there big cats in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan? ›

In recent years, numerous cougar sighting reports have been received from various locations in Michigan. There have been many confirmed cougar sightings since 2008, including two illegal harvests in the Upper Peninsula.

Are there mountain lions in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan? ›

Cougars, also known as mountain lions or pumas, were native to Michigan but were wiped out in the early 1900s. They are now listed as an endangered species in Michigan and have been spotted on 76 occasions since 2008.

Are there any wild big cats in Michigan? ›

There are three native wildcats in Michigan including bobcat, mountain lion and lynx.

Where do the rich live in Michigan? ›

The richest county in Michigan is Livingston County with a median household income of approximately $80,000. With a population of roughly 193,000 people, Livingston County is located in Southeast Michigan which offers its residents convenient access to the cities of Detroit, Lansing, Ann Arbor, and Flint.

What is the friendliest town in Michigan? ›

Visit The Friendliest Town In Michigan The Next Time You Need A Pick-Me-Up
  • Ludington is located along the shores of Lake Michigan in Mason County. ...
  • While you might have passed through Ludington on previous adventures or even spent a few days along the beach, there's always more to discover here.
4 Feb 2022

What is the clearest lake in the Upper Peninsula? ›

Torch Lake is known to Michiganders as both a summer party lake and a vacation destination for the rich and famous of Michigan. The crystal clear turquoise waters of Torch Lake, Michigan. Its famous sandbar is the location of summer parties, with boats anchoring alongside the sandbars.

What is the prettiest place in Michigan? ›

12 Unimaginably Beautiful Places In Michigan That You Must See Before You Die
  • Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Flickr/Curt Mills. ...
  • Kitch-iti-Kipi. Flickr/Rachel Kramer. ...
  • Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Flickr/Kiyo. ...
  • Nichols Arboretum. ...
  • Grand Haven State Park. ...
  • Fisherman's Island. ...
  • Porcupine Mountains. ...
  • Isle Royale.
22 Jul 2017

Why can you not swim in Kitch ITI Kipi? ›

Can you swim or fish in Kitch-iti-kipi? The short answer is NO! The spring is owned and protected by the state of Michigan, so swimming and fishing are both illegal here. Swimming would be quite an experience and something we wouldn't even think about in that water temperature!

Which lake is the dirtiest of the Great Lakes? ›

Of all of the Great Lakes, Lake Erie had become predominantly polluted by the 1960s, largely due to the heavy industrial presence along its shores. With 11.6 million people living in its basin, and with big cities and sprawling farmland dominating its watershed, Lake Erie is severely impacted by human activities.

Why is Torch Lake So Popular? ›

Torch Lake is famous for its sandbars and turquoise blue waters. Its color is often compared to the Caribbean, which is a fair comparison, from what we saw. When you are on the sandbar, the turquoise water and bright sand are definitely reminiscent of a tropical paradise.

Where is the clearest water in Michigan? ›

Lake Superior

Whether it's superior to the other Great Lakes is a matter of opinion. However, there is no argument this Michigan lake's water is some of the cleanest and clearest. And, in terms of surface area, it is the Earth's largest body of freshwater!

What is the coolest place in Michigan? ›

Best Places to Visit in Michigan
  • Mackinac Island.
  • Holland, MI.
  • Saugatuck.
  • Grand Rapids.
  • Ann Arbor.
  • Muskegon.
  • Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
  • Traverse City.

What is the cleanest city in Michigan? ›

Saranac

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