The following Destination Inspiration about The Upper Peninsula is from Newschool Nomads.
The Upper Peninsula
I don’t know what it is but there is something magical about the fringes of our country. It seems like the edges cultivate beauty and culture. Fringe locations like Outer Banks and Door County are filled with enchantment and interesting things to do. Located to the very northeastern part of Wisconsin and connected to the rest of Michigan by a bridge the Upper Peninsula is no exception. It’s wild and lovely, a perfect place for endless adventures and to find your away.
Depending on your starting location there are many possible routes to the Upper Peninsula or the UP as locals call it. Coming from the south or east or southwest you’ll cross the bridge at Mackinaw City. There is a Michigan Welcome Center you might want to stop at for more information or to stretch your legs. Coming from the northwest you’ll enter through one of the Wisconsin routes.
If you are coming up the I-75 consider stopping at Frankenmuth, MI for lunch and a stroll. It’s known for its Bavarian architecture and is a fun place to stretch your legs. Note: If your route includes the I-196, Holland, MI may be the perfect place to stop and stretch your legs and grab a quick bite. Downtown Holland is charming like Frankenmuth.
Where To Stay
There are many options for setting up home base in the Upper Peninsula. My suggestion is to choose a campground in Munising, Grand Marais, or one in the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. If you decide to stay in the national park be aware there are no reservations, sites have length restrictions, and are primitive. So, arrive early and do your research! If you choose Munising on the western edge of the Pictured Rocks, Munising Tourist Park Campground has spots right on the beach of Lake Superior. They are dreamy! Grand Marais is located on the east end of Pictured Rocks. There we’ve stayed at Woodland Park Campground. It’s located on the bluffs just above Lake Superior with easy beach access. You can’t go wrong at any of these places!
Today we are going to explore Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Pictured Rocks is full of natural beauty with agate beaches, inland lakes, sandstone cliffs, waterfalls, and thick forests. This itinerary is based off of camping in Grand Marais. If you camped in Munising simply reverse the order but give yourself an extra hour to drive back for the boat tour.
Start your morning at Sable Falls located off of County Road H-58 just one mile west of Grand Marais. Be aware to reach the viewing platform you must walk down 169 steps.
Next up is the Log Slide. Not only an impressive vista, the dunes are a piece of history. There used to be a chute atop the dunes that lumberjacks would use to transport logs for shipping.
Next head to the day use parking area of Hurricane River. Walk through the campground down to the beach and you’ll find that it’s a great place to explore for kids and adults. There are cliffs and rocks to climb, beautiful agate to enjoy, and even the remains of an old shipwreck. This beach is a great place for a picnic lunch. If you got an early start, consider taking the 1.5-mile (one way) trail to see the Au Sable Light Station.
Now let’s drive over to Miners Castle Overlook and Information Center. Miners Castle is one of the most famous rock formations in Pictured Rocks and it’s the only cliff area accessible by cars. There is a short trail that leads to an overlook. The views of Lake Superior and the cliffs are stunning. Keep an eye out for Bridal Veil Falls pouring into Lake Superior. Take some time to walk along the Lakeshore-North Country Trail. This trail runs the length of the park but this section has some of the most beautiful views. If you didn’t have lunch at the last stop, nearby Miners Beach is a delightful stop for a picnic.
Not far from Miners Castle is Miners Falls. The falls are lovely and accessible by a short 1.2 miles round trip path through the forest where you’ll likely see wildlife.
Down and around from Miners Cast is Sand Point. Plan to visit Park Headquarters and if you have time stroll along the Sand Point Marsh Trail. It’s a half a mile trail through a lovely wetland area which is a great place for bird watching.
After a full day you’ll likely be hungry and there’s no better place for dinner than an Upper Peninsula classic, a pasty at Muldoons. Quaint and reasonably priced, it’s a perfect place to get a taste of the local ﬂavor.
Last but certainly not least we are going to end our day with a stunning grand ﬁnale, a Pictured Rocks Boat Tour. The sunset tour is arguably the best way to experience the colorful rocks in their full glory! NOTE: If you are traveling in high season book your tour in advance because they often sell out.
Today we are going to head south to the Manistique area for some more exploration!
Palms Books State Park is a lesser known spot in the Upper Peninsula. We heard about this natural treasure through a local friend. The state park is home to Kitch-iti-kipi, or “The Big Spring”, a beautiful pool of clear blue water surrounded by dense forest. Spanning 200 feet wide and 40 feet deep, Kitch-iti-kipi is the largest freshwater spring in Michigan. There is a self-guided raft to take you across the spring where you can look at the swirling colors and shapes through the crystal-clear waters. It really is magical!
Thirty miles south of Palms Book State Park lies another lesser known but fascinating spot in the Upper Peninsula. Fayette Historic State Park was once home to an industrial community that manufactured charcoal pig iron between 1867 and 1891. It was the Upper Peninsula’s most productive iron-smelting operation. The reconstructed site is a now a living history museum where you can look back into time and imagine what it would have been like living in this late 19th century town. Not only is the history fascinating but the grounds are beautiful. Pack a picnic and enjoy lunch with a view of the bay. Plan to spend the afternoon exploring this lovely state park.
On the way back to the campground make a short detour to the town of Manistique for ice cream at the Dairy Kream. There are more than 24 ﬂavors of soft serve ice cream. It’s sure to hit the spot after a busy day of exploring!
I wanted to share a few lesser known places to visit in the Upper Peninsula but if you make the trek to the UP and have a few extra days you will want to visit the very popular Mackinac Island. Only accessible by boat, Mackinac Island is ﬁlled with shops, sightseeing, restaurants, natural beauty, and horses since cars are not allowed on the island.
You’ll want to set up the RV in one of the campgrounds in St Ignace. There are a few to choose from including Straits State Park with lake and bridge views. Take the ferry over to the island in the morning. (Get tickets in advance!) Since there are no cars, you’ll want to bring your bicycles or plan to rent one or you can hire carriages to take you around on the island. Start downtown and enjoy the quaint shops and eateries. Then take a carriage ride around the island through the state park or ride a bike around the perimeter. And of course, grab some fudge for the ferry ride home.
Have you been to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula? What was your favorite attraction or place to camp?