Michigan’s Upper Peninsula on Lake Superior is chock-full of adventures that make it perfect for a road trip.
When you’re planning your trip to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, commonly known as the U.P., keep in mind that it’s a long drive from anywhere so you’ll want to give yourself as long as possible to relax and explore when you get here. Trust us when we say that one or two nights just isn’t enough! We recommend three nights at the bare minimum and no matter how long you stay, you’ll wish you had more time.
Lucky for you, there is plenty of unique lodging to stay in so you can keep coming back over time. When we head to our own cabin in the Keweenaw, we get just as excited about revisiting our favorite places along the road as we do kicking back on our cabin deck overlooking Lake Superior.
Depending on which direction you’re coming from, you can pick and choose what suits you! Here are some ideas to get you going:
From the East: Pictured Rocks, Kitch-iti-Kippie, Marquette, plus a bonus stop
Consider earning your relaxation by making the Pictured Rocks a pre-cabin backpacking trip—one of our favorite things to do. No matter how many times we come here, we always discover something new. You could make this a pit stop for lunch or spend the entire day.
In addition to the Pictured Rocks themselves, which are named for the streaks of mineral stain that can be seen on the face of the weather-sculpted cliffs, the lakeshore also offers 12 miles of pristine beaches, nearly five miles of enormous sand dunes, several waterfalls, and lighthouses.
Within the park, over 100 miles of trail lead to remote lakes, streams, and forest to explore. Check out the National Park Service’s Pictured Rocks website for more info on planning your stop here.
We highly recommend you check out Kitch-iti-kipi—Michigan’s largest natural freshwater spring in Palms Book State Park. The name means “big cold water” and is sometimes referred to as The Big Spring, and when you see it, you’ll understand why! At 200 feet across and 40 feet deep with an emerald green bottom, there is absolutely nothing like it that we’ve ever seen.
Be sure to take the self-operated observation raft to view the fascinating underwater features like ancient tree trunks, lime-encrusted branches, and fish swimming through the crystal clear water. The Big Spring is also really rich in Native American history, with several legends about how its name came to be. It’s a pretty major tourist attraction, so plan your visit to Kitch-iti-kipi accordingly.
Next on this route, we love stopping in Marquette, a major port on Lake Superior known for its picturesque scenery and outdoor recreation. This sweet little town and its surrounding county is continuously named one of the best US towns to visit and live in, and for good reason.
People love the shoreline and mountain access combined with a vibrant urban scene, like Marquette’s strong brewery culture.
For the ultimate Americana road trip stop, you’ve got to check out Lakenenland. Ironworker Tom Lakenen has populated his 37-acre park with more than 100 sculptures (or junkyard art, depending on how you look at them), including monsters, aliens, and dinosaurs that he says he saw while drinking.
Lakenen moved them here after his home town made him take them off of his lawn. 15 miles east of Marquette, you can stroll or drive through the free display, open around the clock every day of the year.
From the West: The Apostle Islands and a Copper Country mine tour
The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is a special place, and in our humble opinion, a must-visit while you’re on the U.P. This designated Wisconsin national lakeshore is a jumping off point for an endless number of activities for outdoor lovers, from sea kayaking to bird watching, it really has something for everyone.
Fresh Coast Tip
Know before you go by checking out the National Park Service Apostle Islands website for events, closures, weather, and other important updates.
Adventure Mining Co.
One of the Keweenaw Heritage Sites, the Adventure Mine offers a view of the world’s greatest copper district—actually traversing underground wearing a hardhat with a headlamp to light your way. They offer an adventure for everyone, ranging from a 45-minute walk to a six-hour excursion to the second level of the mine.
You’ll see large underground stopes and in-place copper specimens as well as other features and remnants resulting from years of mining operations in Michigan’s Copper Country. The mine remains a temperate 48 degrees inside, making it a great activity when you want to escape from the elements. Find more info and tour booking at Adventure Mine Company.
Stay in touch
We hope to see you soon in the Keweenaw! Reach out to us if you’re looking for lodging or have any questions about planning your trip. We love hosting and sharing our favorite parts of this magical place.
Cover photo: Dan Gomer