6 Unique Michigan Upper Peninsula Road Trips

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Welcome to a road trip enthusiast's dream destination—the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Need some Upper Peninsula Road Trip Ideas?

Get ready to embark on a captivating journey exploring these epic Upper Peninsula Road Trips ideas. The region is known for its unspoiled wilderness, awe-inspiring landscapes, and treasure troves of hidden gems.

In this blog post, we'll unveil a collection of road trip options that will ignite your wanderlust and leave you yearning for the open road.

Whether you choose to explore the dramatic shores of Lake Superior, witness the majesty of the Pictured Rocks, or traverse the scenic byways that crisscross the peninsula, each route promises the adventure of a lifetime.

Whether you embark on these routes individually or connect them together for an extended adventure, the Upper Peninsula beckons with its rugged beauty, rich history, and warm welcome from the locals.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Route Overview:

Located in the upper peninsula of Michigan, the road trip to the Pictured Rocks area starts in the charming little town of Munising.

From there, you can explore the picturesque roads and hiking trails that lead to the stunning Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

Plan to explore this area for 2-3 days in the Upper Peninsula! There are plenty of lodging options in the area.

My best hotel recommendation is the Roam Inn. If camping is more your speed, check out the Munising Tourist Park Campground for camping right along the shoreline.

Sunset over the lake that was taken from the Munising Tourist Park Campground.

Munising

Your adventure begins in Munising, a quaint town known as the gateway to the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Take a moment to visit some of the waterfalls in the area. 

Stock up on supplies and grab a bite to eat before embarking on your exploration of the lakeshore.

A waterfall found in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore - a must stop destination while on an Upper Peninsula Road Trip!

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

As you enter the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, prepare to be awestruck by the magnificent sandstone cliffs that rise dramatically from Lake Superior's azure waters.

The rock formations, sculpted by wind and water over thousands of years, showcase an array of colors, ranging from vibrant reds to striking blues.

Experience the grandeur of Chapel Rock, a unique formation topped with a solitary tree, and witness the beauty of Miner's Castle, one of the park's iconic landmarks.

Miners Rock photo taken from a boat tour. A boat tour is the best way to see all of the interesting rock formations along the lakeshore.

Boat Cruises and Kayaking:

To truly appreciate the splendor of the Pictured Rocks, consider taking a boat cruise or kayak tour along the shoreline.

These excursions provide an up-close and personal encounter with the towering cliffs, cascading waterfalls, and hidden sea caves. 

Hiking Trails:

The Pictured Rocks offer an extensive network of hiking trails for those who prefer to explore on foot. The Chapel Loop Trail is a popular choice, offering breathtaking views of the cliffs and access to secluded beaches.

Grand Sable Dunes

Venture to the east end of the Pictured Rocks and discover the magnificent Grand Sable Dunes. These towering sand dunes, reaching 300 feet, uniquely contrast the cliffs along the lakeshore.

Take a hike along the 0.6-mile-long Grand Sable Dunes Trail and witness the expansive vistas of Lake Superior and the surrounding forests.

Note: Pets are not permitted on the Grand Sable Dunes Trail or Chapel Loop Trail.

Grand Marais

Your adventure ends in Grand Marais, a small town full of charm. Stroll along its sandy beach, indulge in locally caught fresh fish, and visit the Grand Marais Light Keepers House Museum.

At the Museum, you will discover the area's rich maritime heritage, learn about the brave souls who worked at the nearby lighthouse, and delve into the stories of shipwrecks that dot the shores of Lake Superior. There is also a lighthouse!

The exterior view of the red brick and white sided Light Keepers Museum in Grand Marais.

Best Time to Visit:

The best time to visit the Pictured Rocks area is during the summer months from June to August, when the weather is pleasant and outdoor activities are in full swing.

However, the fall season, from September to October, offers a breathtaking display of vibrant foliage, adding an extra layer of beauty to the landscape.

A summertime view of Tahquamenon Falls - another must stop destination while on an Upper Peninsula Road Trip.

Optional Stops: Consider extending your trip beyond Grand Marais and continue to Tahquamenon Falls State Park. Tahquamenon Falls State Park is home to the magnificent Upper Falls and Lower Falls and has ample camping available.

Whitefish Point, where you can visit the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum and Lighthouse, is also a great day trip activity from Tahquamenon Falls! (Add an additional day to your trip to visit these two destinations.)

A view looking down at the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum and Lighthouse.

Copper Harbor: Copper Country Trail Scenic Byway

Route Overview:

The road trip to Copper Harbor begins in Houghton, where you'll follow US-41 north along the Keweenaw Peninsula until you reach the northernmost point of the Upper Peninsula.

This 50-mile journey takes you through picturesque landscapes, historic sites, and many outdoor activities.

Plan to spend 2-3 days to fully explore all this route has to offer! Houghton is your best bet for hotels in this area.

I recommend staying at the Country Inn & Suites if you like to stay in hotels. If you like to camp, consider staying at Fort Wilkins Historic State Park.

Houghton

Starting your adventure in Houghton, a vibrant university town situated on the shores of Lake Superior, you can explore its lively downtown area.

Visit the Michigan Technological University campus, stroll along the waterfront, and learn about the area's mining history at the Quincy Mine Hoist (in Hancock, just across the river).

This exterior shot of the Quincy Mine Hoist creates a great sense of how large the structure is.

Eagle Harbor

Nestled along the breathtaking shores of Lake Superior, this charming harbor town exudes a tranquil charm, offering a perfect respite amidst nature's beauty.

Immerse yourself in the town's rich maritime history by visiting the picturesque Eagle Harbor Lighthouse, where you can capture stunning views of the rugged coastline and its majestic waters.

Eagle Harbor Lighthouse image taken from across the bay.

Brockway Mountain Drive

Before reaching Copper Harbor, detour to experience the stunning Brockway Mountain Drive. This scenic route offers panoramic views of Lake Superior, the surrounding forests, and the distant Keweenaw Peninsula.

Follow the winding road to the top of Brockway Mountain, where you'll be rewarded with breathtaking vistas that stretch for miles. This is a prime spot for watching sunsets and capturing awe-inspiring photographs.

This photo shows a map of Keweenaw County taken from the West Bluff along the Brockway Mountain Drive.

Copper Harbor

Arriving in Copper Harbor, you'll be greeted by a very small coastal village. The area has limited food options and a couple of hotel options.

Visit the Copper Harbor Lighthouse, which dates back to 1866, and learn about the area's maritime past.

Take a leisurely stroll along the harbor, relax on the sandy beaches, or rent a kayak to explore the crystal-clear waters of Lake Superior.

Also, be sure to visit Fort Wilkins Historic State Park. Fort Wilkins is a restored 1844 army outpost. There are 19 preserved buildings to explore – immerse yourself in the mid-1800s frontier life. 

Historical wooden structures that are open to tour are a highlight at Fort Wilkins Historical State Park. Another Upper Peninsula Road Trip must stop destination.

Outdoor Adventures:

Copper Harbor is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. Engage in various activities such as hiking, mountain biking, and birdwatching.

The nearby Copper Harbor Trail System offers an extensive network of trails, including the renowned Copper Harbor Mountain Bike Trails.

For a thrilling experience, hop aboard the Isle Royale Queen IV for a 3.75-hour boat ride to Isle Royale National Park.

The park is gorgeous and worth the 7.5 hours that you will be spending on the boat (you will have 3 hours to explore the island). Additional days to your trip to include this spectacular destination!

A view from a bluff on Isle Royale. Lots and lots of trees.

Best Time to Visit:

The best time to visit Copper Harbor is summer and early fall. From June to September, the weather is pleasant, allowing for outdoor activities and exploration.

Fall, particularly September and October, treats visitors to vibrant foliage, transforming the landscape into a tapestry of colors.

Black River National Forest Scenic Byway

Route Overview:

The Black River National Forest Scenic Byway stretches approximately 33 miles, meandering through the Ottawa National Forest in the western Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

You'll encounter lush forests, the majestic Black River, and several stunning waterfalls along this route.

This route could be completed in 1-2 days. AmericInn in Ironwood is your best bet for a hotel in the area, or Curry Park Campground in Ironwood is a great place to set up camp. There is also camping near the end of the Byway, by Lake Superior.

Ironwood

Beginning your journey in Ironwood, a historic city nestled in the western Upper Peninsula at the Michigan and Wisconsin state lines, you'll have the opportunity to explore a blend of natural beauty and rich mining heritage.

Visit the Historic Ironwood Theatre, an architectural gem that hosts performances and cultural events. Immerse yourself in the mining history at the Ironwood Area Historical Society Museum

Black River Scenic Byway

As you venture along the Black River Scenic Byway, prepare to be captivated by the breathtaking natural wonders that unfold before you.

The route follows the course of the Black River, renowned for its cascading waterfalls and scenic overlooks. Take your time to stop at each waterfall and enjoy its unique beauty. 

Marvel at the powerful roar of Potawatomi Falls, the multi-tiered cascade of Gorge Falls, and the serene tranquility of Rainbow Falls.

Be sure to explore the hiking trails that meander along the river, allowing you to experience the forest's magic up close.

This multi-tiered waterfall is found along the Black River Scenic Byway and is one of many that are found along the way.

Ottawa National Forest

The Black River National Forest Scenic Byway is enveloped by the Ottawa National Forest, a pristine wilderness haven.

Immerse yourself in the serenity of the forest as you drive through towering pine and hardwood forests.

Keep an eye out for wildlife sightings, as the forest is home to an array of species, including white-tailed deer, black bears, and various bird species.

Best Time to Visit:

The best time to embark on a road trip along the Black River National Forest Scenic Byway is during the summer and early fall.

From June to September, you'll experience pleasant weather, lush greenery, and vibrant wildflowers in the Ottawa National Forest.

The waterfalls along the Black River are at their most majestic during this time, and the hiking trails are easily accessible.

Optional Stop: Between the Copper Harbor and Black River Route, consider visiting the untamed wilderness of the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness.

Towering old-growth forests, dramatic cliffs, and pristine lakes await you in the Porkies. (Add a day or 2 to your schedule to explore this wilderness area!)

A view looking down at the Lake in the Clouds at Porcupine Mountains Wilderness.

US-2, Top of the Lake

Route Overview:

This iconic highway spans the northernmost part of the state, offering a scenic route dotted with charming towns, pristine lakeshores, majestic forests, and awe-inspiring natural wonders.

US-2 stretches across the Upper Peninsula, covering approximately 278 miles from St. Ignace to Ironwood. 

Making this full road trip route with stops in key towns will likely take you 3 to 4 days to complete. Adding additional days for the optional stops mentioned. This road trip route will require you to make different reservations along the route.

Most of the towns mentioned in the stretch of highway will have hotel options, and Michigan State Parks are not far from this route.

A view of the Mackinac Bridge taken from shore.

St. Ignace

Starting your adventure in St. Ignace, the gateway to the Upper Peninsula, you'll be greeted by stunning views of the Mackinac Bridge, connecting the peninsula to the Lower Peninsula.

Explore Fort de Buade Museum, where you can delve into the region's rich Native American and French colonial history. 

Take advantage of the opportunity to visit Castle Rock, an iconic limestone formation with an observation deck providing panoramic views of Lake Huron and the surrounding landscape.

This was a bit scary as a kid, but as an adult, it's not that big of a deal.

Consider camping at Straits State Park for great evening views of the Mackinac Bridge!

Tip: A ferry can take you to Mackinaw Island from St. Ignace. You can explore the island's rich history, from the iconic Grand Hotel to Fort Mackinac, and immerse yourself in the quaint Victorian-era ambiance. Mackinaw Island is a great day trip! (Add a day to your trip to visit the island.)

Manistique

Heading west, you'll come to Manistique, a hidden gem nestled along the shores of Lake Michigan. This charming town offers a delightful blend of natural beauty, outdoor adventures, and small-town hospitality.

Explore the picturesque Manistique Boardwalk, offering panoramic views of the lake and the Manistique Lighthouse.

A wintery photo of the Manistique Boardwalk looking at the Manistique Lighthouse.

The nearby Palms Book State Park is a must-visit for nature enthusiasts, featuring the mysterious Kitch-it-kip, one of Michigan's largest freshwater springs. Consider camping at nearby Indian Lake State Park.

This site is definitely a hidden gem in the Upper Peninsula.

Take the boat to the middle of the spring to enjoy the emerald green water and pine tree backdrop at Kitch-it-kip!

Optional Stop: Fayette Historic State Park is out of the way, but it's a neat place with a lot of history! Head south on M-183 to reach Fayette Historic State Park, a captivating outdoor museum that transports you to a bustling 19th-century iron-smelting town.

Explore the preserved remnants of this once-thriving industrial community. (Add an additional 1/2 day to a full day for this stop – camping is available at the park).

A view looking through windows of an old ruin and into the bay, were a boat and cliffs are captured.

Escanaba

Continuing west along US-2, you'll arrive in the charming town of Escanaba, nestled on the shores of Little Bay de Noc.

Fishing enthusiasts will be delighted by the area's excellent fishing opportunities, while outdoor adventurers can explore the nearby Hiawatha National Forest, offering hiking trails and camping sites.

Visit the Delta County Historical Museum to learn about the region's past and admire exhibits showcasing local artifacts and culture. Or stop by the Sand Point Lighthouse!

Iron Mountain

A stop at Iron Mountain promises an enriching and diverse experience. This quaint town beckons travelers with its warm hospitality and captivating charm.

Unearth the region's mining history at the Cornish Pumping Engine and Mining Museum, where you can delve into the area's heritage. Or check out the WWII Glider & Military Museum!

For outdoor enthusiasts, immerse yourself in nature's embrace by exploring the nearby Fumee Falls or hiking the 2.6-mile Piers Gorge Trail.

If you want real excitement, head to the largest ski jumping facility in North America, the Pine Mountain Ski Jump.

A glider at the WWII Glider and Military Museum, just one of many on display.

Ironwood

Reaching the western end of US-2, you'll find Ironwood, a town in the heart of the Gogebic Range. Visit the Historic Ironwod Depot & Museum to learn about the area's railroad heritage and explore exhibits showcasing local history.

Remember to snap a photo with the giant Hiawatha statue, a beloved symbol of the Upper Peninsula's natural beauty.

Best Time to Visit:

The best time to embark on a road trip along US-2 through the Upper Peninsula is summer and early fall. From June to September, you'll experience pleasant weather, longer daylight hours, and optimal conditions for outdoor activities.

The fall season, particularly September and October, treats visitors to a breathtaking display of vibrant foliage, enhancing the already stunning landscapes along the route.

M-35, The Hidden Coast

Route Overview:

Embark on a captivating journey along Michigan's M-35, an enchanting roadway that unveils the hidden coastal beauty from Gladstone to Menominee.

As you cruise along this picturesque route, get ready to be mesmerized by breathtaking shoreline vistas, charming towns, and an array of outdoor adventures.

Allow 1 day to visit this Hidden Coast. Consider staying at the Comfort Suites in Escanaba.

Gladstone

Known for its picturesque waterfront and rich maritime history, Gladstone offers a delightful blend of natural beauty and small-town charm.

Explore the tranquil Van Cleve Park, where you can relax by the shimmering waters of Little Bay de Noc, swim, or enjoy a picnic. 

Escanaba

Make a stop in Escanaba, a vibrant city known for its scenic beauty and rich maritime history. Take a stroll along the picturesque Ludington Park, where you can enjoy stunning views of Little Bay de Noc, or try your luck at fishing.

Take the chance to visit the William Bonifas Fine Arts Center, showcasing an impressive collection of local and regional artwork.

Escanaba is also home to the Upper Peninsula State Fair, which is held annually in mid-August.

Menominee

Next on the itinerary is the charming town of Menominee, nestled along the Michigan and Wisconsin border. Enjoy the stunning views of the waterfront and the Menominee North Pier Lighthouse.

Best Time to Visit:

A road trip along the Hidden Coast is best during the summer, from June to August. This period provides ideal weather conditions for enjoying the outdoor attractions and activities along the route.

Summer offers a perfect backdrop for your adventure, from boating and fishing in the shimmering waters to hiking scenic trails and immersing yourself in the vibrant culture of the coastal towns.

M-134, Huron Shores Heritage Route

Route Overview:

Michigan's M-134 spans approximately 40 miles through the stunning landscapes of the Upper Peninsula. This scenic route offers captivating views of Lake Huron's sparkling waters and rugged coastlines.

Explore small towns where you can enjoy waterfront views, visit marinas, and discover unique museums.

Enjoy the detour to Drummond Island for nature's splendor, with scenic trails, secluded beaches, and the mesmerizing Marble Head formation. 

Allow 1 to 2 days for this road trip. Consider staying at Best Western Harbour Point Lakefront, St. Ignace for a room with great views or renting a place on Drummond Island!

St. Ignace

Setting off from the town of St. Ignace, you'll find yourself immersed in the beauty of Lake Huron and its surrounding natural wonders. St. Ignace offers ferry rides to nearby Mackinac Island, where life takes place at a slower pace.

Mackinaw Island street view, with many bicycles and historical buildings lining the street.

Cedarville

Continuing your journey, the road will lead you to Cedarville. Take a leisurely stroll along the picturesque waterfront, visit the Les Cheneaux Historical Museum or the Les Cheneaux Maritime Museum.

You might even glimpse the Les Cheneaux Islands' famous wooden boats gliding through the crystal-clear waters.

De Tour Village

A stop at De Tour Village unveils a hidden coastal gem that will leave you spellbound.

This quaint village offers a serene retreat along the shores of Lake Huron, inviting travelers to unwind and embrace the tranquility of the Great Lakes.

Explore the De Tour Botanical Garden, or take a scenic ferry ride to the captivating Drummond Island, a nature lover's paradise that has miles of hiking and biking trails.

The island has unique geological formations, including the captivating Marble Head and ancient limestone cliffs.

Drummond Island shoreline with people in the lake.

Best Time to Visit:

Plan your adventure during the summer, from June to September, to enjoy this road trip more thoroughly. During this time, the weather is pleasant, the days are longer, and the region is bustling with activity.

Final Thoughts: Upper Peninsula Road Trips

These Upper Peninsula Road Trips here are just a glimpse of the region's abundant wonders. From stunning landscapes to charming towns and captivating attractions, each journey promises a unique adventure.

But don't stop here – these road trips can be seamlessly linked together to craft an extended exploration of this breathtaking region.

So, let your wanderlust guide you as you connect the dots and embark on an epic road trip adventure across the Upper Peninsula's boundless beauty.

The possibilities are limitless, and the memories are unforgettable. Happy road-tripping!

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