August 2022 COVID update: COVID-19 (and the policies that
attempt to control/stop it) has hit all businesses hard. As I write
this in Michigan, staffing jobs, maybe especially seasonal jobs, is
incredibly difficult. So PLEASE BE PATIENT with the people who actually
are showing up for work and trying to serve you. And almost everything
here could be wrong. Where I know of updates, I have added a note
like this below. But as of August, 2022, things are very slowly
getting less weird.
Nick's Michigan's Upper Peninsula Travel Guide
I love vacationing in the Michigan's Upper Peninsula, and I
often have friends looking for suggestions. So after putting this
together for e-mail a few times, figured I should just put it on my
This is unabashedly aimed at people traveling from the Detroit, MI area,
though may be useful for people from anywhere.
This is also aimed at people traveling by surface vehicle. Flying is
how to GET somewhere, driving is about the journey. I have very little
experience boating, though I could imagine spending a lot of time and
money traveling around (literally!) the UP by boat. Would be fun
(and terrifying -- Lake Superior is about as close to an ocean as you
get without salt).
On the way
When leaving Detroit a good stopping point if you don't get all the way
to St. Ignace: West Branch: We've stayed three times at the Quality
Inn at West Branch, which is right off I-75 exit 212. First time was an
accident -- got a late start, weather was horrible, decided to quit for
the night and resume the trip in the morning. Last few times (including
lunches without a stop) were deliberately planned because we enjoyed the
place so much. Decent rooms, and the Lumber Jack restaurant with the
motel is fantastic for breakfast, lunch and dinner. About three hours
from Detroit. Next door to Tanger Outlet Center, we will not be held
responsible for blowing the vacation budget before crossing the bridge.
Mackinaw City: We've never actually stayed in Mackinaw City, though we
often pause there on the way.
There's a nice park under (literally!)
the bridge, you can stick a foot in Lake Huron..or Lake Michigan, or as
Paula and I like doing, one foot in each:
There's also a lighthouse you can tour, including going up to the light
tower. It is a fascinating glimpse of a different kind of life, though
to really understand it, you must remember the rest of the town didn't
exist, nor did the bridge, the freeway, or any way to get access to the
rest of the world should you run low on...well...ANYTHING. And you must
have experienced a Yooper Winter...
Bridge park: free. Lighthouse: charge (don't recall what)
Hint: the spiral staircase leading up to the light tower is
somewhat...well, terrifying. The tower is very solid, there's no
swaying or anything...it's just a long spiral staircase, which I (and
Paula) found somewhat discomforting and claustrophobic... Going
up...scary. Down, scary. Up in the tower, not bad, other than knowing
that at some point, you have to head down. But...worth doing.
Yes, I don't consider a trip to the UP having "started" until you cross
Something worth knowing/remembering. There's a spelling difference between
some of the things called "Mackinaw"
It may be that the City of Mackinaw wanted to minimize postal carrier confusion
between the city and island. But however it's spelled, it's always pronounced
- Mackinaw City
- Mackinac Bridge
- Straits of Mackinac
- Mackinac Island
The Mackinac Bridge
The Mackinac Bridge is the third longest suspension bridge in the world. This
freaks a lot of people out. I've been across the bridge in winter storms and
in strong crosswinds on a motorcycle. It can be ... "interesting" but only one
car has ever gone over the bridge, and no motorcycles. They do a really good job
of closing the bridge when the weather is bad, but you want to go slowly. However
you don't want to stop.
If you really can't go over the bridge on your own, they Bridge Authority does
offer a service where they get you and your car across the bridge without you
driving. I don't think this works for motorcycles.
The U.P. (Upper Peninsula, or Yooper Land)
Paula and I really love this town. At one point, there were t-shirts and signs
reading, "St. Ignace: a drinking town with a fishing problem". But
still...it's a nice place. Very tourist dependent, but also appears to
have a little life of its own beyond tourists.
Right after you cross the bridge, you come across the US-2 exits. West
takes you deep into the UP, East takes you to downtown St. Ignace. Not
taking either exit leaves you on I-75, next stop, Sault St. Marie! I'd
suggest the East exit.
We like to stay at the Quality Inn Lakefront, in large part because their rooms
are quiet, their prices are good, and they seem to know who we are, and
often give us hot tub rooms. Though really, we've not been disappointed
by any of the places we've stayed there, bang-for-the-buck-wise, at
least. Driftwood was small, older stuff, but dirt cheap, and seems to be a
favorite for motorcyclists and snowmobilers.
There are many places to stay in St. Ignace, but some do close in the
We have since stayed at the OTHER Quality Inn in St. Ignace -- from memory,
it used to be called "Quality Inn Bridgeview" or something similar, very
near the Mackinac Bridge. Open year round, we were very satisfied with it
as well, other than not being walking distance from Java Joe's.
Places to eat/go/etc/:
- Java Joe's: Run by a guy named Joe, a guy you don't know, but will be friends
with about two minutes after meeting him. Actually in peak season,
maybe not, as the place will be too busy for Joe to get too personal.
Great place for breakfast, though when busy (which is "usually"), it
tends to be slow, so don't be in a rush, enjoy the teapots, the art, the
Forget diets, fasting, etc. Besides, you will be doing some walking
later. Easy walk from Quality Inn Lakefront.
Open year round, more or less, though hours vary over the year.
October 2021 COVID update: as of early October, Java Joe's is
seating at only 50% of their already small capacity, so wait times
are long and the wait is outdoors. Decide accordingly.
July 2022 update: Might be best to consider Java Joe's a destination
rather than a step on the way to destination. Something to see, but you will
probably miss your motel checkout time.
- Jose's Cantina:
Great Mexican food (ok I may not be an expert on Mexico or its
people's food, but I enjoy it!)
They've bent over backwards
to take good care of us.
Also an easy walk from Quality Inn, Lakefront.
October 2021 COVID update: seating at capacity, very short
staffed, but we were stunned how fast they brought out our food.
July 2022 update: has been sold to the chef, food is as good
as ever, staffing seemed good, was busy when we were there on a
Thursday evening, but good service.
Good food, good people. Motel is
spartan, but cheap...and obviously loved by motorcyclists, snowmobilers,
etc. It is usually the first place in town to put out the "No Vacancy"
sign, but they will still happily serve you food.
They have ALSO bent over backwards to take good care of us at the
October 2021 COVID update: I've been told their salad bar, one of
our favorite features there, is suspended for now.
July 2022 COVID update: We spotted a "Breakfast Bar Saturday and Sunday"
so I'm guessing they may have their salad bar back. We did not verify.
Apparently, St. Ignace has fireworks displays on Saturday
Nights throughout the summer. We have managed to never be there on a
Saturday night in the summer.
- Mystery Spot: Blatant tourist trap, basically a "disorient the heck out
of you, and make you wonder why water appears to be flowing up hill and
why are you able to walk on this wall?" kinda place. Expensive for what
it is, but if you have never been to one of these places, you should.
There is no magic, there is no mystery (once you figure it out), but
there is fun to be had.
Maybe an hour total.
(no, the laws of physics aren't really suspended, but much of the
fun is figuring out how they do what they are doing)
- Cut River Bridge, 25 miles on US-2 West of St. Ignace:
You actually get to walk along...and UNDER the bridge. There's a good
barrier against traffic, but you WILL know when a truck goes by you at
50MPH just a few feet away. If you want to hike, you can walk all the
way down to the river. You do not cross US-2 -- you go down a staircase
on one side, cross under US-2, pop up the other side, walk along the
road (in the barricaded sidewalk) to the other side...quite fascinating.
A little scary. Rather unique. Probably can spend as little as 15
minutes there, and if you want to walk down to the river or lake, could
probably spend an entire day. I drove over this bridge many
many times with no idea how interesting it was until I was told to look
at it by Java Joe. The bridge is 147 feet over the river! I never
would have dreamed that, I usually thought of myself at being "near lake
level" when driving over it. If you end up on US2, I really recommend
stopping here, it's very different and free. You can park on either
side of the bridge.
disclaimer: We haven't actually walked the bridge in quite a
few years. I *think* things are as they were, but there was a huge number
of years where it seemed to be under perpetual construction, not sure
what the end result is.
- Lake Michigan Beaches along US-2:
Between St. Ignace and the Cut River
Bridge, US-2 hugs Lake Michigan, with some very very nice beach front
between the road and the lake. We are talking about TWO MILES of beach
here...and you can pull your car over to the side of the road and get
out and play in the lake or on the beach. Many of them face west, if
you get a chance to watch the sunset over Lake Michigan, it's highly
recommended. About 11 miles west of St. Ignace.
- Lehtos' Pasties:
This is one of the (debatably) highest regarded UP
Pasties around. On US-2, about six miles west of St. Ignace. They sell
'em warm, cold, frozen. Get a few warm, then eat on the beach
(don't forget the ketchup. While some like gravy on their pasties,
supposedly ketchup is more authentic Yooper. Opinions on that vary, too.)
and some cold or frozen ones to take home.
They also have a storefront in St. Ignace, now.
- Mackinac Island:
Fun boat ride. Some people love the romance of a town with no motor
vehicles (other than golf carts on the golf course, and construction
equipment). Lots of shopping, lots of fudge shops. Personally, the
smell of horse poop makes me miss my car horribly. Hint: don't step in
any puddles. ("Why not?". Paula asked me. "Because it hasn't rained
recently". "Oooohhh!!!!"). There are
three two ferry services
(R.I.P. Arnold Line) to the
island, they are careful to make sure they are all the exact same time
in transit, and I believe the prices are pretty darned close, too. You
can spend anywhere from an hour to several days on the island (I imagine
you get used to the smell eventually). Some call it one of the Jewels
of Michigan. I say "horse shit". If you have never been there, you
should go. I'll admit my obsession with the smell is seemingly a
minority opinion (and they DO have a small army of people cleaning up
after the horses, so it isn't like it's a rotting cesspool. Just
stinky). Note, you can get to Mackinac Island from either St. Ignace or
Mackinaw City. I like crossing the bridge, so I've never had any
thought of going from Mackinaw City. It seems a lot of people do NOT
like to cross the bridge, and thus, have never thought of crossing from
There is a new Mackinac Island ferry option -- Star Lines has a
has a "historic" ferry, much slower and somewhat cheaper
than the usual choices. As I enjoy the boat ride more than the island,
this would be my choice. Worth checking out. We did on our last
trip, turned out the "slow boat" only runs during peak season, when we
went last in early September, it was done for the season.
On our last trip, we took a horse-drawn tour around the island. This
was definitely worthwhile. And the smell was, for unknown reasons, far
less than I ever remember it being -- maybe there was a good wind.
And yes, we've actually taken the boat to the Island, spent 15 minutes on
the island, and hopped back on the next boat back. I do enjoy the boat ride.
- Soo Locks, Sault St. Marie:
This is a U.P. Must See.
When you get to the Soo Locks, your first indication of anything
interesting may be a very large building...which you realize is moving,
either side to side or up and down. That's no building, that's a ship
in the locks. There's an observation platform where you can be as
little as 30ft from a 700ft long freighter (somewhat further from the
1000ft freighters). Some days, you will have to wait to see a ship,
other days, the ships will be stacked up waiting to use the locks. If
you don't see a ship when you get there, first stop should be the
visitor's center to find out when the next ship is planning on
locking-through. If soon, get out there and watch the entire process.
If not, tour the visitor center, learn how the locks work, how they were
built, etc. If really not soon, wander up and down the main drag
opposite the locks, lots of fun shopping, eating, etc. Paula and I
usually do day trips into the Soo, usually either moving on to
Tahquamenon Falls or back to St. Ignace, but day or days could be spent
in the Sault. St. Ignace -> Soo Locks -> Tahquamenon Falls -> St.
Ignace is a doable, though long day.
The best parking in Sault St. Marie is with meters, have a pocket full
of quarters...though if I recall properly, $2 in quarters will cover you
for a whole day. There is free parking, but if you see a ship locking
through, park close, stuff the meter with money and run!
There are two locks currently in use -- the MacArthur Lock, which is
closest to the observation deck, which supports only the smaller ships
(less than 800ft long, 80ft wide), and the Poe Lock (hey, I didn't name
it, I'm just saying what they call it) which supports the 1000ft freighters.
They are in the process of rebuilding the other two, basically abandoned
locks to be a second 1000ft feigher capable lock.
Unfortunately, this new lock will be further away from the observation
deck. It is the right design decision, but I'm not happy about that.
Things to look for while watching a boat lock through:
- Front of the ship -- you will often see a burst of water disturbance
at the very bow of the ship, sometimes accompanied by a burst of diesel
smoke coming from a small stack at the front(!). That's a bow thruster
-- almost all lake freighters now have them, either when built or
retrofitted. It's a 500-1500hp electric motor that blows water either
direction through a hole in the bow, that allows the nose of the ship to
be positioned accurately at very slow water speeds (i.e., in the lock).
- If watching the water rise in an empty lock, look for eddies in the
water, that's from the water inlets/outlets that run the entire length
of the lock (why not just at one end? they want the water
LIFTING/LOWERING the ship, not pushing it forwards or backwards in the lock.
- Note the booms, like crossing gates, at both ends of the lock. I
rather doubt the gates themselves would stop a run-away freighter, but
I have been told there's a cable in the gate that is attached to a
set of "brakes" in the lock that would end up squeezing the side of
The freighter if it rammed the gates. Or that might be totally bogus.
- When a freighter is right in your face, note the self-unloading boom
("self-unloader") -- often around 200-250ft in length, swings out to
unload cargo quickly. Most, but not all, lake freighters have
self-unloaders...most have the boom, though there are a few oddballs
out there that have other mechanisms (and are thus restricted to which
ports they can dock at).
- get pictures of all freighters you see, including their names. Look
'em up on boatnerd.com to learn more about them. And I'll want to see
what ones you saw. :) Keep an eye out for the Stewart Cort. If you
see it, wave to it for me. It's the Great Lakes first 1000ft ship, I've
seen it four times in my life -- once when I was about seven years old,
on its maiden voyage past Port Huron, and not until just a few years ago
several times at the Soo Locks. It has one of those odd self-unloaders, and thus
never comes down Lake Huron.
There are Soo Lock Boat Tours, both "simple go through the locks,
sometimes on your own, sometimes WITH a big freighter", and a "dinner
cruise". We have not yet managed the dinner cruise, the lock tour was
Little secret: Mackinac Island is known for the fudge shops, but if you
want really good fudge, other places will spend more time doing quality
over quantity. Paula doesn't like fudge, and she doesn't like dark
chocolate, but we got some dark chocolate fudge in Sault Ste. Marie
across from the locks which beat the heck out of anything we have had
on the island. The young man who was making it told us that it's all
in the time and effort that goes into the work -- if you rush, you get
"grainy" feeling fudge. It appears he is right. Paula consumed much
of the fudge I bought just for myself!
- Point Iroquois Lighthouse:
You can hit this between Sault St. Marie and Tahquamenon Falls. It's
another lighthouse tour, similar to the Mackinaw City lighthouse, but a
lot less people there. What I said about the spiral staircase in
Mackinaw City applies here..and then some, as this is a tighter spiral.
Once you get to the top, quite a view.
Getting here from Sault St. Marie requires hugging Lake Superior,
probably a longer drive than dipping down to M28 then back to M123, but
we found it a fun drive...and tripped across this light house in the
- Tahquamenon Falls:
There are actually TWO stops -- the upper and lower falls. You want to
go to both. If you paid the $10 extra for your Michigan license plate, free
admission to this state park. At the lower falls you can rent a canoe
and paddle out to an island to see the lower falls from the other side
(under the falls...you won't be going over them in a canoe you rent
there). The lower falls are a bunch (four or five) of smaller falls,
the upper falls is one really big, impressive falls. Tourist-trappy
stuff at both, more at upper falls, iirc. Lots of walking, and good
hiking opportunities, if you are into such things. There are two long
sets of stairs you can take at the upper falls. One puts you near the
edge of the falls, the other puts you at lower river level a long ways
from the falls. The stairs near the falls are worth taking, the ones
further away...I don't think so (though if you were going to hike around
the area, I believe the other stairs were a better start/end
point). Apparently, you used to be able to walk BEHIND the upper falls,
not permitted any more (supposedly. Someone I shared this info with
told me he walked behind the upper falls. Life is dull when you follow
the rules). Getting to Tahq falls is
a long drive, it is in the middle of not-much, and no roads go directly
there and back..it's a long, looping, and if you don't have a map or GPS,
I find the late afternoon sun less than optimal for viewing the falls
(you end up looking into the sun), so my recommendation is to get there
before the sun gets too low.
- Grand Marais: Located on the northern coast of the UP, we
found this town by accident -- and gassing up the motorcycle, Paula
walked around and found an amazing view, and told me, "We are coming
back here!". Turned out to be harder than expected, this is a tourist
town, and there's a shortage of places to stay and eat (and they may
like it that way). MAKE RESERVATIONS. Don't be in a rush, either.
The one diner that was open for breakfast when we were there had one
guy working the kitchen (no one else was allowed), and the wait was
non-trivial. When we walked in, the waitress told us they had only
one, four-person table available, and asked if we would be willing to
share it with the next couple that walked in. I turned around, saw
a couple, and said, "Like them?" "No, you don't want to eat with him,"
she told me. We had a great time, though with this couple, who was a
part-time resident of the area. Which is good -- it took close to an
hour for us to get our food. One item on the menu was the "K.N.O.W.
Omelette" -- you tell the waitress what you don't want in it, and
the owner/chef knows best what you will enjoy based on what he's got
available at that moment, and he'll make you what he feels like!
The owner/chef, when things get busy like they were when we were there,
batches food to get the most total number of people served as rapidly
as possible -- but that means YOUR table will probably get its food
delivered one person at a time, with quite a gap between.
If you are in a hurry, you are probably not wanting to be in Grand
Marias. But that's ok -- it's not "on the way" between places anyway.
You meant to go there, so enjoy it. Besides, as a Yooper friend once
told me (and I probably needed to hear it), "What's your hurry, eh?"
Between Grand Marais and Munising lies the road H-58, which is a long,
twisty, completely not-shortest-distance-between-two-places road.
I've heard H58 compared favorably with the "Tail of the Dragon" at
Deals Gap, North Carolina. It was recently (as of my writing in 2018)
paved, so it's in excellent condition, and a lot of fun for motorcycling.
Big RV or trailer? Maybe not so fun.
So far, I've mostly covered the eastern UP, I have LOTS to say about
the more Western UP, but I haven't got it done yet.
But here are a few points:
Much of the fun in the UP is a "Copper Country Cruise", which every cruiser
has their own definition of, but for me, they usually origin in Houghton,
cross the bridge to Hancock,
and end up in Copper Harbor. There are a number of fun roads that connect
between the two places, though.
- Biff's Military Surplus: Yea, I know, there are a lot of
military surplus places in the world, and some much bigger than Biff's.
But the small size is part of the fun here, a lot less overwhelming, and
handy. And definitely some real military surplus, not just "camping
supplies" (and new stuff, too). We tend to stop there every time, and
we usually add a few things to the back of the car or motorcycle every
stop at Biff's. Reason to go to the UP? No. Good 20 minute stop? yep.
Just East of Munising on M28.
- Munising: Take the Pictured Rocks boat tour. Not sure I'd
recommend staying in Munising, however. We tried to stay a couple days
once, we really ran out of things to do. We've been told the residents
aren't really fond of how they have become a tourist town.
October 2021 update: Our favorite ice cream place is now a pot house.
One good restaurant is closed, another is a pot house. Other than Pictured
Rocks, I'm honestly not seeing a lot of reason to stay here, and we seem to
have lost our two reasons to pause on the way. Now, if you like getting
high, well, maybe this is where you want to be.
- Lakenenland: a sculpture park, privately run and owned.
Tom Lakenen has a chunk of land, and builds stuff on it, and lets people
enjoy it. For free! Walk around or even drive around, though you will
probably want to step out of the car and look closer at times. 24x7x365.
Very unique place.
About ten miles outside of Marquette.
Literally no reason, other than "out of time!" not to stop here.
Wheeled vehicles not allowed around the sculpture during the winter, I
suspect snow and ice will be the primary enforcing agent on that rule.
You probably want a bit of ground clearance on your vehicle if you want
to drive around the art.
- Marquette: while much of the UP is tourist trap and history,
Marquette is a functioning iron mining town still.
There's a bit of everything here, we had a very good Cajun meal at a
restaraunt in a basement in Marquette. Special shout-outs to
Bald Eagle Harley Davidson
and Mr. Wrecker for taking
great care of us when our motorcycle had problems 300 miles
from the nearest supporting dealer.
- Yooper Tourist Trap: About 15 miles past Marquette in Ishpeming.
The most honest place about the goal of separating you
from your money. Worth a walk through, lots of fun.
Just off US41 between Marquette and Escanaba, near the exact middle of the
Upper Peninsula is the tiny town of Trenary,
noted for two things -- Trenary Toast and ...
As far as I am aware, these two events are unrelated. Trenary Toast is
a curious creation of cinnamon toast that is sold in paper bags and has
the curious trait of not going stale. It has a rated shelf life of a
year, but I've heard stories of someone finding a bag of it in their
hunting cabin that hadn't been used in four years ... and it was still
good (test: break a piece. if it snaps audibly and visibly, it's good).
The Trenary Home Bakery is
the retail outlet for the toast making group, but also has home-made
cinnamon rolls and many other things. Great stop on US41.
Had a nice chat with the person working at the bakery, and then the owner
of the Bakery, who did willingly share the secret chemistry of the
never-stale Trenary Toast, but I'm not telling you here. hahaha!
Paula wanted to understand the small-town life of Trenary. The person
running the bakery told us, "it's really not that big a deal -- Munising,
Marquette and Escanaba are all about thirty minutes away". Geographically,
sure, that's a distance, but if I want to go to a big hardware store or
grocery store, I have a 20+ minute trip, myself. Nowhere near as much
distance, but much slower roads and much more traffic in the way.
The Outhouse Races are a lot of fun, too. Yes, people build outhouses, on
skis, which are pushed down a snow track by two people. Some people are
there to win, some people are there to be seen, some people are there to
raise interest and money for their causes. Large amounts of fun and
toilet humor, as you can imagine.
- Keweenaw Peninsula: This is my favorite part of the UP, if you think this is long
so far, I could write many times this on just this little chunk of
the Upper Peninsula. This is Michigan's historic Copper Country -- the
only place in the entire world one can pick up a rock and see RAW,
recognizable copper (and with a lot of luck, patience and some idea
where to look, sometimes still can). The mines were so rich that the
WASTE ROCK had more copper in it than the "prime" ore they pull out of
the ground today from other parts of the world. There are a few old
mines tourists can go through -- highly recommended. The place is just
loaded with history and historic ruins. A trip to Copper Harbor via M26
is recommended -- plan on stopping in Eagle River, The Jam Pot, any/all
of the road-side waterfalls, go up Brockway Mountain Drive...
- The Library: One of our "Must Stop" places is a restaurant called "The Library" in
downtown Houghton. When I went to school, it was a dark and smoky bar.
Now it's an open, airy place with the most amazing soup -- Swiss Onion.
Nothing like French Onion. A lot of old-timers will say "it ain't the
same as The (old) Library", I agree, I like the new one much better.
Some of my old-timer friends think I'm insane for saying that. Whatever.
- Other recommended places in Houghton are Victoria's Kitchen and
- In Copper Harbor: Harbor Haus. Well, I'm putting this here because
some people I respect really love this place. It's expensive "fine
dining", though casual dress -- wine, salad, expensive meal, desert. It
is not what I like when traveling. Been there twice, both times,
impressed by the price more than the food. Yet, I know someone who
considered it the greatest place to get a meal in the world. Isn't the
world wonderful that people can have differing opinions?
Other than Brockway Mountain Drive and probably Cliff Drive, all these
roads are kept passible year-round. I did a lot of driving up there in
a very old rear-wheel drive car, they really do handle the snow well up
- US-41: yes, this road extends all the way to the southern tip of
Florida. This road goes more-or-less through the center of the Keweenaw,
and if Copper Harbor is your goal, it's the fastest route. Passes through
Calumet and Laurium.
- M203: If you "turn left" at Hancock, you can take M203 along the
northern shore of the Portage Canal, past McLain State Pari, and then to
Calumet/Laurium, and reconnect with US41.
- M26: If you "turn right" at Hancock, you take M26 along the
Portage, past Dollar Bay and Torch Lake (which is connected to the Portage).
Lots of interesting mining ruins, including the Quincy Dredges. Ultimately
takes you back to US41.
- Cliff Drive: This bypasses a chunk of US41 north of Calumet,
south of Phoenix. If you are in a hurry, don't do it. If you are not
into rough dirt roads, don't do it. If you want to see some trees, go for
it. There was some very early mining operations along there, most of it
is hidden by trees, but there are signs. Might be hikable, if you are into
hiking. Road is sometimes very decent, other times, horribly wash-boarded.
Be prepared to turn around and head back out if it gets too bad for your
desires. I've motorcycled it without issue, and I've also turned around
in a car. Taking this route causes you to miss the Keweenaw County Snow
Meter on US41.
- M26 along Lake Superior: At the tiny town of Phoenix, Michigan,
M26 splits off from US41 and heads towards Eagle River. Unless you are
really in a hurry to get to Copper Harbor, I'd suggest turning left and
taking this route. The
view is spectacular, the roads are twisty. There's a beach you can pull
off at and swim in maybe the only occasionally warm bay in Lake Superior.
Really recommended for motorcyclists. Speedlimit is mostly governed
by physics and visibility.
- Brockway Mountain Drive: Just past Lake Bailey, there's an
"exit" from M26, which heads "up". The first many miles of Brockway
Mountain Drive are very "eh" -- sub-optimal roads, lots of trees, but
not much else to see. But your ears will be popping to confirm that
yes, you are going up. You will probably spend the first few miles
wondering why I suggested following this...and suddenly, you will
hit the top of Brockway Mountain and understand. Breathtaking view.
In cloudy weather, you will often be in or above the clouds. In fall,
you will see a lot of colorful trees from above.
The trip back down hill to Copper Harbor, you will want to make friends
with the lower gears in your vehicle, rather than riding the brakes all
the way down. If you can get to the top of Brockway Mountain on a clear
dark night, the view of the stars is breathtaking, but be aware the
reason it is this way is that there are NO STREET LIGHTS, you will be
navigating twisty narrow roads in complete darkness. Slow and easy.
But SO worth the trip (so THAT'S what the Milkyway looks like!).
The problem with Brockway Mountain Drive is it bypasses some of the
best views on M26, so one obvious solution is to go TO Copper Harbor
via one route and back south via another route. Or do what I've done
several times: go from Eagle River to Copper Harbor by M26, then turn
around, go back to the "Southern" (Western, actually) entrance to
Brockway Mountain Drive, take it back to Copper Harbor, then turn around
and take it back down. Totally inefficient, but for me, it's more about
the trip than the destination. I'd consider this a "must do" trip for
motorcyclists, but it isn't a no-skill ride. The roads are rough and
the turns on the part between the top of the mountain and Copper Harbor
Things to see in the Keweenaw:
- Houghton-Hancock Lift Bridge: Two layer bridge, in the past,
the lower level had embedded railroad tracks. All the way down, trains
could use the lower deck, cars the upper deck. Mid-way up, cars can use
the lower deck, and small boats could go under the bridge without moving
it. All the way up, large ships can go through.
I've seen a couple lake freighters go by, but I'm not sure that is being
done anymore. Usual big boats to cause the bridge to be moved are sail
boats, Coast Guard boats, occasional cruise ships. There's only one way
across the Portage, and that's the Houghton-Hancock lift bridge, so it is
hard to avoid, but it's also a fun thing to see. There are lots of places
you can sit and watch things go by.
During winter, snowmobiles use the lower level of the bridge.
- Quincy Mine:
US41, just north of Hancock. The Quincy shaft house is something of the
area's landmark symbol -- visible from quite a distance, from all over
Houghton, the Michigan Tech campus, and much of Hancock.
The shaft house is where the copper came out of the ground, and got collected
and dropped into railroad cars for transport to the smelter.
Also on the site is the hoist house, home of the largest steam hoist
ever built, and quite a few other attractions, some indoors, some outdoors,
- Keweenaw Snow "Thermometer":
I don't like calling it a snow thermometer, I call it the "snow gauge",
but ... that appears to be what the Internet calls it, I'm not going to
fight that battle. It's big. A trip to the Keweenaw during the winter is
really needed to appreciate it -- both how much snow can fall, and how well
the locals deal with it. US-41, north of Calumet.
- Jampot / Poorrock Abbey:
There are a lot of places in the UP to buy locally made jams, this is one
of the legendary ones. Run by a bunch of delightfully fun Byzantine Catholic
monks, the only thing sinful is the food. Peak season, there's a line
out the door. Not just jams, but other non-healthy food-stuffs, too.
- Torch Lake:
Torch Lake has a well deserved reputation for being a stunningly beautiful
lake in Michigan. What people don't realize is there are TWO Torch Lakes
in Michigan, this is the OTHER one. This one is an EPA Superfund site
due to the mining activities that took place around it. It looks like
a lot has been done to stabilize/immobilize the contaminants in the lake,
but I'm not going to personally suggest swimming in it. There's a lot
of industrial ruins around it which I find quite interesting.
Dredge: In Torch Lake, near Mason, visible from M26.
UP Copper was so pure and so easy to pull out in huge
huge quantities that the waste rock that was discarded was richer in
copper than the ore in modern copper mining. So as the copper got harder
to get out of the ground and technology improved, it became profitable to reclaim copper from the
formerly discarded waste rock, so a couple dredges like this one were
used to pull up the discarded material from Torch Lake for re-processing.
There were two dredges, the first one sunk in the middle of the lake in
1956 (at one point, google maps showed something in the lake I'm pretty
sure was the dredge, but I haven't seen it recently. Not sure if it decayed and collapsed deeper
in the lake or if the water levels have risen, or the improving health
of the lake is causing the water to be murkier). I once talked to
a local person who had worked on the first dredge when it started to sink;
this was not unexpected, which is why Quincy had bought a second dredge.
This person was very proud of the fact they had the second dredge going
within a day of the first dredge being declared no longer serviceable
(i.e., sinking). Eleven years later, the second dredge also sank, during
the winter when it was idle, this time near shore. Curiously, the story
is that the dredges were built quickly to get copper for the WWI effort,
I've heard it said that poorly aged wood was the reason for both of their
sinkings. However, the second dredge has been decaying in the water
well over 55 years (and it is over 100 years old) and still significantly
intact. If you look closely, you will see plenty of evidence that people
have got into the dredge. I don't recommend trying that.