The upper peninsula of Michigan is a beautiful and often underrated place to spend time. I didn’t grow up there, but a large portion of my family did, so I spent many of my vacations there as a youth and it is a place with its own culture that isn’t seen anywhere else. The people, who are called Yoopers (I am completely serious, it stems from the sound pronounced from reading “UP” aloud and then antonym would be Trolls since those in Lower Peninsula live under the Mackinac Bridge) enjoy a lifestyle of outdoor living since the area is beautiful. There are no major cities in the UP and the biggest town is Marquette with only around 16,000 people. In fact, only three towns reach above 10,000 people in population. Overall the place is very rural, but it is home to many rivers and water way, as is expected when one is sandwiched between the Great Lakes.
Because of this, there are some awesome sights to take in and it is super road trip friendly. During one of my stays there, we decided to take this little loop and make it into a super scenic little loop. In total, it took about 14 hours, but we were walking and exploring a bunch too.
Originally we started in Iron River, a very small town in Iron County. Here is where I spent most of that time as a kid, when my family would go on trips. We woke up where we were staying on Sunset Lake and headed north to Ishpeming, where we had more family. This place is also home to a fabulous destination called Yooperland. You should absolutely stop here if you want to get a grasp of Yooper culture. It is an absolute tourist trap place but the sheer corny-ness of it is what makes it so fabulous. Many of the jokes play on the UP’s strong desire to be the 51st state or the Yooper accent, which is a mix of Finnish, Ranger (the Minnesota type accent), German, French Canadian, and Native American dialects filtered into English (if you really want to get into the linguistics, there is an entire Wikipedia page on the dialect). There are many souvenirs and crude jokes all around the store. I have never seen a place like it and it’s definitely worth the stop, especially if you want something to commemorate your trip.
We then drove through Marquette, which is the largest town. We didn’t spend time here, but one certainly could. There’s a lot to do, from the historical down town district to the many lighthouses to snow related festivities and more. It reminds me of my hometown and would make a nice place to stay and use as a base for other adventures.
Continue traveling to Munising, where there are many sights to see. We started with Lake Superior, where we stopped and looked at the views. Honestly, as one of my friends stated, this place looks like the Oregon Coast. You can hardly tell its a lake because it’s so huge! There was a huge freight ship that was turning around, which was also cool to see. We drove nearby to a white sand beach where we could play in the water a little bit more. I absolutely loved it!
After Lake Superior, we drove to Munising Falls, which is a smaller waterfall hidden by a small walking path. There is also a parking lot and restrooms at the start of the trail and the path itself is very well cleared and packed. This waterfall is not large and actually freezes into a column in the winter. Luckily, there are even some platforms available making viewing the falls easy and pets are also allowed. I would definitely take the brief time to see it, especially if you are visiting nearby.
Afterwards, we drove to Miner’s Falls, which was much larger. This hike is a little more extensive (although it is fully graveled) but goes all the way to the waterfall. The distance is just over a mile, but is pretty flat and pets are not allowed. There is an upper and lower platform, but both have fantastic views.
Picture Rocks is not far away and is also an exceptionally scenic place. In the winter there is ice climbing, fishing, and Nordic skiing. In the summer, the bay is gorgeous and there are numerous tours, but even the lookout alone is super cool. We just went to two of the points and looked at the greenish-blue waters and the orange carved rocks. There was a family swimming at the bottom (whether or not that was allowed, I don’t know) and tons of kayakers. I wished we could have stayed here longer!
Next we moved on to Escanaba, where we got a glimpse of Lake Michigan, another one of the five Great Lakes. Here, we stopped at a small, white sand beach, which was easily one of my favorites. It was so peaceful and absolutely gorgeous! It would be a fantastic spot for a picnic. Escanaba itself is also quite beautiful and a grand place to spend time, much like Marquette.
Also in Escanaba we stopped for pizza at Sidetrack Pizza. My family has gone here a few times and like always, the food and service was great!
However, after this, we decided to call it a day and head home to Iron River, but we did stop to watch a phenomenal sunset! This trip, although only a day, was one I would recommend to anyone and hopefully will take again someday, perhaps including some more historical sights and waterfalls if possible!
All photos courtesy of my awesome aunt!