40 Best Things to Do in Upper Michigan
Upper Michigan, also known as the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, or UP to locals, is one of two major landmasses that make up the state of Michigan.
This region is the northern part of the state and is the more elevated of the two, making it one of the best places to explore the beauty of the Great Lakes Superior, Huron, and Michigan.
The peninsula’s first inhabitants were Algonquian-speaking Native American tribes before French explorers claimed the area and later ceded it to the British Empire.
It eventually became part of the newly established United States in the late 18th century and a major mining and timbering region with its dense forests and iron and copper deposits.
The boom brought in immigrants, especially French Canadians, Finnish, and Swedish, which is the reason behind the peninsula’s rich cultural history.
Today, the Upper Peninsula comprises 15 counties and maintains its largely rural feel with endless forests, miles of coastlines, and rich flora and fauna.
That being said, Upper Michigan should be included in your next trip.
This forested region is filled with many attractions where you can do incredible things, including shopping, wandering around parks, and many more!
Interested to know more about this stunning place?
Here are the best things to do in Upper Michigan:
Go Island Hopping at Drummond, Les Cheneaux, and Many More
The peninsula is home to many beautiful islands, some inhabited, some not.
Go island hopping and visit Mackinac Island, famous for its Victorian homes-turned-inns and car-free streets where horse-drawn carriages are king.
Most of it’s covered by trails, woods, and ancient rock formations that have stood the test of time.
Rent a bike—from single-speed to tandem—and tour around the outer rim of the island on an 8.2-mile ride that’ll take about 60 to 90 minutes.
The lesser-traveled Drummond Island has one of the country's largest closed-loop trail systems for ATV/ORV.
In Lake Superior, Grand Island has backcountry camping opportunities waiting for you, with 19 individual campsites and two group campsites.
Les Cheneaux is a group of 36 islands along the shorelines of Lake Huron: its name comes from French origins translating to “the Channels,” noting the many channels between the islands.
Spend the day island hopping on some of the Upper Peninsula’s islands.
Fish in the Blue Waters of Lake of the Clouds
Lake of the Clouds is located within the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park on Ontonagon County’s Headquarters Road.
Situated between the ridges of the Porcupine Mountains, the lake is surrounded by lush forests that turn into a combination of reds, yellows, and oranges in the fall.
The centerpiece, though, is the lake's blue waters, popular among kayakers and anglers.
It’s a catch-and-release only, so there are no boat rentals, but you may carry light watercraft on a ¾-mile hike to the launch site.
Try shore fishing or use waders to catch smallmouth bass or lake trout.
Take the easy 0.2-mile universal access trail leading to the overlook that’ll give you stunning views of the lake and the Porcupine Mountains.
Pack your boating and fishing gear and check out the blue waters of Lake of the Clouds.
Ride the Underground Train at Iron Mountain Iron Mine
Iron Mountain Iron Mine is one of the Upper Peninsula’s biggest iron mines, having produced 21,625,000 tons of iron ore throughout its 68 years in operation from 1870 to 1945.
Located on Highway 2 in Vulcan, the mine spans 400 feet below the Earth’s surface, with its drifts and tunnels measuring 2,600 feet long.
Ride the underground train that’ll take you on a 45-minute tour of the mine, with skilled guides giving demos and explaining different mining tools and techniques used back in the day.
The two buildings on the property house a museum where you can find miners’ equipment and machinery and a gift shop where you’ll see an extensive collection of rocks from all over the world and get free artesian well water.
Learn about the region’s mining history at Iron Mountain Iron Mine.
Explore the Virgin Forests of the Porcupine Mountains
The Porcupine Mountains are a group of small mountains spanning 60,000 acres in the Ontonagon and Gogebic counties.
Nicknamed Porkies, the mountains were named by the Ojibwa tribe due to their supposed crouching porcupine shape.
The state park is home to one of the largest old-growth northern hardwood forests in North America, covering 35,000 acres.
With more than 90 miles of hiking trails, you’ll never run out of adventures to try, boasting stunning waterfalls and miles of rivers and streams.
The park’s virgin forests have rare tree species like yellow birch, eastern hemlock, and sugar hemlock.
It’s home to moose, gray wolves, coyotes, red foxes, black bears, and porcupines, endangered and unique concern species like small blue-eyed mary, Hooker's fairy-bells, and bald eagle.
Explore the flora and fauna of the Porcupine Mountains.
Feast on Applewood-Smoked Prime Rib at Stonehouse Restaurant & Lounge
Stonehouse Restaurant & Lounge is a bar and grill on Ludington Street in the port city of Escanaba.
The smoke-free restaurant specializes in steaks and seafood as well as American classics.
Try their applewood-smoked prime-rib steak that’s been slow-roasted and seasoned with a homemade spice rub.
If you fancy some seafood for dinner, get the Great Lakes Platter with broiled whitefish, walleye, and beer-battered perch.
Have dinner at Stonehouse Restaurant & Lounge and enjoy a big slab of premium steak.
Visit the Eben Ice Caves
Even though you are not a fan of the winter season, the Ice Caves of Upper Michigan are breathtaking enough to make you go there.
The place offers some of the greatest wonders of nature, and Ice Caves are one of them.
So take your snowshoes out of your closet and brave the icy season with joy.
Eben and Grand Island ice caves are the most well-known caves.
Seeing ice caves will be a distinctive experience as people are generally used to seeing rock caves on their trips!
Go Wader Fishing
Getting near the water is the quintessential part of visiting Upper Michigan.
Make sure you buy yourself a waterproof, durable, and affordable camera before going for a water activity.
Also, get yourself a good pair of waders for sure.
You can opt for fishing in a lake or a river.
Even if you don't catch anything, you can enjoy the experience and admire the beauty of lush nature and pristine waters.
Gaze at the Spectacular Northern Lights
You must have seen the marvelous photos of the Northern lights online, but have you seen them for real?
Aurora Borealis is an adventure of a lifetime, and the neon-color lights take you to a different world altogether.
It would be best if you saw them when the sky is dark.
This way, you will get a clear view of this natural phenomenon.
They are best viewed in the areas near Lake Superior.
You can capture great pictures while enjoying these wonders of nature.
Taste Louisiana-Style Cooking at Lagniappe Cajun Creole Eatery
Located on Marquette’s Jackson Cut Aly is Lagniappe Cajun Creole Eatery, which serves Louisiana-style food and cocktails.
The restaurant was opened in 2006 by Chef Don Durley, a Marquette native with decades of experience in food service.
They serve authentic Louisiana recipes made from scratch and in-house!
Try their Shrimp Creole served in a thick tomato-based sauce or the Louisiana-favorite Atchafalaya Jambalaya.
Also, a crowd-pleaser is the grit cakes you wouldn’t want to miss.
Lagniappe Cajun Creole Eatery promises to bring the heat with their Cajun Creole recipes.
Hear the Singing Sands of Bete Grise
Located off US 41 in the Grant Township of Keweenaw County is the Bete Grise nature preserve, famous for its singing sands.
The 1,500-acre preserve is a diverse wetlands-type with 2 miles of shoreline that stretches along Lake Superior.
According to an urban legend, a Native American woman lost her lover to Lake Superior and spent the rest of her life crying on the Bete Grise beach, and up until today, she still cries for him with the help of visitors that play with the sands.
Studies have shown that the singing sands phenomenon occurs when sand particles are spherical in shape and uniform in size.
When the grains rub against each other, the friction creates what’s described as “singing,” squeaking, or barking.
The preserve’s name translates to “Gray Beast” in French, believed to be due to a sighting of a strange gray creature in the area, while another legend tells it’s when the Native Americans burned blueberry bogs that a smoke resembled a gray beast.
Hear the sands sing at Bete Grise nature preserve.
Tour around Mackinac Island
This place should be on your bucket list.
Mackinac Island has a rich culture and history.
This place is a unique world on its own.
Here, you will find that bicycles and horse-drawn carriages are the only forms of transportation.
This place does not permit motorized vehicles.
The place has its rule book to follow while visiting, so go through it to ensure you make the most of this one-of-a-kind experience.
See the Animals at Deer Ranch
This place is located west of the Mackinac Bridge.
The place is a haven for people who like to view animals in their natural habitat.
Your kids will love this place for sure.
Spring season is the best season to visit this place.
This is the time when both flora and fauna are at their best.
The new leaves and flowers bloom during this season.
Moreover, the new fawns take birth, and you can enjoy watching them being bottle-fed!
Cross the Mackinac Island Ice Bridge
You will be thanking yourself for visiting this place when you reach it.
The ice bridge exists between St.Ignace and Mackinac Island.
The bridge does not form every year as the conditions have to be favorable.
If the conditions are right, you can give yourself a ride on a snowmobile on this crystal-clear bridge.
So, exploring Upper Michigan during winter is worth it!
Make sure to wear protective gear while going on this adventure.
Climb the Castle Rock
Climbing Castle Rock, St.Ignace will surely raise your adrenaline levels!
Conquer your fear of heights and climb this grand beauty to enjoy the great view.
Many people miss out on this adventure due to their fear of climbing, but going to the top of this nature’s creation is worth a try!
Hike to the Scenic Miner’s Falls
A zealous Michigander cannot help but be near a water body.
The place holds various kinds of water bodies, from lakes to ponds to rivers and waterfalls.
So, enjoying the beauty of this waterfall is a must if you are in Upper Michigan.
The place is filled with many waterfalls of small and big sizes, and all of them have an individual, unique beauty.
Just dip your feet in the clear water and observe nature blooming around you!
Meet the Exotic Animals at Garlyn Zoo
Garlyn Zoo has a stunning setting and is an ideal place to hike with your friends and family.
The zoo has wooden trails and is surrounded by pine trees.
This zoo is home to the native creatures found in Upper Michigan.
It also has some exotic animals like camels, tigers, and lemurs!
This place will be a great educational experience for your kids to learn about multiple varieties of animals in their habitats.
Enjoy the View of the Tahquamenon Falls
This hike is approximately 4.5 miles (7.24 km) long and will be a memory worth remembering!
Tahquamenon Falls are about 30 minutes away from Twin Cedars Resort.
Visit this place during the summer season when nature is popping with life.
The trees are luscious in the summer season.
In the fall season, the colorful leaves give this place an artistic look.
In winter, this place becomes a Narnia-like wonderland!
So, get your hiking shoes and set out for this fantastic adventure!
Visit the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum
Lake Superior is regarded as the largest freshwater lake in terms of surface area in the whole world!
By volume, this is the world’s third-largest freshwater lake.
On top of that, this lake has the largest volume in North America.
All this data is enough to show that this great lake poses a huge danger to the boats and ships that dare to sail through it!
The lake has songs about shipwrecks and boasts of great history.
Visit the museum to find out the legacy of the lake and experience the massive power of nature.
See the Art Sculptures at Lakenenland Sculpture Park
This park remains open for free to visitors on a weekly basis.
It has sculptures designed from scrap iron.
Tom Lakenen is behind this marvelous idea of recycling junk to make something beautiful out of it.
He was an ironworker who had a passion for art.
He moved his pieces to this property when his hometown asked him to take them out of his lawn, which luckily turned out to be a wise move!
Now, it has become a preferred place for visitors!
Experience the Fun at Pine Mountain Ski Jump
If you have a fear of heights, then surely this will be a challenge for you!
Pine Mountain Ski Jump is famous for being one of the tallest ski jumps made on the globe.
Visit this place in February to enjoy the epic event organized for a week that around 20,000 spectators witnessed.
But if you are more interested in views, you should opt to visit in the summer season.
Climb the mountain and behold the beauty of nature all by yourself.
Take a Relaxing Sunset Cruise
Sip your drinks and sail on a sunset cruise.
View the changing shades of the sky as the sun sinks into the deep sea.
Arnold Transit Corporation's boats are available from Mackinac Island and will be a great way to end your day.
Along with sunset cruises, fireworks cruises are also on the list.
They are available every Saturday across the Summer and Fall seasons.
Cruises are ideal for any celebration on the island and make the day memorable for special someone!
Try Craft Beers from Local Breweries
Upper Michigan is renowned for its craft beer.
So, you will miss out if you do not make your way around to taste the beer of this place.
You can find many breweries sprawling from East to West, and finding a spot will not be a problem.
You will surely want to visit all of them.
But, if you want an all-in-one adventure, you must attend the Annual U.P. Fall Beer Festival in Marquette.
Experience the Wild at Isle Royale
Isle Royale is a national park with natural beauty in all its wild form!
It is known as “the edge of the wilderness.”
The park remains open from May to October because the rest of the seasons are unfavorable to visit due to the harsh weather.
The island visitors must obtain a special permit before visiting this place.
You must hire a guide for this island to explore each nook and cranny without hassle.
The island has scenes straight out of adventure movies with rocks, plants, and waters having a rugged feel, unlike polished islands visited mainly by tourists.
Take a Karst Cave Tour
Many people in Upper Michigan don’t have any idea about this place.
Trout Lake has stupendous caves at the Fiborn rock quarry.
So, please get in touch with a tour company beforehand because many people cannot locate the cave independently.
Try not to visit this place alone as it is a secluded area, and you will be better off with a tour guide who possesses deep knowledge about the site.
Try the Underground Mine Tours
Upper Michigan offers a large range of tours to choose from.
So, if you fear heights and do not dare to ski jump, then underground mine tours are the best option.
It will be a marvelous experience to discover the hidden gems in the entrails of Earth.
Mine tours are unique on their own as tourists generally don't possess any idea if they exist at all!
So, if you are done exploring the water adventures of Upper Michigan, you must give underground mine tours a try for a different kind of amusement!
See Upper Michigan From Up High on a Plane Tour
Exploring Upper Michigan on land is a treat on its own.
But you can get a different experience by getting a bird’s eye view of the place and opting for plane tours!
You can hire planes per your schedule and get an overall experience of the island's scenic beauty.
It may sound a little scary initially, but it is a favorite tour of many tourists who want to observe the island differently.
Believe it, the aerial view of the island will be a very fantastic experience!
Spot the Birds at Whitefish Point Bird Observatory
Whitefish Point Bird Observatory, located just 11 miles north of Paradise, offers you a great location to go birdwatching.
It is a prime migration spot for diverse migratory birds that pass during the spring and fall seasons.
The Globally Important Bird Area is also home to many rare breeding birds, with over 340 bird species recorded in the location.
For over 40 years, the observatory has been committed to increasing public knowledge on bird migration, birds and the environment, and bird conservation.
Stay at the viewing deck areas and ready your binoculars to see the birds at the Point.
You’re likely to spot a White-winged Scoter or a Rough-legged Hawk, some Jaegers, Boreal Owls, Black-backed Woodpeckers, Boreal Chickadees, and more.
Warblers and northern finches are also abundant around the Whitefish Point Bird Observatory, so you’ll see lots of Crossbills, Pine and Evening Grosbeaks, and Redpolls, too.
Enjoy the Outdoors at Fayette Historic State Park
For more outdoor activities, you can bring your family to Fayette Historic State Park along Road Garden right on Big Bay de Noc.
This 700-plus acre park was once a busy industrial area famous for the charcoal pig iron industry.
Today, you can have a self-guided tour to see these well-preserved historic houses and learn about the townspeople during the 19th century.
Drop by the Visitor Center and catch the history programs.
Trek the five-mile trail and enjoy the stunning views surrounding the harbor on top of limestone cliffs.
Enjoy water activities like swimming, boating, fishing, and paddlesports.
Likewise, you can go hunting, explore the area on a bike, or enjoy picnicking at the shelters or picnic areas.
You can also have an overnight camp at the Fayette Modern Campground or the Furnace Hill Lodge.
Fayette Historic State Park also has a pet-friendly area and plenty of amenities and facilities you can use during your stay.
Try Dogsledding at Nature's Kennel Iditarod Sled Dog Racing & Adventures
Founded by Ed and Tasha Stielstra, Nature's Kennel Iditarod Sled Dog Racing & Adventures is a dogsledding destination in the McMillan Township of Luce County.
Drive your sled or ride with an experienced guide.
They offer guided overnight trips where you can learn to drive a sled and spend the night at Musher’s Village.
The tour also includes learning the basics of mushing, driving a dog team, and caring for the sled dogs.
Mushers and dogs spend the night in the village sleeping in a yurt or a cabin.
Try dog sledding at Nature's Kennel Iditarod Sled Dog Racing & Adventures and experience the life of a musher.
Charter a Ride to the Isle Royal Lighthouse
The Isle Royal National Park is composed of Isle Royal, the 400 small islands, and the surrounding waters of Lake Superior, covering 894 square miles of land and 685 square miles of water.
Isle Royal is the 4th-largest lake island in the world, spanning 45 miles long and 9 miles wide, with a land area of 206.73 square miles.
The park was established in 1940 and became part of the National Wilderness Preservation System in 1976.
In 1980, it was declared a UNESCO International Biosphere Reserve, then added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2019.
Aside from its diverse flora and fauna, Isle Royal is also part of the rich history of the region’s copper mining industry.
When the second copper mining boom began in 1873, there was a need for a second lighthouse to guide ships into the isle’s rocky harbors.
A 61-foot double-walled octagonal tower was built on the island of Menagerie at the entrance of Siskiwit Bay.
Today, you can reach the lighthouse via private boats to marvel at the all-sandstone structure that once had a massive part in the island’s economic development.
Find Rare Rocks at the Grand Marais Rock and Mineral Show
One of the well-celebrated events in the area is the annual Grand Marais Rock and Mineral Show.
This two-day event started in 2014 and is held every September, the weekend after Labor Day, showcasing rock dealers, food vendors, and lots of fun for everyone.
Find unique stones and rare rock pieces from merchants; you’ll surely find something to add to your collection.
You can also join the exciting raffles and win some great prizes.
Grab your food and drink from rows of food trucks while enjoying live music entertainment.
Enjoy the attractions at the Grand Marais Rock and Mineral Show.
Join the Pasty Fest Celebrations
Downtown Calumet is famous for its Pasty Fest, held yearly around July or August.
This annual celebration has been around for more than 15 years, highlighting the Cornish food staple.
Pasties are savory half-moon-shaped pies filled with meat and potatoes and were practically eaten by miners during the earlier days for lunch.
Watch the Pasty Eating Contest and see who gets to eat the most pasties in minutes, or be one of the judges for the Pasty Bake-Off and vote for the best-tasting pasty.
Of course, you’ll enjoy servings of this delicacy made by local vendors.
Visit the Farmer’s Market if you want to shop for fresh produce, or head out to the Block Flea, where you can choose from a wide array of items.
Likewise, enjoy other attractions like live music and entertainment at several locations around town, excellent car shows, and horseshoe tournaments.
There are also fun Pasty Fest activities for little ones, like carnival games, a bubble machine station, and bounce houses.
See the Soo Locks at St. Marys River
The Soo Locks are a set of parallel locks that allow ships to travel between Lake Superior and the lower Great Lakes.
Located in the city of Sault Ste. Marie, in the Chippewa Country, the locks allow freighters over 1,000 feet long to pass through the St. Marys River from Duluth, Minnesota, into the Atlantic Ocean.
It’s estimated that around 7,000 vessels use the locks yearly, carrying 86 million tons of cargo.
See how these ships are lifted and lowered from the observation platform alongside the MacArthur Lock.
The viewing deck is enclosed with glass to protect visitors from inclement weather.
See the engineering wonder that’s the Soo Locks.
Visit the Museum of Ojibwa Culture and Native Expressions Gift Shop
For a great learning experience, you can visit the Museum of Ojibwa Culture and Native Expressions Gift Shop.
This attraction is located on North State Street in Saint Ignace, where Father Jacques Marquette was also laid to rest.
The museum highlights the unique past and present Native American culture and heritage.
Explore the exhibits and get to know the journey of the Ojibwa people on their travel to the Straits of Mackinac and their way of life as they settled in the region.
Wander around the recreated longhouse model and discover the traditional medicinal practices of Native Americans in the garden.
Drop by the museum’s gift shop to purchase authentic Native handmade art pieces, paintings, jewelry, pottery, baskets, resources, and more.
You can also catch events, demonstrations, and workshops the museum hosts for kids and adults.
Have a rich cultural experience at the Museum of Ojibwa Culture and Native Expressions Gift Shop.
Marvel at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore’s Sandstone Formations
Located in Munising City in Alger County, the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is a protected area along the shores of Lake Superior.
The park got its name from the 15 miles of colorful sandstone formations that go as high up as 200 feet above the lake.
The formation comprises the Munising Group, white to light grey Cambrian period sandstone dating to 500 million years ago, the Precambrian mottled red Jacobsville Formation, and the hard sandstone Ordovician Period Au Train Formation.
Streaks of red, yellow, brown, and pink can be seen on the surface of the cliffs caused by groundwater evaporating from the rocks.
Admire the ancient sandstone formations at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.
See St. Anthony’s Rock at St. Ignace
Located downtown St. Ignace is a limestone breccia sea stack formation known as St. Anthony’s Rock.
The Mackinac breccia that forms the rock was formed 350 million years ago when roofs of caves collapsed and were stacked on one another.
Calcium carbonate in groundwater cemented the stacks of fragmented rocks and turned them into much harder formations compared to surrounding limestone.
Waves eroded the adjacent stone formations and exposed St. Anthony’s Rock by 2,000 B.C.
The formation is believed to have served as a lookout for Native Americans, but it was in 1679 when Franciscan priest Father Louis Hennepin named it after Saint Anthony of Padua.
Raft across the Crystal-Clear Waters of Kitchi-ti-kipi
Located in the Thompson Township of Schoolcraft County, Kitchi-ti-kipi is the largest natural freshwater spring in Michigan, measuring 200 feet wide and 40 feet deep.
Its name means “big cold spring” in the Ojibwe language.
About 10,000 gallons of water come from the fissures on the spring’s floor, the temperature at a constant 45 degrees.
Its crystal-clear water is home to a lake, brown, and brook trout.
Fishing, swimming, and boating are prohibited, but you can ride the self-operated raft and try feeding the fish in the middle of the spring.
Drive off and see the beautiful waters of Kitchi-ti-kipi.
Upper Michigan boasts a mix of great adventure and historic locations worth visiting.
But it’s also packed with family-friendly attractions to make for a memorable family trip.
Aside from a host of outdoor activities you can do, you’ll also enjoy local festivities, shops, and restaurants that offer different exciting experiences.
Discover and explore Upper Michigan and do the best things on the list.