There are so many things to do in the Upper Peninsula that you can really spend weeks there exploring. It spans 325 miles in length and only has one interstate. Eighty-four percent of it was covered in forest, making it an outdoor enthusiast’s heaven. Many people flock here every year to enjoy outdoor recreation at its best. With over 200 waterfalls, 4300 inland lakes, 12000 miles of river and streams and border 3 of the great lakes, the Upper Peninsula is a nature lover’s paradise.
Things to do in the Upper Peninsula (all regions)
Eat a Pasty
Eat a pasty as the miners did years ago. It is meat, potatoes, and onions wrapped in a crust. You won’t have any problem finding a location that has them. You can even buy them frozen in the supermarket!
Watch a Lake Superior Sunset
Nothing is more beautiful than watching the sunset over Lake Superior.
There are 10 casinos throughout the Upper Peninsula. Kewadin Casino operates facilities in Christmas, St. Ignace, Manistique, Sault Ste Marie and Hessel. Kings Club Casino is located in Brimley, Northern Waters Casino in Watersmeet, MI, the Island Resort & Casino in Harris and Ojibwa Casino in Baraga and Marquette, MI. So when you’re visiting the UP, try your luck at any of these casinos and enjoy!
Visit a Michigan State Park
There are 22 Michigan state parks located in the Upper Peninsula with all of them offering different areas to explore. For example, Van Ripe state park is the place to go to try to see moose. Moose were reintroduced there in 1989 and this park could be your best bet of seeing one.
The Porcupine Mountain Wilderness State Park is the largest state park in Michigan and Tahquamenon Falls State Park is the only park with a brewery in it. Campgrounds are located in most of the parks.
ATV all over the Upper Peninsula on one of 6000 miles of trails.
There are golf courses everywhere you go in the Upper Peninsula, so if golf is your thing you will have hundreds of courses to choose from.
The UP has over 3000 miles of groomed snowmobile trails, that’s like driving from New York to California.
Eat Trenary Toast
Have a traditional “Yooper” snack of Trenary Toast which is twice-baked toast coated with cinnamon sugar that you dunk in coffee or break up and have with milk. I was surprised to see that when packaged, it lasts about a year!
See the Northern Lights
If you’re lucky at the right time of year, you can see the Northern Lights! The best places in the Upper Peninsula to try to see the aurora borealis is Copper Harbor, Munising, Mackinac City and Marquette.
With over 350 species of birds living in the Upper Peninsula, it’s a bird watcher paradise. When we were there we saw bald eagles, sandhill cranes, hawks and the pileated woodpecker to name a few.
Canoe and Kayak the many lakes and waterways
Surrounded by water and three of the five Great lakes as well as numerous lakes and rivers boating including canoeing and kayaking is a favorite recreation in the UP.
Hike the North Country Trail
The North Country Trail goes through the Upper Peninsula for 547 miles passing through wilderness areas, waterfalls, lakes and rivers. The area in the UP is considered to be moderate to difficult hiking.
Visit the many Lighthouses on the Upper Peninsula
With more than 40 lighthouses mostly built in the 1800s, it seems wherever you go in the Upper Peninsula you will see a lighthouse. Today only about a dozen are open for you to explore. For more information on where to see them and the ones still open check here.
Things in the Western Upper Peninsula
The Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park
The largest Michigan State Park (60,000 acres)has the biggest wilderness area remaining in the midwest. The park has old timber, numerous wild rivers, hidden lakes and 90 miles of hiking trails. It’s common to see black bears in this park so bear spray is recommended.
Lake of the Clouds
The most visited and photographed part of the Porcupine Mountains is the Lake of the Clouds. Its a short hike to stunning views even on a cloudy day, like the day that we went.
Summit Peak Scenic Area
Visit Summit Peak Scenic Area in the Porcupine Mountains and climb the tower for the beautiful views of the mountains. The highest Peak at 1986’ in the Upper Peninsula.
Watch the bears while eating dinner
Eat dinner at Konteka Restaurant to watch the bears during your meal. We saw 5 bears during our dinnertime there. Yes, the restaurant does feed the bears corn combined with leftovers but it was a great experience seeing the bears come out of the wild.
Porcupine Mountains Visitor Center
Visit the Wilderness Visitors Center in the Porcupine Mountains and see all their exhibits including a 12-minute movie about the park and see their life-size wolf, bear, and other animals.
Presque Isle River Area
Drive to the Presque Isle River area and take a short hike (2.3-mile loop) to the numerous waterfalls in the area including the largest in the area called Manabezho and well as Manido and, Nawadaha. Walk over the expansion bridge and tip your toes into Lake Superior. Feel the bridge move as your walking.
Hike the Union Mine Trail
Take the Union Mine 1 mile trail and learn all about the history of mining in the area
Visit the many of numerous waterfalls throughout the Western Upper Peninsula including the following:
- Bond Falls
- Agate Falls
- Bonanza Falls
- Little Trap Fall
- Deer Creek Falls
- Cascade Falls
- Black River Waterfalls
- Trap Falls
- Little Union Falls
- Rock Bluff Falls
- Overlooked Falls
- O Kun De Kun Falls
- Little Falls
- Greenstone Falls
- Presque Isle River Waterfalls
Iron Mountain has numerous activities but is best known for its Pine Mountain Ski Jump. It is the highest manmade ski jump, known as “King of Hills”. Take off speed is estimated to be 55-60 mph and landing speed it 65 mph. Overall length is 1,440′, and the height of the landing platform is 349′.
The Keweenaw Peninsula was where the Copper mines of yesteryears were, where miners came to make a living but today its the quiet side of the Upper Peninsula known for its small villages no condos and mansions just trees and Lake Superior shoreline. This remote area is Michigans gateway to Isle Royale National Park with ferries to the island from Houghton and Copper Harbor. It’s a big mountain biking area and has plenty of waterfalls and lighthouses to explore.
Take a Copper Mine Tour
There are several you can take including Quincy Mine Tour, Delaware Underground Copper Mine Tour, and Adventure Mine Tour. You can experience a fraction of what the miners did in the past to get the copper out of the mines. We took the Quincy Tour and found it fascinating to see the conditions that they worked in.
Ottawa National Forest
Ottawa National Forest is just under one million areas with 500 lakes, 300 miles of river, 196 miles of hiking trails and spans from the southern shores of Lake Superior to the Wisconsin border. With cross country skiing in the winter to over 2000 miles of trailers for off-highway vehicles, the forest is a recreation paradise.
The Paulding Light
Discover the mystery of the Paulding Light. It was discovered in the 1960s and shines in the forest with no explanation as to why or how. It draws thousands each year who some say is a ghost of an old train or the brakeman who operated it, others say it’s part of the northern lights while others say its light from a highway in the distance. What do you think?
Fort Wilkins Historic State Park
A Michigan state park located in Copper Harbor, there is a restored army military base that was established in the 1940s to help control the copper mining industry with shipping and crime since the area became popular with fortune seekers. Today, it’s very interesting walking around the fort and seeing all the buildings filled with how it was in the 1800s.
Fort Wilkins also has a big campground located on Lake Fanny Hooe and has biking trails throughout the park.
Take a drive up Brockway Mountain in Copper Harbor
Drive the almost 9 miles ridge of Brockway Mountain which is 1320′ and on a clear day, you can see Isle Royale 50 miles away. There are beautiful scenic overlooks throughout your ride with views of Copper Harbor and Lake Superior.
Visit Isle Royale National Park
Take a boat to Isle Royale National Park from either Copper Harbor or Houghton. It’s an unbelievable wilderness paradise, you can read more about it here.
Things to see in the Eastern Upper Peninsula
Kitch-iti-kipi Springs in Palm Book State Park is the biggest freshwater spring in Michigan. You can take a raft over the spring and see the large trout that live in this 45′ deep water. You can see the bubbling water at the bottom.
Located in Naubinway, MI, Garlyn Zoo has animals from all over the world in a park-like setting including wolves, tigers, reindeer, and alligators to name a few.
Glass Bottom Shipwreck Tours
Take the Glass Bottom ShipwreckTour in Munising and discover the shipwrecks of Lake Superior. You will be able to see 2 shipwrecks as well as a lighthouse and rock formations along the lakeshore.
Indian Lake State Park
Indian Lake State Park is an inland lake located near Manistique, MI. The park has 2 campgrounds, one on each side of the lake which offers boating and fishing.
Hiawatha National Forest
The Hiawatha National Forest consists of nearly 900,000 acres of land in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula with 100 miles of shoreline of Lake Superior, Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. The area is divided into two sections, the east side and the west side. Between them, they have six wilderness districts, 20 campgrounds, and 5 national wild and scenic rivers.
Seney National Wildlife Refuge
Take the 7-mile drive, hike, bike or paddle through the refuge and discover some of the 250 species of wildlife. It’s known for sightings of bald eagles, sandhill cranes, osprey, trumpeter swans and common loons.
Go back in time to when there were no cars and experience Mackinac Island be either foot, bicycle or horse and carriage. Most of the island is part of the Mackinac Island State Park and the main attraction is the fort.
There is the main street where you get off the ferries consisting of hotels, restaurants, bicycle rental shops, souvenir shops and of course fudge stores which the island is famous for.
There is an 8-mile trail uses mostly by bicycle that goes around the island on the shore of Lake Huron. This route provides stunning views of the blue waters of the Straits of Mackinac.
Tahquamenon Falls State Park
Tahquamenon Falls State Park has over 45,000 acres of pristine wilderness following the Tahquamenon River known for its waterfalls and 22 miles of hiking trails. The park also has a campground and restaurants.
With a 50′ drop, 200′ wide and rushing water flowing at over 50,000 gallons per second, the Upper Falls is the main attraction of the park. It’s one of the biggest waterfall east of the Mississippi only second to Niagara Falls.
Four miles north of the Upper Falls is a series of five smaller waterfalls known as lower falls. The park rents rowboats where you can row to an island to explore the lower falls and has several places for swimming. You can also hike to views of the falls.
By the Upper Falls is the Tahquamenon Brewery, the only one in any of Michigan’s State Parks. The restaurant offers a fine selection of beer brewed right there in the park as well as fine dining in a rustic atmosphere.
Tahquamenon Falls Riverboat Tour
This 6.5-hour tour begins in Soo Junction where you get a trolley/train and take a 35-minute ride through wilderness forest to the Tahquamenon River where you get on a riverboat for a 2-hour ride to the upper falls. Once in the park, you hike a 1/2 mile to view the falls. It’s an enjoyable day of sightseeing. There are chances to see several kinds of birds including bald eagles as well as bear.
Soo Locks Boat Tour
A top attraction in the state of Michigan, the Soo Locks Boat Tour in Sault Ste Marie through the largest waterway traffic system. You get to see all of the US Locks (4) as well as the St. Mary’s Rapids, the Historic Canadian Lock, and the hydro-electric plants.
Oswald’s Bear Ranch
The largest bear ranch in the United States, Oswald’s has 29 bears in 4 habitats where the bears roam free and visitors get a chance to see bears in a barrier-free view. It’s a great family destination.
Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum
Located in Whitepoint Point, the museum features the shipwrecks of the Great Lakes with many artifacts including the bell of the Edmund Fitzgerald. You can now climb the tower of the lighthouse and take a tour of the lightkeepers house.
The Mackinac Bridge, known as the “Mighty Mac” is the gateway to the Upper Peninsula and an attraction all by itself. This almost 5-mile bridge and is the longest suspension bridge in the Western Hemisphere. It is the dividing point of Lake Michigan to the west and Lake Huron to the east.
Picture Rock National Lakeshore
The power of Lake Superior has formed the Picture Rock National Lakeshore. From sandstone cliffs to beaches to hiking trail and canoeing, the Picture Rock area has something for everyone. The best way to see the rock formations is by water.
Picture Rock Cruises is a concessioner of the National Parks Service and operates cruises that are 2 .5 to 3 hours long and travel 40 miles along the most stunning shoreline of the Great lakes. There are numerous waterfalls and rock formations along your journey.
Munising and Grand Marais
In addition to Picture National Lakeshore, Munising and Grand Marais are home to numerous beautiful waterfalls as well as lighthouses. Here is a list of area attractions:
- Munising Falls
- Au Train Falls
- Chapel Falls
- Miners Falls
- Mosquito Falls
- Wagner Falls
- Alger Falls
- Sable Falls
- Bridalveil Falls
- Spray Falls
- Elliot Falls
- Horseshoe Falls (privately owned)
- Laughing Whitefish Falls
- Memorials Falls
- Rock River Falls
- Scott Falls
- Tannery Falls
- Au Sable Light Station
- Grand Island Harbor Rear Range Light
- East Channel Lighthouse
- Grand Island North Lighthouse
Haywire Rail Trail
From Shingleton to Manistique, oldest rail-trail in Michigan is 33 miles and follows the former Manistique and Lake Superior Railroad route. Although it allows biking, hiking, and horseback riding, due to the remaining railroad bed ballasts the trail is rougher than most rail trails so it’s mostly used by ATV and snowmobiles.
If you want an opportunity to drive a sled of dogs, Nature’s Kennel in winter is the place to go. They offer a 10-mile loop, 20-mile loop, and overnight trips as well. These guide tour sled trips are great for all ages.