21 Best Upper Peninsula Things to Do
We’re making your road trip easy with this list of the 21 Best Things to Do in Upper Peninsula Michigan.
You probably already know how vast Michigan‘s Upper Peninsula is (over 16,000 miles of stunningly scenic land). You also probably know how many unique and different things there are to see in this pure Michigan natural playground.
From historic waterfalls and shipwreck museums, to painted cliffs towering high above a wild, blue Lake Superior, there is no end of things to see and do in the Upper Peninsula.
So go ahead, make your Upper Peninsula bucket list. Use this guide as your own, personal visitors center, to discover the best things to do in the U.P.
About Michigan’s Upper Peninsula
The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is a unique and special place that has an identity all its own. We visit the UP to get away from the city and escape into the natural beauty that Michigan has to offer us.
Top Things to Do in the Upper Peninsula Michigan
Hike to Tahquamenon Falls
Situated between the towns of Newberry and Paradise, Tahquamenon Falls State Park is home to one of Michigan’s biggest waterfalls. In fact, with a 50-foot drop, the Upper Falls is the largest waterfall east of the Mississippi.
You could spend hours wandering the trails and catching phenomenal views of both the upper and lower falls all year round. Hiking is popular before the snow falls, but during the winter, Tahquamenon Falls is still a popular destination to snowmobile, snowshoe, and cross-country ski, too.
If you visit Tahquamenon Falls in the winter, you can spend some time dog sledding to the falls. a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.
PRO-TIP: If you’re planning your trip to the falls, include a “mini” upper peninsula road trip to Crisp Point Lighthouse, about an hour north. It’s a very remote and picturesque Lake Superior lighthouse more than 100 years old. You’ll also want to stop at Oswald’s Bear Ranch. This bear ranch rescues abused and neglected bears.
Despite being the largest town in the Upper Peninsula, Marquette’s population is equivalent to some smaller Detroit suburbs. This means that there’s plenty to do and see without sacrificing any small-town charm.
Downtown Marquette is home to some excellent craft breweries (Ore Dock Brewing Co., Barrel + Beam and Blackrocks Brewery are favorites). There are aalso many unique shops and cafes worth exploring.
In the UP, people love to get outside and the city is no exception. Hike Sugarloaf Mountain or ski down Marquette Mountain. Be sure to visit the Lake Superior coast, where an old ore dock stands as an iconic landmark. It is symbolic of the critical role of Marquette in northern Michigan’s mining industry.
Plan to spend time in Marquette exploring the area surrounding the city. This section of the Lake Superior shoreline offers amazing opportunities to see the northern lights. Be sure to check out the Iron Ore Heritage Trail, a 47-mile trail that traverses the Marquette Iron range.
Marvel at the Soo Locks
In Sault Ste. Marie the Soo Locks are affectionately known as the Linchpin of the Great Lakes. Thanks to this engineering marvel, massive Great Lakes freighters can travel freely from Lake Superior to Lake Huron through the St. Mary’s River, which completes the connection from the Great Lakes to the Atlantic and beyond.
While you might know the Soo Locks to be an impressive feat of engineering, to see them in person is a whole new level of amazement. This is always a top spot on any Lake Superior Circle Tour, don’t miss it.
The eastern Upper Peninsula is one of the U.P.’s best-kept secrets. Quietly beautiful, you’ll find stunning shorelines along the Les Cheneaux Islands, and Drummond Island is a natural paradise.
Hike at Presque Isle Park and See the Black Rocks Cliffs
Presque Isle Park is one of the most visited destinations in Marquette County, and for good reason. This 323-acre forested peninsula extends into Lake Superior just north of Marquette, offering stunning views of the water.
Visitors are invited to explore the natural beauty of the peninsula. From its cliffside outlooks to the east to sunset point on the western shore, there are many hiking and biking trails between. If you’re looking for a thrill, stop by the Black Rocks and take the leap from the 15-foot cliffs into the cool water of Lake Superior.
Admire the Clear Waters of Kitch-iti-kipi
If you head north from Manistique for about 15 minutes, you’ll come across Michigan’s largest natural freshwater spring, Kitch-iti-kipi. There’s an otherworldly quality about this location, with crystal clear water that keeps a constant cold temperature, yet rarely freezes during winter.
The Ojibwe nicknamed Kitch-iti-kipi the “Mirror of Heaven” due to its reflective surface and clear, smooth water. It feels as if entering this spring would transport you to some other world, but no swimming, fishing, or kayaking is allowed here, leaving the mystery of the “Big Spring” to be seen only.
Kayak at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is unlike any other place on the Lake Superior Shore. Multicolor sandstone cliffs line the coast, creating a spectacle for the eyes. There are many ways to explore Pictured Rocks, but the view is best from the water.
You can book a boat tour out of Munising, or if you’re feeling adventurous, you can take a kayak tour, or bring your own to explore the painted cliffs your way.
Want more water adventures? Make your way out to Grand Island (about a half-mile offshore from Munising, part of the Hiawatha National Forest. Pack a picnic lunch and spend the day exploring the rocky overlooks, forest trails, and quiet, sandy beaches.
PRO-TIP: If you’re exploring the Pictured Rocks by car, stop by the Gitche Gumee Agate and History Museum in Grand Marais to check out some truly cool things you won’t find anywhere else. This includes artifacts from the area’s commercial fishing and lumbering past, and a truly superior collection of Lake Superior agates, some for purchase. You’ll also want to take the .6-mile hike to stunning Miner’s Falls, with a picturesque 40-foot drop.
Bike Mackinac Island
Between the peninsulas in Lake Huron sits Mackinac Island, a tiny island that welcomes visitors to the Upper Peninsula as they cross the Mackinac Bridge. A visit here will transport you back to the Victorian era with a quaint, yet busy downtown filled with old buildings that house everything from pubs and restaurants, bed and breakfasts, and of course, fudge shops.
No cars are allowed on the island, so get on horseback or take a bike ride around the island to see all the sites, including Arch Rock to the east.
Walk Across the Mackinac Bridge
The Mackinac Bridge is the gateway to the UP and the literal bridge that connects Michigan’s upper and lower peninsula. This state icon is widely admired as one of the longest suspension bridges in the world.
With picturesque views over the Straits of Mackinac, including a unique perspective of Mackinac Island, it’s no wonder every Labor Day, the bridge closes for the Mighty Mac Annual Bridge Walk, which welcomes thousands of participants to travel across the Mackinac Bridge on foot. This unique event is one that should be on every Michigander’s bucket list.
PRO-TIP: Love Ice Fishing? If you’re doing some Michigan travel in the winter, you’ll want to head to Trout Lake, popular among fishermen for the wide variety of fish you’ll find including northern pike, perch, walleye, and of course, trout.
Camp in Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park
Camping is highly popular in the Upper Peninsula thanks to its remote nature and endless amounts of gorgeous woodlands and wilderness. Porcupine Mountains is a favorite destination for avid campers, and it’s plain to see why.
Here you can find 35,000 acres of woodlands, rivers, streams, waterfalls, and over 90 miles of hiking trails to explore it all. The Porcupine Mountains Escarpment Trail provides unparalleled views of the gem of the Porkies, the picturesque Lake of the Clouds. This is one of the top destinations in the western Upper Peninsula.
See the Tigers at GarLyn Zoo in Naubinway
The GarLyn Zoo of Naubinway is a family-owned and operated zoo, with a mission of bringing the wonder of wildlife both native and exotic to the Upper Peninsula. Visitors can see all kinds of animals, from domesticated goats, llamas, camels, and reindeer, to wild wolves, lions, and tigers, and beyond.
Visit the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum and Whitefish Point
Beneath the steel structure of the Whitefish Point Lighthouse on Lake Superior’s “Shipwreck Coast,” the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum welcomes the curious to learn about the history of shipwrecks on the Great Lakes.
A combination of shipwreck artifacts, such as the bell from the infamous wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, and educational displays pay homage to shipwrecks. They also educate the public about how they happen and why this particular part of Lake Superior’s coast is so dangerous.
Don’t miss the Whitefish Point Bird Observatory, near the Seney National Wildlife Refuge. This is a perfect spot to catch glimpses of many species of migratory birds as well as hawks, eagles, owls, and others.
Feed the Wildlife at Deer Ranch St. Ignace
The White-Tailed Deer is an animal every Michigander is familiar with. It’s Michigan’s state game mammal and it lives and thrives in all corners of the state.
In St. Ignace, the Deer Ranch invites people to get up close and personal with this state icon, even allowing visitors to feed and pet the deer. This experience is highly unique and will leave you with a new appreciation and love for these animals.
Take a Fall Color Tour in Copper Harbor
Fall colors in northern Michigan are unlike anywhere else. Gorgeous blooms of red, orange, and yellow paint the forests that cover the entire peninsula.
As you go farther north, the colors become more intense earlier in the season. This makes Copper Harbor on the north end of the Keweenaw Peninsula the best place to go for an early dose of fall colors. The best time to go to see the brightest colors is around the end of September.
Don’t miss Brockway Mountain Drive, one of the most scenic drives in Michigan. This almost 10-mile drive offers spectacular views of the Keweenaw Peninsula and Lake Superior.
You’ll also want to visit Michigan’s Fort Wilkins Historic State Park, built in the 1840s during the copper rush. Part history museum, part tourist attraction, it is definitely worth a visit. You can camp at Fort Wilkins, and the Copper Harbor Lighthouse is located here, too.
PRO-TIP: Sneak in a side trip to Eagle Harbor to see the Eagle Harbor Lighthouse.
See Countless Monarch Butterflies in Escanaba
Situated on the shores of Little Bay de Noc, Escanaba is the seat of Delta County in the southwest of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
Here, visitors enjoy beautiful views of the Lake Michigan shore and a quaint small-town atmosphere. Eevery year around late summer and early fall, Escanaba transforms into Michigan’s Butterfly Capital. Watch in amazement as thousands of Monarch butterflies congregate in the cedar trees of Stonington Peninsula before moving south for the winter.
Be sure to spend some time exploring Fayette Historic State Park, located on the Garden Peninsula. A ghost town that is rich in iron mining history, this is an interesting spot to explore.
Escape to Isle Royale National Park
Explore the rugged natural landscape of Michigan’s most isolated island at Isle Royale National Park. There’s no better place for the adventurous to escape into the wilderness than at this untouched remote island. With plenty to do and see for backpackers, hikers, kayakers, and even divers, outdoorsy people of all kinds will find wild fun, and outdoor adventure on the island.
Explore the Eben Ice Caves
The Eben Ice Caves are a favorite winter destination in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Located in the north-central UP, these ice caves form when melting snow runs over the edge of a small cliff, freezing in the process, and forming an ice cave.
This natural phenomenon is one you have to see to believe, just be sure to wear your ice cleats for extra grip while walking the trail.
Climb Castle Rock
Also known as “Pontiac’s Lookout” by the Ojibwe Tribe, Castle Rock of St. Ignace is largely considered to be one of the area’s oldest lookout points. Standing tall at over 195 feet above the water, the view from Castle Rock is an unobstructed picturesque look at the Straits of Mackinac. You can see Mackinac Island, Lake Huron, the Mackinac Bridge, and downtown St. Ignace from here.
Tour the Iron Mountain Iron Mine
Mining was one of the staple industries of the Upper Peninsula for ages, particularly during the 19th and 20th centuries. In Iron Mountain, visitors can tour the Iron Mine, which operated from 1870 to 1945. See the techniques and tools used in iron mining at the time. Skilled guides lead you 2,600 feet into the mine.
Demonstrations, stories, and information conveyed by these guides will provide valuable insight into the peak of the U.P.’s mining era.
Tour Great Lakes Lighthouses
Michigan is home to more lighthouses than any other state. Quite a sizable chunk of those are found in the Upper Peninsula. Cruise the Lake Superior coast to see the iconic skeletal structure of Whitefish Point Lighthouse or the much less isolated Marquette Harbor Lighthouse.
Otherwise, take a ride down the southern shores of the UP to see lighthouses like Seul Choix Point on Lake Michigan or the DeTour Reef Lighthouse, which sits out in the waters of Lake Huron.
Have Fun at the Upper Peninsula State Fair
In many ways, the Upper Peninsula feels like its own state with a full and well-rounded identity that’s all it’s own. They even host their own Upper Peninsula State Fair in Escanaba every August. Enjoy carnival rides, festival foods, and classic state fair competitions with all the heart and soul of the Upper Peninsula included.
Bonus Best Things to do in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula
Take a Mine Tour at Quincy Mine
This is an easy stop if you’re headed into the Keweenaw Peninsula. The Quincy Mine is located just over the bridge from Houghton in Hancock, MI. You can get a close-up and personal look at copper mining history. It provides a really good understanding of the entire Keweenaw area. Explore the museum or ride a tram down a scenic hill and ride by tractor-pulled wagon seven levels underground to explore the mines.
Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is known for its dramatic natural beauty, seen in places like the Pictured Rocks Natural Lake Shore, Presque Isle State Park in Marquette, Cooper Harbor’s Brockway Mountain Drive and many other places.
It is also known for having more than 300 waterfalls and endless miles of hiking trails through pristine forests.
More Things To Do in the Upper Peninsula
About the Author –
Bella DiMascio is a Content Editor for mymichiganbeach.com. She grew up in the Detroit suburb of Westland. She later attended Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo where she majored in Communication Studies and minored in English: Writing. Creative writing has been a hobby and interest of Bella’s since she was in elementary school. She is thrilled to be using her talents to highlight the Great Lakes State. Outside of writing, Bella enjoys getting outside with her two Australian Shepherds, playing video games, and binging shows on Netflix.