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Upper Peninsula Ultimate Travel Guide

Pictured Rocks national lakeshore in Michigan's Upper peninsula

Visit the Upper Peninsula Michigan

Wild, wonderful and untamed natural beauty: it’s the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. If you love naturally beautiful spots, you’re going to love exploring this upper Michigan area.

From Sault Ste. Marie and the Soo Locks in the east, to Gogebic county and Bay De Noc in the west; from Tahquamenon Falls to Mount Bohemia; the Upper Peninsula is pure Michigan travel fun at its best.

It’s a northern playground filled with nationally significant wonders: national forests, national historic sites, historic parks, and a national lakeshore, too!

It’s raw natural beauty: home to black bears and other native wildlife; stunning fall colors, virgin white pine and a sky that lights up with the northern lights at night.

Read on to discover why you need to put Michigan’s Upper Peninsula on your vacation bucket list and start planning your U.P getaway now!

Mackinac bridge to Michigan's Upper Peninsula

The Upper Peninsula History

Originally settled by native American’s, it’s hard not feel connected to nature and history when you visit the Upper Peninsula, the once the heart of the U.S. fur trade and mineral mining.

The rich history includes French fur traders traveling up the St. Marys’ River as they headed to the Mississippi, the British military and European colonization, and a run on copper and iron mines that produced more wealth than the California Gold Rush.

You’ll also find three large universities and other colleges here, including Michigan Tech, Northern Michigan and Lake Superior State University. These educational institutions attract a young and diverse crowd, eager to explore natural beauty of the area.

Combine this history with a lush landscape teeming with lakes and an a wide array of wildlife and it’s hard not to become enchanted with the stunning land that is Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in the Upper Peninsula

Size of the U.P.

Although its’ over 16,000 square miles make up almost 30 percent of the state’s landmass, this peninsula only has three percent of Michigan’s population. And yet, the call to the rugged land is strong: travel of the U.P has more than doubled in recent years.

It’s easy to see why travel has increased here, because the Upper Peninsula is an amazing spot to explore. Think miles and miles of unspoiled land, from high mountain ranges to rugged and sandy shoreline – waiting for you to discover.

If you’re planning your trip and looking for unique experiences, our Michigan guide to the Upper Peninsula will help you find the best places to visit with all of the travel info you need.

kayaking on lake Superior in the Upper peninsula

Explore the Upper Peninsula

Rushing rivers tumbling down waterfalls of all sizes; proud and lonely lighthouses standing tall along a quiet shoreline and uniquely-shaped and colored rock formations rising high above azure-striped water…and these are only some of the awesome features of this beautiful land.

Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is special: it’s a place to both explored and savored, for natural beauty of the area is truly rare.

The terrain of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is as varied as the history: that’s why we’ve divided up our travel information into three sections:

  • Eastern Upper Peninsula
  • Central Upper Peninsula
  • Western Upper Peninsula
Lighthouse in Michigan's upper peninsula
Crisp Point Lighthouse

Eastern Upper Peninsula

You’ll most likely enter the Upper Peninsula by crossing the iconic Mackinac Bridge, the five-mile suspension bridge spanning the width of the spot where Lake Huron and Lake Michigan meet- also known as the Straits of Mackinac.

As you leave the lower peninsula, you’ll pass historic Fort Mackinac and Mackinac Island, home to some of the most beautiful hotels in Michigan: the Grand Hotel and Mission Point Resort.

Cross the bridge over the Straits and you’ll land in St. Ignace, the gateway to the Upper Peninsula.

From this point in the eastern part of the Upper Peninsula, you can explore dramatically different landscape. To the east, you’ll find the Les Cheneaux islands. These 36 tiny, islands are scattered long 12 miles of the northern Lake Huron coastline. The Les Cheneaux Islands have long been a popular destination for boaters and kayakers. It’s also a great spot for ice fishing in the winter months.

Sailing over shipwreck in Les Cheneaux Islands
Sailing over shipwreck in Les Cheneaux Islands

Drummond Island and DeTour Village

Even farther east are DeTour Village and Drummond Island the second largest freshwater island in the U.S. Drummond Island is one of my favorite spots for a quiet summer getaway it was actually voted one of the best value travel destinations by Lonely Planet.

You’ll find hundreds of miles of ATV trails, quiet spots for bird watching, and trails for hiking. The shallow, clear Lake Huron waters surrounding the island are great for scuba diving and kayaking over shipwrecks, too.

Tahquamenon Falls

If you head north over the Mackinac Bridge, you’ll hit Sault Ste. Marie and the International Bridge to Canada.

If you head northwest over the bridge, you’ll find one of the most popular tourist destinations in the state, Tahquamenon Falls. Tahquamenon Falls, a set of two waterfalls surrounded by a forest of white pine, is one of Michigan’s most visited spots. In the autumn months, the rushing falls are backlit by brilliant display of fall foliage; it’s a perfect spot for a fall color tour.

You can use our guide to the Eastern U.P. for more detailed information about must-see spots in the area.

PRO-TIP: If you’re looking for some quiet, sandy beach to spread out under the sun or splash on the shoreline, head west on M2 and follow the Lake Michigan shoreline.

marquette

Central Upper Peninsula

Like the rest of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, there’s simply so much to see in the central portion of the U.P.

Along the northern part of the area, you’ll find the overwhelmingly gorgeous Lake Superior coastline: home to the famed Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

This spectacular stretch of the Lake Superior is home to some of the state’s top must-see tourist attractions, from the dramatic waterfalls of Bridal Veil Falls and to the towering Grand Sable Dunes.

Grand Island National Recreation Area, just off the Pictured Rocks shoreline, is worth exploring in both the summer and winter months, when the harsh winds and water form amazing ice caves.

The city of Marquette, the largest city in the Upper Peninsula. It’s home to Northern Michigan University, is a fast-growing spot with much to see and do. Beautiful parks and beaches, which include Presque Isle and McCarty’s Cove, are fun to explore, too.

Be sure to explore Marquette’s Black Rocks, a dramatic part of the coast. It’s popular with cliff jumpers who dive into the freezing Lake Superior here.

The Marquette Harbor and Ore Dock are picturesque spots close to downtown worth exploring, too.

kitch-iti-kipi in the upper peninsula

Kitch-Iti-Kipi

Father south is another Michigan must-see: Kitch-Iti-Kipi, also known as the Big Spring. Located just north of Manistique along the northern Lake Michigan coastline, Kitch-Iti-Kipi is a 40-foot deep, emerald green spring.

The best part? You can travel across it on a hand-operated raft.

Another one of Michigan’s most-visited spots, it’s located in Palms Book State Park and is open year-round.

You can find more information about things to do in the Central Upper Peninsula here.

porcupine mountains in the U.P

Western Upper Peninsula

It doesn’t take long to get used to the sound of quiet when you visit the wide-open western portion of the Upper Peninsula.

The Keweenaw Peninsula and Keweenaw National Historic Park celebrates the rich copper mining heritage of the Keweenaw County area. It’s located in the north part of the area, over the Portage lift bridge in Houghton County.

At this tip of peninsula is Copper Harbor’s beautiful coastline.

Farther west along the shore of Lake Superior are the Porcupine Mountains. It’s dramatic country: the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park is the largest state park in Michigan.

It’s 6,000 acres of pristine forests and streams and “soaring” to 2,000 feet, which is actually pretty high for Michigan.

Even farther west, you’ll find Lake Gogebic, the largest natural inland lake in the U.P. It’s a fisherman’s paradise and receives more than 300 inches of snow in the winter.

See what we mean? It’s dramatic.

Iron Mountain, in Dickinson County, was named a “Michigan Main Street” in 2008, is a fun spot to visit, too.

Nearby Iron River is home to Ski Brule, one of the most popular ski resorts in northern Michigan. The picturesque surroundings of this spot make it perfect destination.

In the summer and fall months too, when you can take in the spectacular fall colors.

Click HERE to explore the Western U.P.

Copper Harbor

Keweenaw Peninsula in the Western UP

The Keweenaw Peninsula is Copper Country, the northern most part of Michigan. It was once the world’s largest producer of the mineral copper.

Surrounded on three sides by a wild Lake Superior, the Keweenaw Peninsula includes vastly different landscapes: wide, sandy beaches; rushing rivers and waterfalls hidden deep in lush forests and high cliffs overlooking the lake.

Additionally it’s the stepping-off point for travel to Isle Royale National Park, a 45-mile long island in Lake Superior that is 56 miles from the Michigan shoreline.

It would be easy to make separate tours for exploring the area’s waterfalls, beaches and lighthouses…there are really that many.

The true natural beauty of the Keweenaw last through all four seasons: in the fall, the vibrant colors light up the peninsula.

In the spring and summer, the surrounding fresh blue water sets off the green of the trees and in the winter, buried under inches of snow, it’s still easy to see the beauty of this gorgeous spot at the top of Michigan.

We’re passionate about sharing the beauty of Michigan with you. Follow us to discover the best spots in Michigan to Stay, Play, Eat and Beach!

guide to the wreck of the edmund fitzgerald
15 Best Upper Peninsula Campgrounds

Keith cassidy

Saturday 30th of July 2022

I want to learn about the out of campground camping? Where is it legal and where it isn’t

My Michigan Beach Team

Friday 5th of August 2022

Hi Keith- Thanks so much for reaching out! YOu might want to check with the municipality of where it is that you're thinking of camping. They can provide you with details of local ordinances, etc. Good luck and happy camping!