Top 10 Adventures to Check Off Your U.P. Bucket List
Hundreds of tranquil waterfalls, deep forests, and gorgeous beaches encompass Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. With breathtaking attractions like the Pictured Rocks, Porcupine Mountains, the Big Spring, and Tahquamenon Falls, the area is a dream for anyone who appreciates the outdoors.
Within driving distance from cities like Minneapolis, Chicago, and Milwaukee (even St. Louis and Indianapolis!), the U.P. is a fantastic road trip for anyone cruising from the west of the area. Once you arrive, tour a historic mine and ride a trolley to Michigan’s largest waterfall, all before kayaking through magical sea caves of the Pictured Rocks, the pot of gold at the end of your journey. Although there’s plenty of exciting things to do, these attractions are an absolute must for your U.P. bucket list.
1. See a Lake in the Clouds
The Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park is the largest state park (60,000-acres!) in Michigan and home to many natural waterfalls, gorgeous hiking trails and jaw dropping destinations like Lake of the Clouds. This magical scene is nestled in a valley between two ridges surrounded by old fluffy trees and is easily accessible from the parking lot to the overlook.
2. Tour a Historic Mine
The industrial copper boom began in the early 1840s. Hundreds of companies headed to the Keweenaw Peninsula – the northwestern most part of the U.P. – after word got out that the area oozed with copper deposits.
Several of the historic mines now offer tours, giving patrons a glimpse into where miners spent long days hammering and blasting rock to extract copper.
3. Explore the Ancient Blackrocks
This prehistoric rock formation at Presque Isle Park is a must see when visiting the area. Located in Marquette – the largest city in the U.P., the park is known around the world, with Blackrocks being the top destination. Visitors can admire views on top of the tops or dive from 10 to 15-foot cliffs into the crystal waters of Lake Superior.
4. Glide Over the Big Springs
Kitch-iti-kipi (“KITCHi-tee-KI-pee” with short “i”s), also known as “The Big Spring,” is Michigan’s largest natural freshwater spring. Its original name was the “Mirror of Heaven” given to it by the early Native Americans. The spring is 200 feet across and 40 feet deep and is a constant 45 degrees, year-round. To see the springs, there is a raft available year-round for self-guided tours.
5. Paddle Through Sea Caves at Pictured Rocks
Made up of enormous sandstone cliffs and formations, waterfalls, dunes, and beaches, a trip to the U.P. isn’t complete without visiting the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. The best way to see the colorful rock face? By water.
When booking with Pictured Rocks Kayaking, paddlers will not only get the chance to be so close they can touch the cliffs, but they’ll also have opportunities to glide through majestic sea caves. Tours begin with a relaxing cruise on a boat before the kayaks are launched into the water near the best parts of the Pictured Rocks. Once finished with the paddle portion of the trip, you’ll board the boat for a ride back to shore.
6. Visit a Ghost Town
Fayette Historic State Park is a museum village that has preserved the area’s history of when it was a bustling iron smelting company town in the 1800s. The park includes 22 historic buildings and museum exhibits. Visitors can take guided tours or self-guided walks.
7. Trolley Around Tahquamenon Falls
Enjoy a train ride through the woods to the Tahquamenon River, followed by a boat ride to the Upper Tahquamenon Falls, the largest waterfalls east of the Mississippi. The Upper Falls has a drop of nearly 50 feet and is more than 200 feet across. Four miles downstream is the Lower Falls, a series of five smaller falls cascading around an island.
8. Get Your Photo Taken With Bear Cubs
Oswald’s Bear Ranch is the largest bear only complex in the entire United States! It is home to more than two dozen black bears and cubs that have been rescued around the country. Since opening to the public in 1997, the bear ranch has grown greatly over the years and is a perfect attraction for families.
9. Discover Shipwrecks of the Great Lakes
At the Great Lake Shipwrecks Museum visitors see dramatic shipwreck legends come to life. Artifacts and exhibits tell stories of sailors and ships that braved the waters of Lake Superior and those that were lost to its treacherous waves. The bell of the famous Edmund Fitzgerald is displayed in the museum as a memorial to her lost crew. You’ll also see the oldest lighthouse on the shores of Superior.
10. Tour the Soo Locks by Boat
Sault Ste. Marie
Managed and operated by the United States Army Corps of Engineers, the Soo Locks sit at the northern end of the St. Marys River connecting Lake Superior and Lake Huron. The Locks make it possible for boats, of all sizes, to travel between Superior and the lower Great Lakes. See the Locks in action and share the river with a freighter upon a narrated boat tour.
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