Trenton via Michigan’s UP & the Soo Locks
While not the deserts of the American
southwest, Michigan’s U.P. is pretty sparsely populated. So while
traveling through it, be prepared – it could be some time before
you’ll find assistance if broken down or out of gas along the roadside.
You will be rewarded, however, with lovely traveling vistas as you motor
through, riding up and down rolling hills and passing along side winding
rivers, waterfalls, forests and lakes.
Camping is abundant, with a variety of choices. State of Michigan parks, administered by Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR), almost always offer the full complement of amenities, including hot showers and flush toilets. Of course, they also attract rather large crowds of noisier, more citified kinds of folk. If you like your camping a little more rustic and quiet, then there are numerous state and federal forest campgrounds throughout all of the U.P.. These campgrounds are smaller, with fewer sites and more limited facilities (pit toilets/outhouses, no showers), but tend to be in much prettier settings are more pleasant places to spend a lovely night outdoors, if you don’t mind more primitive facilities.
The Garden Peninsula and a ride along
Head east out of town on U.S. Route 2.
You’ll pass through Iron River, Iron Mountain (do you detect a theme
here?), and on to Escanaba. Heading north out of Escanaba you’ll have
Little Bay De Noc on your right. Just east of Escanaba the Garden
Peninsula protrudes south into Lake Michigan, and a trip down it is a
highly recommended. Depending where you started your day, this might be a
destination as well. Twenty-one miles down MI 183 you’ll arrive at:
Fayette State Park
Continuing east on U.S. 2
from the Garden Peninsula you’ll be travelling along the northernmost
shores of Lake Michigan. There are many opportunities to stop at vistas
overlooking the lake. In addition, side trips off of U.S. 2 are
recommended as well. Several camping sites are available along U.S. 2 on
the way to the Straits, including State Forest campgrounds:
Hog Island Point, 7 miles E. of Naubinway on U.S. 2 ( N46° 04.882' W85° 18.454')
Little Brevoort Lake (46° 00.885' W85° 00.505' South Unit), 1.5 miles SE. of Brevoort via US-2)
Lake Michigan campground, a U.S. Forest Service campground just
beyond Little Brevoort Lake, (N45°
59.007' W84° 58.122').
Finally, 104 miles east from the intersection of U.S. 2 and MI 183 down the Garden Peninsula, you’ll arrive at the intersection of U.S. 2 and I-75, ready to head north to the Soo Locks and into Canada. If you take this ‘direct’ route across the southern edge of the U.P., you’ll have a nice sampling of the ‘Yoop’ and northern Michigan. You’ll see that this is most definitely not Detroit!
For the more adventurous, the routes
Returning to Ironwood, 12 miles east of Ironwood at Wakefield, U.S. 2 intersects with MI 28. Hang a left and head north on MI 28. We’ll not see U.S. 2 again. Continue working your way northward to the:
The Porcupines, known as the ‘Porkies’,
are Michigan’s only mountains. And while the Porkies aren’t exactly
mountains, at least not by Rockies, or even Appalachian standards, in
Michigan, by god, these are mountains! It is beautiful and often wild
land. A variety of campgrounds exist throughout the park, ranging from
rustic campsites to a modern facility at Union Bay, in the northeast
corner of the park, with hot showers and flush toilets. While at the
Porkies, be sure to visit beautiful Lake of the Clouds. This clear, cold
lake is situated up in the hills, and on a clear day the vista is
Leaving the Porkies behind, let’s head
eastward for a trip up the Keweenaw Peninsula. Head out eastbound on MI 64
to the town of Ontonagon and work your way northward to the twin towns of
Houghton-Hancock. From there pick up U.S. 41 north for a travel up the
spine of the Keweenaw Peninsula, which I guarantee you will find a very
scenic and pleasant journey. Some 25 miles north from Hancock, at the
village of Phoenix (don’t blink!), turn left and follow MI 26, which
will take you along a wonderful route adjoining Lake Superior on the
northern edge of the Peninsula. You’ll travel through Eagle River and
Eagle Harbor, before finally reaching Copper Harbor nearly all the way out
to the tip of the Peninsula. You’ll find:
Ft. Wilkins State
Fort Wilkins State Park is a delightful
destination, featuring the restored Ft. Wilkins military outpost and hot
showers and flush toilets. If you’re considering swimming, be forewarned
– the waters of Lake Superior are COLD! They only rarely warm up to
tolerable swimming temperatures. As Gordon Lightfoot told us in his song
of the Edmund Fitzgerald’, her waters are so cold that she
doesn’t give up her dead. Man, that’s cold!
When it’s time to bid adieu to Copper
Harbor and begin your journey back down the Keweenaw, follow U.S. 41 out
of town. Thirteen miles out of Copper Harbor on U.S. 41 you’ll come to
Lac La Belle Road (N47°
25.317' W88° 05.055'). Turn left and head southeast towards the lake and
town of Lac La Belle. Follow Lac La Belle road down along the southern
shore of the Keweenaw for a tasty ride, with Lake Superior and Keweenaw
Bay as your traveling companions. At Gay (N47° 13.67' W88° 09.84'),
you’ll need to work your way back over to Hancock to cross back over the
river and continue your journey.
Departing south from Houghton on U.S. 41,
proceed along Keweenaw Bay to reach L’Anse. If this is a overnight
stopping point for you, consider camping at:
Baraga State Park
The park overlooks L’Anse
Bay, at the foot of Keweenaw Bay, and has 119 campsites with access
to showers and flush toilets.
From L’Anse continue following U.S. 41
south, then east over towards Marquette. Along the way you’ll pass Lake
Michigamme, which at its eastern end is the site of:
Van Riper State Park
OK… motel break!
Once you’ve caught your breath in
Marquette, either on a stop or an overnight, and you’re ready to roll
again, mount up and resume your travels by continuing east on U.S. 41.
About 4 miles south of town you’ll make a left on to MI 28 and ride
along a lovely stretch of highway that follows the shore of Lake Superior.
At Christmas, about 4 miles west of Munising, is the Bay Furnace National Forest campground. While a ‘primitive’ campground (no flush toilets, no showers), the campsites are spacious, and several are located right adjacent to the Lake Superior shoreline.
Arriving at Munising you will find, at least in my opinion, one of the U.P.’s most charming little towns. It is located at the base of a small bay of Lake Superior, South Bay. Looking north from the town out into the bay, you’ll see Grand Island, which was acquired by the Forest Service in 1989 and is known as the Grand Island National Recreation Area. You can catch a ferry ride out to the island and, if you’re feeling healthy and are so inclined, you can rent a ‘mountain’ bike to travel the island’s dirt road around the circumference. Just out of town along the east shore of South Bay are a couple of very pretty waterfalls, Tannery Falls and Munising Falls, which are well worth the short side trip to visit.
Munising is the western gateway to the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (P.O. Box 40, Munising, MI 49862 (906) 387-3700). The Pictured Rocks are famous for the rugged and colorful sandstone cliffs along the shore of Lake Superior. You can hop on a tour boat in Munising that will take you along the face of the cliffs out on the water, which is really the best way to see the beauty of the cliffs. You can also take a glass-bottomed cruise boat which will allow you to view some of the shipwrecks along the shore here.
A fork in the road
There are several very pretty campsites are available in the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore which can be motored into (most of the park is off-limits to motor vehicle traffic). If you’re interested in a highly memorable camping experience, consider backroading it to:
Little Beaver Lake
The latter two are right on the Lake Superior shore. These are primitive campgrounds, but you’ll be rewarded with a delightful and quiet setting that you’ll remember for years to come. However, the roads to these campgrounds are frequently rough and sandy, so you folks riding more pavement appropriate bikes are well advised to pass on this adventure.
You’ll find the quaint little village of Grand Marais at the eastern end of Pictured Rocks, which has a picturesque harbor and an small but interesting Great Lakes maritime museum. Head east out of Grand Marais, continuing east on H-58. The road will be paved starting out of Grand Marais, but changes to gravel surface again about six miles later. This is a very scenic stretch of road, however, winding through northern forest. Just before the road turns south, about 12 miles from Grand Marais, is one of my favorite Michigan State Forest campgrounds:
It is located on the north (Lake Superior)
side of the road, with 18 campsites nestled into the woods along the Lake
Superior shore. While this is another primitive campground, it is a
Again, you F, GS and other brave riders continue on this road after it turns south. In another three miles it will turn east again, where you’ll follow it 6-7 miles until it intersects county road H-37 (or 407), where you’ll be on pavement once again. Hang a right and travel south 19 miles to MI 123, where you may meet some of those non-F and GS riders. Turn left (north) onto MI 123 and head up 23 miles, where you’ll arrive at the Tahquamenon Falls State Park.
The two paths rejoin
Tahquamenon Falls State Park
Once you arrive at Tahquamenon Falls State Park you can take a very pleasant, approximately 1 mile walk through woods to the scenic Upper Falls. In addition, this is a very nice state park campground. While there is no camping at the Upper Falls, there are several campgrounds in the state park land, with a couple of them equipped with showers and flush toilets.
When it’s to move on, continue on MI 123 eleven miles to Paradise (yes, my friends, you will be able to return home and tell your friends and neighbors that this trip was, indeed, a journey to Paradise!).
Turn south on to MI 123 and after you pass through Emerson, look for Curley Lewis Drive on your left, which follows the southern shore of Lake Superior through the Hiawatha National Forest. Continue east at the Lake Shore Drive intersection, go through Mission and Brimley, and take 221 South to Hwy 28 East, and 7 miles later, Interstate 75 north appears.