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BMW Motorcycle Owners of America
P.O. Box 3982, Ballwin, MO 63022
voice: (636) 394-7277 fax: (636) 391-1811

comments@bmwmoa.org

To Trenton via Michigan’s UP & the Soo Locks
by John Fishbeck, #89602
photos by John Schomisch, Jr.
   

If you’re headed to the BMW MOA rally in Trenton, Ontario, Canada this summer, you might consider a tour through Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The U.P., or ‘Yoop’, is distinctly different land and culture than Lower Peninsula Michigan. The terrain ranges from the heavily forested rolling hills and low mountains of the western U.P., to the rocky spine of the Keweenaw Peninsula jutting fiercely northward into the waters of Lake Superior, to spectacular and vividly colored sandstone cliffs of Pictured Rocks, and finally the winding rivers, marshes and lakes of the central and eastern U.P.   

Choose your ride:

Via the south coast - along Lake Michigan
Via the north coast - along Lake Superior
Of course, you could take the GS way


======================

The author and the photographer

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 Lake Michigan
This route enters the U.P. from the northwest on US2 at Ironwood, Michigan, and ultimately bringing you across the southern side of the UP .
 

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
13700 13.25 Lane, Garden, MI 49835
(906) 644-2603

(~
N45° 43.103' W86° 40.056')

The park is located at the site of a preserved, abandoned iron smelting town. It is an intriguing place to visit, and the setting is most scenic, situated on the shores of Snail Shell Harbor.


The view from the campground at Fayette State Park… 
just a short ride off US2 as you head to the Rally.

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'). 

This last campground is especially attractive, with sites set in the trees right along the shore of northern Lake Michigan. Better have warm duds, though – the wind coming off the lake here can be mighty nippy, even in mid-summer!

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 less traveled
For the true wanderlusts among you who have already decided you’re not taking that US 2 “short-cut” across the ‘Yoop’, let’s breath in more of the glorious charms of northern Michigan before dropping south.
 

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:

Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park
412 South Boundary Rd., 

Ontonagon, MI 49953; 
(906) 885-5275

 

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 spectacular. 

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 Park
P.O. Box 71, Copper Harbor, MI 49918

(906) 289-4215; 
N47° 28.045' W87° 52.183' 

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 the ‘Wreck 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
1300 US-41 South, Baraga, MI 49908

(906) 353-6558
 

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
P.O. Box 88, Champion, MI 49814-0088

(906) 339-4461
(N46° 31.417' W87° 59.059') 

Van Riper has a nice sandy beach, and the temperature of Lake Michigamme’s waters are much more conducive to swimming than the bracing Lake Superior. The park has 189 campsites, showers and flush toilets

OK… motel break!
Resume your journey eastward on U.S. 41 towards Marquette. Marquette is situated on the shore of Lake Superior, and as you approach town you’ll drop down a long hill which will provide you a vista over the Lake. Marquette is a college town, home of Northern Michigan University, with population a little over 20,000. You can find good places to eat and nice places to spend the night, so maybe this is a place to catch a pleasant break from the road and treat yourself to a little civilization, U.P. style.
 

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.


A typical view from Lake Superior campgrounds

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
For you dual-sport riders, head out of Munising and follow H-58 along the southern edge of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. This road is gravel surfaced with sandy patches, so you F and GS riders will have fun, but K1200LT riders may want to pass. Everyone else – pick your comfort zone. The next stop for you is the dramatic Upper Tahquamenon Falls, and your route instructions resume below.
 

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
(take CR 699 off 28,  ~ N46° 33.56' W86° 21.75')
Located 20 miles east of Munising of Alger County Road H-58, Little Beaver has 8 campsites situated on a beautiful inland lake.
 

Twelvemile Beach
Twelvemile Beach Campground is situated 12 miles west of Grand Marais off Alger County Road H-58. The campground's 37 sites are located on a sandy bluff above Lake Superior's Twelvemile Beach. The entrance road winds through a picturesque stand of white birch.

Hurricane River campgrounds
(approximate: N46° 39.962' W86° 10.071')

Hurricane River Campground is located off Alger County road H-58 three miles east of Twelvemile Beach campground where the Hurricane River flows into Lake Superior. Eleven campsites are available in the lower campground loop, and ten in the upper loop.

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:

Lake Superior Campground
(N46° 40.612' W85° 45.531')

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 delightful spot. 

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
Now for you non-F and GS and more sane R and K bike riders, the best way from Munsing to Tahquamenon Falls is east on MI 28 for 58 miles through the Seney National Wildlife Refuge, a stretch of the central U.P.’s marshlands, to the intersection of MI 123. Turn left and head north through Newberry for about thirty miles to arrive at:
 

Tahquamenon Falls State Park
41382 W. M123, Paradise, MI 49768

(906) 492-3415
(N46° 35.77' W85° 12.49' 
)

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.

To continue this ride, follow I-75 north to Sault Ste Marie and the Soo Locks, where you will cross into Canada.

 


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