Are you looking at a map of the vast and beautiful Upper Peninsula and thinking that you want to see this, those and that while you’re here, but you don’t want to spend all day driving? No worries. Here are six cities that are only a day away from the most popular destinations across the U.P. Gas up your vehicle and let’s start day tripping!
Menominee | Ontonagon | Houghton | Marquette | Escanaba | St. Ignace
Top day trips from Menominee
As you enter the Upper Peninsula from Wisconsin, set up your base in Menominee. As soon as you cross the border, you will see why this is “Where the Best of Michigan Begins.” With easy access to Lake Michigan’s Green Bay, you can spend hours on the water or exploring the historic waterfront downtown. When you are ready to venture out, visit these top U.P. destinations:
Piers Gorge and Menominee River State Recreation Area
It takes an hour and 17 minutes to drive north from Menominee to the Menominee River State Recreation Area. What an amazing experience to explore the nearly 10,000 acres of public land along a 17-mile stretch of undeveloped river. Its rocky gorges and wide-open areas offer white-knuckle paddling for seasoned whitewater rafters and gentle flows for new-to-the-sport kayakers and canoers. Non-paddlers will enjoy viewing the wildlife, hiking, fishing and hunting.
Read more about the Menominee River State Recreation Area.
Pine Mountain Ski Jump and Iron Mountain
Want to see one of the largest artificially made ski jumping hills in the world? Travel 1.5 hours north of Menominee to Iron Mountain. Top jumpers from all over the world travel to Giant Pine Mountain in February to compete in the Pine Mountain Continental Cup Ski Jumping Tournament. All year-round, you can visit the U.P. Veterans Memorial at the base of the jump or walk up the steps (it’s nearly a half-mile) for incredible views. You will leave with a whole new perspective on ski jumping competitions! Read more about the Pine Mountain Ski Jump..
Iron County Historical Museum
This outdoor museum complex, one of the largest in the Upper Peninsula, is on the former site of the Caspian Mine. You can learn more about the impact the iron ore industry and miners made locally and nationally from more than 100 exhibits and 25 structures. The site is also known as The Log Cabin Capital of Michigan. Learn more about the museum that has more log structures than any other in Michigan.
Sylvania Wilderness Area
This is an outdoor fanatic’s dream come true, and it is only 2.5 hours from Menominee. The Sylvania Wilderness encompasses 18,327 acres of primitive lands and is part of the National Wilderness Preservation System. The old-growth forests and pristine lakes offer seemingly endless kayaking, canoeing, wildlife viewing, rivers and waterfalls. Read more about the Sylvania Wilderness Area in the Ottawa National Forest..
Must-take day trips from Ontonagon
Name your favorite Midwest outdoor recreation in any season of the year and you will find it here. From mountain adventures to relaxing on the beaches of the world’s largest freshwater lake, Ontonagon County is your springboard to fun day trips:
Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park
For one of the most scenic Lake Superior shoreline trips, take a 17-minute drive from Ontonagon to Michigan’s largest state park, Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park.
Stand on a mountain to overlook Lake of the Clouds or see scenic vistas from Summit Peak. Numerous waterfalls along the Presque Isle River, over 90 miles of hiking and cross-country ski trails and miles of sandy beaches, lure you to come outside and play for days.
Black River National Forest Scenic Byway
Set off south from Ontonagon to Bessemer, where in just over an hour, you will make your way back north on the 14-mile National Forest Black River Byway. Stops along the way will take you on short hikes to see the Great Conglomerate Falls, Potawatomi Falls, Gorge Falls, Sandstone Falls, Rainbow Falls and Black River Harbor.
From Ontonagon, you are less than an hour from this four-season vacation gem. Lake Gogebic is the U.P.’s largest inland lake and lets you fill your day with watersports, fishing, winter silent sports, snowmobiling, hiking and lake living. Read more about Lake Gogebic.
Bond Falls Scenic Site
Within an hour’s drive from Ontonagon, you can photograph one of the most picturesque waterfalls in Michigan. The base of Bond Falls is only a five-minute walk from the parking lot, but other trails will take you closer to the falls and through the surrounding woods.
Best day trips from Houghton
If you haven’t explored the Keweenaw Peninsula, do so this year. If you have, you’re probably already planning your return trip. Houghton and Hancock are your gateways to this magnificent landmass that juts out into Lake Superior and boasts the northernmost destinations in Michigan. Houghton’s vibrant downtown with its dining, hotel, shopping and recreational options are energized by Michigan Tech University. It’s a natural hub for amazing northern adventures:
Keweenaw National Historical Park
A good place to start your tour of this National Park is at the visitor center in downtown Calumet, less than 10 minutes from Houghton. In this park, you can explore 21 Keweenaw Heritage Sites between Ontonagon and Copper Harbor. Choices include historic mine tours, museums and breathtaking mountain and Lake Superior vistas. For your planning purposes, most of the sites close in late October and reopen in late May. Plan your stops as you explore the Keweenaw National Park..
Eagle Harbor Light Station and Museum Complex
In less than an hour, you can drive from Houghton through the heart of the Keweenaw Peninsula to this scenic lighthouse and museum on the shores of Lake Superior. Built in 1851 during the copper boom, it is still an active light and the keeper’s house and surrounding buildings serve as a nautical and historical museum. Learn more about Eagle Harbor.
Brockway Mountain Drive
This is a must-see by car from spring to late fall and by snowmobile in the winter months. You will marvel at the scenery as you make the hour trip north through the middle of the Keweenaw Peninsula, then follow the curves west to ride along the rocky coast to Copper Harbor. At Michigan’s northernmost tip, you can connect with Brockway Mountain Drive. While there are lots of places to stop and visit along the way, reaching the top of Brockway Mountain (735 feet above lake level) is a highlight of being in the U.P. Here you can look out at the freighters cruising by on Lake Superior, down onto the quaint town of Copper Harbor and the acres of forests below. This is a top fall color tour destination! Learn more about Brockway Mountain.
Keweenaw Mountain Lodge International Dark Sky Park
This is the newest day-trip destination from Houghton, but what you’ll view is billions of years old! Within an hour, you can reach the only designated International Dark Sky Park in the U.P. and one of only three in Michigan. It’s the perfect place to see constellations, meteor showers, the Northern Lights when conditions are right and to take moonlit winter hikes. Discover the best places to stargaze in the U.P.
Your bucket list of day trips from Marquette
If you want to blend eye-popping, rugged wilderness with a never-a-dull-day urban vibe, Marquette is the day-trip hub for you. Here are the top destinations, but there are lots more both in and near the U.P.’s largest city:
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Less than one hour from Marquette is one of Michigan’s geological masterpieces. Along the 42-mile-long shoreline between Munising and Grand Marais, approximately 15 miles of mineral-stained, sandstone cliffs tower over Lake Superior. The Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore — America’s first national lakeshore (established in 1966) welcomes waterfall seekers, kayakers, hikers, anglers, winter sports enthusiasts and beachcombers. Learn about things to do at Pictured Rocks.
To see this powerful waterfall along the wild and mighty Sturgeon River, travel one hour west from Marquette. Leave your vehicle in the roadside park along Highway 41 and hike the two miles round trip. You will see “Michigan’s Grand Canyon,” the Canyon Gorge, as well as the impressive falls. Keep your camera ready! Be wowed by Canyon Falls.
Half an hour from Marquette, you will stand at the Thomas Rock Scenic Overlook and feel a rush of awe swell up inside you. This stunning lookout offers sweeping vistas of the forests and the Big Bay on Lake Superior. The trail to the overlook is ADA-accessible and dogs on leashes are welcome. Read more about Thomas Rock.
An hour west of Marquette is the historical Michigamme Township. Here you can explore the Michigamme Historical Museum, Michigamme Moonshine Art Gallery, Van Riper State Park (home to one of the largest moose populations in the state) and Lake Michigamme. Learn more about the Michigamme area.
Popular day trips from Escanaba
Many U.P. travelers don’t realize how close they are to top destinations when they make Escanaba their hub for seeing the Upper Peninsula. On the shores of Lake Michigan’s Little Bay de Noc, Escanaba is only an hour or two from:
Kitch-iti-kipi (The Big Spring).
Just under an hour-long drive to the east, you’ll find Kitch-iti-Kipi in Manistique. This is Michigan’s largest, natural freshwater spring! Named by the Ojibwe as the “Mirror of Heaven,” this spring never freezes over, so you can visit it all year-round. As you gaze into the crystal-clear waters, you will feel like you’ve escaped to a far-off destination despite the parking lot being a few steps away! Experience the magic of Kitch-iti-kipi.
Fayette Historic State Park & Townsite
An hour to the east on the picturesque Garden Peninsula, you can easily spend two hours exploring this combination of world-changing history and natural beauty. Once a bustling industrial community that manufactured charcoal pig iron from 1867 to 1891, Fayette offers visitors the unmatched serenity of a Lake Michigan harbor, white limestone cliffs, verdant forests and a well-preserved museum village. Discover the storied past of the Fayette Townsite.
Hiawatha National Forest
Suffice it to say, you could spend a lifetime exploring the 894,000 acres of forested land about 17 minutes from Escanaba. Depending on your outdoor passions, you will find storied lighthouses, Lake Michigan and Lake Superior shorelines, islands, scenic views and miles of trails. Pursue your outdoor passions in Hiawatha National Forest.
Seney National Wildlife Refuge
Drive an hour and a half north of Escanaba to immerse in the wilds of the U.P. Forage for mushrooms, hunt for wildflowers, go fishing, hiking and birdwatching for hundreds of year-round and migrating species. One of this refuge’s thrills is seeing otters playing in the water and beavers building their dams. Explore the wilderness of Seney National Wildlife Refuge.
Memorable day trips from historic St. Ignace
St. Ignace is the second-oldest European-settled city in Michigan. Reach it from Michigan’s Lower Peninsula by the mighty Mackinac Bridge, one of several engineering feats in the U.P. and the reason you can drive between the Upper and Lower Peninsulas. Your base in St. Ignace links you to some of the most sought-after, repeat-visited sites in Michigan.
In less than a 20-minute ferry ride from the docks in St. Ignace, you will be on the crown jewel of Lake Huron, Mackinac Island. No cars are allowed, so plan to see the centuries of history by bicycle, horse or on foot. Be awed by the natural landmarks, historic Fort Mackinac, Victorian-era lake homes and creamy fudge! Read more about the lure of Mackinac Island.
Tahquamenon Falls State Park
In a little over an hour, you will feel the spray of Michigan’s largest waterfall, the thundering Upper Tahquamenon Falls, across your smiling face. Then cross the Tahquamenon River in a rowboat or over a footbridge to an island rimmed by the smaller, yet picturesque Lower Tahquamenon Falls. Here you can slip off your shoes and wade into the refreshing, swirling water. Learn more about the Tahquamenon Falls.
Sault Ste. Marie and the Soo Locks
Less than an hour from St. Ignace is the oldest city in Michigan and one of the oldest in the United States, Sault Ste. Marie. You can fill two to three hours exploring the historical sites in the city, but a must is going to see the renowned Soo Locks, two of the longest ship locks in the world. These locks have all the international flavor of the Panama Canal! Learn more about this engineering wonder, the Soo Locks.
Whitefish Point and the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum
One of the most hauntingly beautiful destinations is only 1.5 hours from St. Ignace. Whitefish Point and the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum retell the gripping tales of sailors and their ships braving some of the most dangerous waters in the world. This site pays tribute to the many lives lost to the Great Lakes’ raging storms. It is also home to Lake Superior’s first lighthouse and the flight path for thousands of migrating birds. Your heart will never be the same after visiting Whitefish Point.
Book your hotel stay today in the Upper Peninsula
Each of these day trip hub cities offers a choice of nearby lodgings to fit your amenities and nightly rate budgets.
Share your favorite U.P. day trips with other travelers
Let us know your favorite day trip destinations and adventures — including any new ideas! Use our hashtag #uptravel for an opportunity to be featured on our social media, website or in our marketing materials. You can also upload your photos to our Fall Photo Crowdriff Collector below.