Where are the Northern Lights this winter? Good question. Many people think their only chance of seeing the Northern Lights (otherwise known as the Aurora Borealis) is to travel to the great white north. We are talking way up in Canada, Finland, Iceland, the North Pole...you get the point. Here is some good news. You only have to travel a little north to see nature’s dazzling display (plus, before you go pay attention to forecasting sites such as https://www.swpc.noaa.gov/products/aurora-30-minute-forecast).
The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is consistently bathed in these stellar light shows between August and April. So winter-time is primetime for the Northern Lights. While you can catch glimpses of them from essentially anywhere in the U.P., you will want to venture off the beaten path to the northern shores to witness the Northern Lights in all their glory. To increase your chances of seeing the best of the dancing sky, we have compiled a list of our five recommended Northern Lights viewing locations. Be sure to wear warm clothes and bring your favorite warm beverage to stave off the cold winter night.
- Brockway Mountain, Copper Harbor - The highest viewing location featured on this list, Brockway Mountain offers sweeping panoramic views of the Keweenaw and Lake Superior. With the Northern Lights dazzling overhead, the experience is otherworldly. Accessing Brockway in the winter will require a bit more of an adventurer’s heart. The paved road is closed during the winter season, meaning the only way to reach these views is via snowmobile. You will want to take the necessary precautions to protect yourself. Dress warm, bring food and water, check the weather forecast and with local authorities to make sure the trail is safe.
- Marquette’s M-28 Turnouts - Heading east out of Marquette you will find Highway M-28. This stretch of highway is snuggled along the shore of Lake Superior and ripe with scenic turnouts. These turnouts offer the flexibility to come and go as you please, making them highly accessible at night. They also host some fantastic beach views, and fortunately for the Northern Lights, hardly any light pollution. So pick your turnout and watch the aurora dance from your car, a luxury in the cold winter nights.
- Breakers Beach, Houghton - Breakers Beach is not your everyday beach. Located northwest of Houghton it is the result of the Keweenaw mining boom, you will find stamp sand at your feet and a breaker wall leading to a lighthouse. The thing that makes this beach special for viewing the night sky is twofold, you are allowed to have bonfires and it is on the northern side of the Keweenaw Peninsula, meaning no light pollution. So make sure to bring some firewood and chairs and enjoy the warmth of a U.P. bonfire while you wait for the Northern Lights to catch fire.
- Eagle Harbor Lighthouse, Eagle Harbor - One of the most iconic lighthouses in the Upper Peninsula, the Eagle Harbor Lighthouse is a picturesque marine view not unlike the kind you would find on the coasts of Maine. It is particularly beautiful when the rocky shoreline blends with the snowy blanket of winter. A cold, crisp night in Eagle Harbor illuminates the sky with crystal-clear clarity, perfect for your Northern Lights escapade. With the lighthouse in the foreground and the Aurora Borealis ablaze above, it is a sight few could describe. Hopefully, you have a camera at hand.
- Pictured Rocks, Munising - Rounding out our list we have our most adventurous viewing location, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. The park campgrounds are open during the winter, the catch being the roads to them are not plowed...they are accessible only by snowmobile, snowshoe or skis. While an overnight stay here in the winter requires safety precautions, the payoff of the night sky is worth the extra effort. Pictured Rocks is known for its dramatic rock cliffs and hidden caves. When you visit in the winter you will find these rock cliffs now covered in massive icicles and the hidden caves are now ice caves (think Superman’s Fortress of Solitude). Now toss the Northern Lights into the mix, the views become enhanced tenfold. As the night sky bursts into the colorful aurora, the ice around you illuminates in what seems like a choreographed dance. You will come out of the experience knowing you’ve witnessed something very few have.
The Northern Lights are an experience that you need to witness at least once in your life. Plan an aurora-driven adventure using our five recommended viewing locations or pave your own way. As long as you stick to the northern shore of the Upper Peninsula, it will be hard to go wrong. And remember, you don’t have to travel internationally to see the Northern Lights, you only have to travel U.P.
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