Some of the best vacations are those spent in the car in close proximity with your friends, family or even on a trip for one. Sharing packed snacks, conversation and playlists. And the U.P. makes for a great road-tripping route. You can choose from stopping at beautiful vistas, iconic landmarks, roaring waterfalls, small businesses, delicious restaurants and historical buildings — all without ever getting bored. Better yet, there is always another adventure to embark on within a few hours drive. Not only is the entire U.P. great for a road trip, but you can find easy routes via highways from major cities like Chicago, Detroit and Milwaukee. So start packing your favorite driving snacks and piecing together those playlists — it’s time to plan the best Upper Peninsula road trip.
Eastern Upper Peninsula | Central Upper Peninsula | Western Upper Peninsula
Eastern Upper Peninsula
Straits State Park
It’s fun to drive over the Mighty Mackinac Bridge, but getting a photo with her is a must! Stop at the Straits State Park scenic outlook. Here, you’ll find a platform with some binoculars so you can see the bridge up close and personal — as long as you have quarters! There are also stairs that lead to a beach. It’s perfect for a family photo with Lake Huron and the bridge in the background.
Clyde's Drive In
Swing by Clyde’s Drive In to eat a ¾-pound Big C burger, grab a malt and stretch out your legs before continuing on your trip. Don’t worry, they also have several smaller sandwiches to choose from for those of you with smaller appetites. To get a headstart, call in your order when you’re about 20 minutes out. Be sure to check the Facebook page because this joint is always featuring fun fried foods, slushies and different desserts. Although there is limited seating inside, you can always picnic outside or drive a few minutes to the shores of Lake Huron. This business accepts cash only.
Mackinac Island and Drummond Island
Pick an Island to spend a day on, or stay an extra day and do both!
Mackinac Island is known for its crown jewel status on Lake Huron — visit Grand Hotel, Fort Mackinac, fudge shops and bike M-185. Did we mention no cars are allowed? Take the ferry over, and possibly go underneath the Mackinac Bridge for an up-close view!
Drummond Island is a unique piece of paradise. Take a ferry or plane, and explore over 100 miles of ATV and ORV trails, kayak the Heritage Water Trail or scuba dive to shipwrecks.
A colorful history surrounds the world-famous Soo Locks which form a passage for deep-draft ships around the rapids of the St. Mary's River. The two longest locks in the world are part of this National Historic Site, which has been in operation since 1855. The Visitor Viewing Area includes observation decks so close to the big ships that you feel you can touch them. Take a Soo Locks Boat Tour to learn more.
Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum and Whitefish Point
This cape on the northeastern side of the Upper Peninsula is the closest navigation mark to the wreck of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald site at 17 miles away. The ore freighter sank in 1975. Every vessel leaving or entering Lake Superior must pass Whitefish Point.
Learn about shipwreck history and preservation work through top quality exhibits of shipwreck artifacts, artwork, shipwreck models and lifelike mannequins at the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum. While here, you can view shipwreck footage, the bell from the Edmund Fitzgerald, the 1861 lightkeeper’s quarters and much more.
Tahquamenon Falls State Park and Tahquamenon Falls Brewery
Visit this iconic state park! The Upper Tahquamenon Falls is the second-largest waterfall east of the Mississippi River. It has a drop of nearly 50 feet, is more than 200 feet across and has a maximum water flow of more than 50,000 gallons per second. Be sure to hike or drive the four miles downstream to the Lower Falls, made up of five smaller waterfalls. Play in the Lower Falls on foot or rent a rowboat and journey out to the small island in between them all.
Afterward, grab a bite to eat and check out the gift shop at Tahquamenon Falls Brewery & Pub, Michigan’s only brewery within a state park.
Crisp Point Lighthouse
Crisp Point Lighthouse is one of the original five U.S. lifesaving stations on Lake Superior between Whitefish Point and Munising. When volunteers are available, you can explore the Visitors Center and climb to the top of the lighthouse tower for a panoramic view of Lake Superior. Take time to wander the winding shore, keep an eye out for passing freighters and pause to consider all of the stories of ships and keepers this lighthouse holds. Rock hunters may strike treasure as Crisp Point is known for agates.
Central Upper Peninsula
Seney National Wildlife Refuge
Seney National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1935 as a refuge and breeding ground for migratory birds and other wildlife. The 95,238- acre refuge encompasses the 25,150 acres of Seney Wilderness Area, which contains the Strangmoor Bog National Natural Landmark. The Whitefish Point Unit of the Seney National Wildlife Refuge is located nearly 80 miles away from the headquarters. This 53-acre tract is renowned for its concentrations of birds during migration. Whether you would like to drive the self-guided auto tour, stop by the Visitor Center, walk our trails, go hunting or fishing, take photographs, canoe or kayak, you’ll enjoy yourself.
Fayette Historic State Park & Townsite
Easily fill your morning exploring the 19th-century iron-smelting site of Fayette Historic State Park. A ghost of its former self, you can learn the story of this boom town gone bust at the visitor center and while exploring its 20 buildings. Walk or bike 3.5-miles of trails with overlooks of Snail Shell Harbor. The white limestone bluffs topped with ancient cedars— some of which are 1,400 years old — rival the beauty of the Pictured Rocks near Munising. The Harbor is also a great place to paddle and scuba dive.
This spring is one of Central U.P.’s most popular natural attractions. Located in Palms Book State Park, Kitch-iti-kipi is Michigan’s largest freshwater spring. A self-guided raft lets you cross the water, see and photograph the fascinating world below. You will need a Michigan Recreation Pass or day pass to enter the park.
Swedish Pantry and Sayklly’s Confectionery
For lunch, try the Swedish Pantry in Escanaba. Their wall of musical clocks is almost as much fun as emptying your dessert bowl of cardamom bread pudding.
Looking for a mid-afternoon treat? Join travelers and locals alike at Escanaba’s Sayklly’s Confectionery & Gifts to pick your favorite chocolates, nuts and caramels.
Trenary Home Bakery
Speaking of snacks, the historic Swedish Trenary Toast not only lasts during your road trip, but for up to a year after. Get this twice-baked coffee bread in multiple flavors, along with other goodies at Trenary Home Bakery!
Piers Gorge Trail
Piers Gorge Trail is a must-hike. This moderately difficult trail is 2.6 miles in and back with overlooks of the Menominee River falls and its rushing Class III and IV rapids. This is one of the most beautiful river-gorge settings in the Midwest.
If you’re a skilled paddler seeking an adrenaline high, launch your kayak or canoe and ride that frothing whitewater or experience white water rafting with True North Outpost.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
If you love being outdoors, put the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore next on your list. This ancient, geological masterpiece stretches 42 miles along the pristine, southern coast of Lake Superior between Munising and Grand Marais. There is so much to see and do, plan to spend a few hours, even days here. Visit the page linked above to decide what all you want to conquer and see while there.
Afterward, continue on M-28 East to Christmas. You can’t pass up taking photos with the giant cutouts of famous North Pole characters. What a fun way to get your next Christmas card photo early!
Presque Isle Park
Get on your hiking shoes and get ready for an impressive wilderness. In Marquette, drive north on Fourth Street (changes into Presque Isle Ave.) to Hawley Street. Turn right (east) and continue to Lakeshore Boulevard. Turn left (north) and follow Lakeshore until it ends at the park entrance.
Presque Isle Park’s diversity of forest and bog habitats are home to over 100 native plant species which, in turn, provide habitat to many resident and migratory bird species. Muskrats, beavers, turtles and waterfowl such as mergansers, mallards, Canada geese and loons are commonly seen along the Lake Superior shoreline. Take the Bog Walk Trail for an up-close look at a 10,000-year-old bog and the specially adapted plants that inhabit this unique type of wetland. There are 6-7 miles of hiking trails plus an outer perimeter drive around the isle.
Lagniappe Cajun Creole Eatery & Voodoo Bar
With over 45 years in food service, Chef Don Durley has been tantalizing Marquette area taste buds since 1983. Lagniappe Cajun Creole Eatery prides itself on their standard of quality food and service, which has been the basis for the authentic southern eatery. Stepping into Lagniappe is like stepping out of Marquette and into Louisiana. Every menu item and ingredient is made from scratch and in house, with the exception of ice cream, and they’re even working on that!
Western Upper Peninsula
Brockway Mountain Drive
Grab a camera and take the easy drive up Brockway Mountain, and you'll marvel at the view from 735 ft. above lake level. Look out over Lake Superior as the setting sun paints the wide expanse of Keweenaw Sky. Watch as a freighter silently cruises the waters off of the peninsula. Overlook the quaint town of Copper Harbor to the north, or scan the roads leading south, to spot the inland lakes or landmarks you passed on your trip up.
These are some of the reasons Brockway Mountain Drive has consistently been selected as one of the most scenic drives in the midwest. Just 9-1/2 miles long, it offers superb views and some of the best the Keweenaw Peninsula has to offer, and in all the seasons. Summer offers opportunities to explore the Brockway Mountain Nature Association and Audubon Society Sanctuary.
America’s first mining boom began as prospectors and speculators rushed to mine deposits of native copper along the Keweenaw Peninsula. For 99 years, the Quincy Mine had an impressive string of dividends that earned it the name of "Old Reliable." Today it is a major tourist attraction in the Keweenaw, featuring tours of the underground workings, the No. 2 shaft house, the world's largest steam powered hoist which serviced the No. 2 shaft to a vertical depth of 6,200 feet and the Midwest's only cog-rail tram.
Iron County Historical Museum
Explore 26 buildings, 100+ exhibits and two art galleries at this top-ranked Michigan historic site.
Take M-45 N to Paulding to see one of the most photographed waterfalls in the Midwest, Bond Falls. Spread 100 feet across, Bond Falls drops nearly 50 feet downwards, emptying back into the Ontonagon River.
Firebrick Grill & Bar at Young’s
Catch lunch in Iron River at Firebrick Bar & Grill at Young’s. Choose your favorite drinks and pub-inspired food, then take in the gorgeous Chicaugon Lake views.
National Black River Scenic Byway Waterfall Tour
North of Bessemer, this stop will be a highlight of your Western U.P. journey. You can drive or hike the 14-mile Black River Road and see each of the five waterfalls. Be sure to stop and see the impressive Great Conglomerate Falls. Then visit Gorge Falls and the barrier-free Potawatomi Falls. Both are ranked among the most beautiful waterfalls in the U.P. Hike a quarter-mile trail from the parking lot to see the Sandstone Falls’ rock formations. Then follow the road to Rainbow Falls. If you can navigate the steps down to the observation deck, look to see how the falls got its name. When you reach the end of the Byway, spend time at the park where the Black River empties into Lake Superior. You will be awed by the view from the park’s suspension footbridge.
Copper Peak Adventure Ride
This attraction takes you to the top of the world’s largest ski flying structure. From its 26-stories above the hilltop, you have views unparalleled in the Midwest. If you come in the fall, nothing compares to this colorful vista of amber and red leaves and the deep blues of Lake Superior. From this sky-high vantage point, you will overlook 2,500 square miles of the Lake Superior Basin with sightings on a clear day of the Apostle Islands, the Porcupine Mountains, Isle Royale and numerous historic sites.
North Country National Scenic Trail
Hike the North Country National Scenic Trail or Sylvania Wilderness Area through old-growth forests, along pristine lakes and tumbling rivers. Look for rare orchids, bald eagles and osprey along the trails. It’s exhilarating and peaceful to be this immersed in nature.
Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park
Whether you explore the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park by car, hiking boots, watercraft or mountain bike, you will immediately know why Michigan’s largest state park is a recreational paradise. Spanning 60,000 acres, it offers unrivaled vistas of Lake Superior’s stunning shores, roaring waterfalls, miles of rivers and streams, 35,000 acres of untamed old-growth forests and 90 miles of hiking/backpacking trails. It is the ultimate off-the-grid experience east of the Rockies! You should make sure to hit these two locations within the park.
The Lake of the Clouds Overlook, accessible by foot, wheelchair or motorized cart. Beautiful spring through fall, this mountain vantage point tops the national leaf-peeping charts each autumn. Hikers and anglers (catch-and-release only) can reach the Lake of the Clouds below on the Big Carp River and Escarpment Trails.
Summit Peak Observation Tower is another sky-high-view destination. This one requires climbing 50 steps to look out from your 2,000-feet-above-sea-level perch. Just as at Copper Peak, you can see Wisconsin’s Apostle Islands, Isle Royale and miles of Lake Superior. This is also a fall color tour must-stop.
Stop here for “plentiful food and drink” after a day of adventuring! Their excellent dining atmosphere is paired with great views of wild bear in the summer and deer in the winter.
Lake Superior Coastal Tour
Take M-64 N from Silver City to a mile east of downtown Ontonagon. Stop at the Ontonagon Township Park to enjoy its mile-long stretch of beach perfect for walking, swimming, rock hunting or relaxing with a good book in the sun. If you have never spent time by Lake Superior, you will be awestruck.
Adventure Mining Co.
Discover just how much stamina it took to work in the copper mines more than a century ago. Adventure Mining Co. in Greenland takes underground mining experiences to a new level from easy walking tours to rappelling down a shaft or taking a drilling and blasting workshop.