A good ol’ fashioned drive IS the best way to experience the U.P.’s scenery. But one season that you may not have considered for a leisurely cruise (but should) is winter. This time of year transforms the already beautiful Upper Peninsula into a magical land that few places can match. Couple that with fantastic snow removal crews and a toasty-warm car and you have the recipe for some dreamy winter driving. Below are six scenic drives you will love taking during your Upper Peninsula winter travels. Each comes Yooper-approved.
1. US-2, St. Ignace to NaubinwayBack to Top of List
Whether you are driving towards St. Ignace or Naubinway this drive packs a scenic punch. US-2 hugs the coast of Lake Michigan, offering up lakeshore vistas and plenty of picturesque turnouts. The landscape changes from forested terrain to rocky shoreline to rolling dunes over the course of only a few miles. You will be mesmerized by the big frozen lake shimmering under the sun. To cap off the drive, you can also catch glimpses of the wintry-white Mackinac Bridge connecting Michigan’s Peninsulas. Have your camera ready.
2. M-28, Munising to MarquetteBack to Top of List
As you will quickly see, there is a theme to this list. The Upper Peninsula is home to breathtaking coastal views enhanced by winter’s embrace. One that offers stop-in-your-tracks scenery is M-28 that stretches along the coast of Lake Superior between Munising and Marquette. This highway is ripe with turnouts along the many bays, allowing you to take in Lake Superior’s frozen beauty at your own pace. The mighty waves of Superior push ice on the shores creating a view wholly unique. In the rare occurrence that Superior freezes over, you can look out upon miles and miles of ice. Either Munising or Marquette will work as your endpoint. Both offer up historic views, great food and shops.
3. US-41 and M-26, Calumet to Copper HarborBack to Top of List
Start out in snowy, historic Calumet (locals will tell you it was *this close* to being the capital of Michigan) and work your way up US-41 until you come across M-26. Take M-26 through Eagle River along the northern shores of the Keweenaw Peninsula to Copper Harbor. This route gives you a little bit of everything the U.P. offers. A historic mining town in Calumet, a coastal lighthouse in Eagle Harbor, a forested adventure spot in Copper Harbor and lastly, all of that snow. We average 200+ inches of falling flakes annually up here.
4. M-123, Newberry to ParadiseBack to Top of List
Take M-123 and adventure through the U.P.’s wintry wilderness. As you drive beyond the small town of Newberry, you will cut through Newberry State Forest. A fresh snowfall will have the forest looking like a winter wonderland. Further up M-123, take a break from your scenic drive and check out Tahquamenon Falls. One of the best sights in all of Michigan, you can access the falls via a short year-round trail. From there, head to Lake Superior in Paradise, then south to take in the frozen lake views that Whitefish Bay offers.
5. US-41, L’Anse to HoughtonBack to Top of List
A personal favorite, this scenic drive will take you from L’Anse to historic downtown Houghton via US-41. As you exit L’Anse and head north to Houghton, Keweenaw Bay opens up and gives a view of frozen water peppered with ice fishing shacks. You’ve made it to ice fishing land. As you turn away from the bay you will come upon the cute town of Chassell. You will have Portage Lake to your right until you reach Houghton. As you enter the fringes of Houghton, you’ll be greeted by the snow-blanketed campus of Michigan Technological University. Continue onwards and you will come upon the warming sight of historic Houghton. Complete your scenic drive and find a place to park; we recommend a frosty walk through this beautiful downtown.
6. US-41 and US-2 to M-183, Escanaba to Fayette Historic State ParkBack to Top of List
See both Little and Big Bay De Noc in all their winter glory with this scenic route. Start out with Lake Shore Drive in Escanaba and work your way onto US-41. You’ll be hugging the frozen coast of Little Bay De Noc for the start of this voyage. As you crest the bay you will cross onto US-2 for a bit. As you come upon Big Bay De Noc, move over to M-183. From here on you are working your way down the winter bay until you reach Fayette Historic State Park. You’ll want to park your car and take a stroll here. Fayette Historic State Park is open year-round and showcases what life offered in the 19th century. The living museum stands tall among the snowy landscape. Across from Fayette, you will see the stunning limestone cliffs of Snail Shell Harbor.
Scenic drives are a great way to access the views this area offers in a short amount of time. Winter often deters driving but in the Upper Peninsula snow is a way of life. While we don’t recommend venturing out in a true Yooper snowstorm, most days the roads will be nice and clean and perfect for your road trip. While we listed six of our favorite scenic drives, any drive in the U.P.’s winter wonderland will host up breathtaking views that you won’t find elsewhere. Take note of our recommendations and don’t be afraid to carve out your own scenic routes.
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