Sometimes the best path to choose is not the easiest. In Baraga County that rings true again and again. But reaching such unspoiled places is worth a half day of adventuring to bring home a lifetime of memories. There are times when you want to spend your vacation in manmade resorts elbow-to-elbow with people. And then there are other times when you want to go to the places that inspired those humanarchitected amusement and waterparks. When you long for the real thing, pack your backpack or suitcase and come to Baraga County.
All are welcome at the Shrine of Bishop Baraga which begat Baraga County its name. Affectionately known as the Snowshoe Priest, Frederic Baraga would travel up to 700 miles to serve his churches. Depicted in copper, the likeness of Bishop Baraga stands watch sixty feet above the Keweenaw Bay. Watch shorebirds soar while contemplating which path to choose through the Bishop’s namesake Baraga County. Whether that’s a place of solitude, gathering up pretty stones and occasional beach glass on Second Sand Beach in L’Anse. Or whether that means traveling to the “Grand Canyon of Michigan” without leaving the state.
Wild West Meets the Autobaron
Canyon Falls Photo credit: Eileen Rench
While Canyon Falls may not quite measure up to that attraction in Arizona, it is impressive nonetheless. Easily accessed from a roadside trail, you will delight in the spray of waterfalls and tumbling rapids. In spring, listen to the rumbling of the waterfall before you see it cascading thirty feet down over smooth black rock. The falls plummet over shelves the water has carved into a box canyon. If you’re looking for an adrenaline rush, join the cliff-jumpers who flock to this spot and plunge fifteen and thirty feet down into the cool river waters.You won’t have to battle crowds or pay high ticket prices to enjoy this canyon.
Stop into Historic Alberta Village to learn about Henry Ford’s unique connection to the area. This sawmill village was built by Ford and offers little known facts about the autobaron and his influence on the growth of the region.
Step into an untamed wilderness at Sturgeon River Gorge. Outfitted with a small campground, you will be able to sleep peacefully under the stars and wake up to a stunning patchwork of fall colors. The native hemlock, aspen, sugar maple, birch and basswood living alongside the pines are a feast for the senses. Enjoy a peaceful hike to the river where Sturgeon Falls drops sharply 20 feet over volcanic outcroppings. The river has carved out a gorge that is a stunning 350 feet deep and a mile across.
After looking into the belly of the gorge, head for the hills! At 1,979.238 feet Mount Arvon has recently edged out its Southwestern neighbor, Mt. Curwood, as the highest natural point in Michigan. The friendly rivalry continues as Arvon claims a towering eleven inch advantage. Follow the blue diamond trail past a beaver pond and sparkling waterfalls for a top-of-the-state view of Lake Superior in the distance. Mt. Arvon welcomes hikers and a road will take you within two miles of the summit if you prefer a shorter itinerary.
When you’ve exhausted Michigan’s version of mountains, “Grand Canyon” and gorge, take a spin and delight in the views along the coastline. Baraga County stretches along the shores of ever-changing Lake Superior and reaches down into the Ottawa National Forest. You can drive the twisty dirt road up Abbaye Peninsula to see the soul-stirring vistas of Point Abbaye’s sandstone shelf, Keweenaw Bay and the distant Huron Islands.
As captivating as Lake Superior’s coastline is, you will also enjoy boating, fishing (ice fishing in winter) and swimming in the county’s smaller lakes. The Huron River offers some of the best steelhead fishing in the U.P. Craig Lake State Park, Michigan’s most remote state park, offers you a place to see moose, wolves, black bear and other wildlife.
A Place for All Seasons
If you treasure fall color, Point Abbaye and the Skanee area will rival any “leaf peeping” place in the nation. Winter is a lovely season in Baraga County, best enjoyed on its 150 miles of groomed snowmobile trails. Or you can renew your spirit along the peaceful Pinery Lakes Cross-Country Ski Trail east of L’Anse or snowshoe in the L’Anse Township Park and Campground.
When you have returned from your wilderness adventures, gather with others on summer evenings along the picturesque waterfront in L’Anse for Thursday night concerts. Or head over to Covington on Tuesdays for the open-air concerts. Whether you’re in the mood for backcountry adventures or relaxing along the shore, Baraga County offers the picture perfect escape.