Seven scenic motorcycle routes to see the wild and beautiful U.P.

Posted on July 22nd, 2021

Drummond Island & Soo Locks | Tahquamenon Falls State Park | Whitefish Point | Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore | Lake Michigan Dunes | Western Waterfalls | Keweenaw Peninsula

There’s no better destination in the Midwest to twist your throttle than Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (U.P.). Discover 1,000+ miles of coastal and forested highways and byways, lighthouse and waterfall pull-offs, restaurants that know a day of riding builds an appetite (and a thirst) that needs satisfying and biker-friendly places to spend the night. 

We honestly can’t think of any place in the U.P. where you won’t enjoy time soloing on your cruiser or doubling up on a touring bike. You will easily fill your day with straightaways and twisting turns. The best time of year to ride is late May to mid-October.
Below are seven biker-recommended routes in the Eastern, Central and Western U.P. to get you rolling. So, fasten your helmet (optional in Michigan) and give a biker wave when you go by. 

Eastern U.P. Routes

This sunrise side of the U.P. is most commonly accessed from the iconic mighty Mackinac Bridge that suspends across the Mackinac Straits where Lake Michigan and Lake Huron meet. You will start your journey from Mackinaw City in the Lower Peninsula and take the most breathtaking five miles to St. Ignace on the other side where you will pay the $4 bridge toll. It’s rare to find an individual who doesn’t feel different when they push off from the toll booth — freer, excited, adventurous, emboldened are only some of the emotions that will rush through you!

  • Coastal ride to Drummond Island then up to the engineering marvel, the Soo Locks
    Soo Locks Photo: @aramanvivek


    You’ll start this adventure hugging the shore of Lake Huron with pull-offs to beaches and charming resort towns (a side-step to the Cheneaux Island area is a worthwhile road break). Take I-75BL to M-134 and take the curves east. Cross with your bike by ferry to Drummond Island (takes less than a half-hour). Hike or rent a UTV to explore one the largest closed-loop trails in the United States, rent a kayak to paddle the Drummond Island Heritage Water Trail or duck into Scammon Cove where you will pass over two visible shipwrecks. Check out the alvars or rent clubs to play the Island’s 27 holes.

    Return to the mainland by ferry, west on M-134 to M-129, a straight shot to Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan’s oldest city. There is plenty of history and nearby nature to take in but a must-stop is the Soo Locks where you can stand within inches of giant national and international freighters as they navigate on the St. Marys River between Lake Huron and Lake Superior. Better yet, park the bike and take one of the boat tours through the Locks.
     

  • Destination: Tahquamenon Falls State Park, home of Michigan’s largest waterfall
    Tahquamenon Falls
    Photo credit: Kayla Amber


    Plan to visit both the Lower and Upper Tahquamenon Falls when you’re cruising through this forested neighborhood. The Upper Falls is an absolute must-see in the U.P. It’s 200 feet wide with a 50-foot drop that you can hear roaring long before you see the 50,000 gallons/second of root-beer-colored water tumbling to the swirling river below.

    If you’re not in a hurry, from St. Ignace, follow I-75BL to M-134 to M-129 and go straight to Sault Ste. Marie. Take M-28 west to M-22 north then follow W. Lakeshore Drive along the jaw-droppingly beautiful Lake Superior coast, stopping to see Point Iroquois Lighthouse in Brimley. Here you can do some freighter watching and rock hunting. From there, continue along the coast on W. Lakeshore Drive, left on S. Ranger Rd., right on M-28 W followed by a right onto M-123 N then left on M-123 S.

    When you stop at the Lower Tahquamenon Falls, rent a rowboat for a closer encounter with the five cascading falls. If your stomach says it’s time for a food and beverage break, there’s a brewery on the State Park property by the Upper Falls and ice cream at the Lower Falls. You will need a Michigan Recreation Passport or day pass to enter the park. 
     

  • Lake Superior ride to hauntingly beautiful Whitefish Point
    Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum
    Photo credit: @ditchingsuburbia

    The Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum, located at Michigan’s Whitefish Point Light Station, is one of Michigan’s most popular destinations. The museum’s world-class exhibits tell the story of the emotionally haunting world of Lake Superior shipwrecks, including the renowned sinking of the S.S. Edmond Fitzgerald in November 1975.
    Follow the Lake Michigan coastal highway, US 2, west from St. Ignace. There are several scenic, soft-sand beach pull-offs along the way (park along the south side of the highway). Take an optional break to visit Garlyn Zoological Park in Naubinway to see hundreds of North American animals along its shady trails. Wind your way north following M-117 and M-28 to M-123 N that will showcase Lake Superior until you reach your destination at the Point.

    In addition to the museum and historic grounds, take time to hike the trails and rest at the beach. This area is on the migration path for hundreds of birds, so it’s a good late spring or early fall ride if you want to check off your bird-sighting bucket list. 

Eastern/Central U.P. Routes

  • Miners Castle, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore Photo: @canonized_moments

    See the phenomenal Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
    Ask anyone that has ever ridden a motorcycle in the U.P. and they will tell you, hands-down, this is THE ride of a lifetime in the Midwest. You can come to it from the west as well. H-28 is the highlight between Grand Marais and Munising with its sweeping curves and coastal views. The Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is a U.S. National Parks phenomenon when it comes to recreational wilderness experiences. Don’t make this a pass-through destination on your U.P. itinerary. Plan on at least two days of breathtaking exploring and discovering. 

    From Whitefish Point take M-123 S to M-28 W then M-77 N. Take a left on Newberg Road then a right for the glory-ride along County Road H-58 and Lake Superior.  

  • Ride along the Lake Michigan dunes to Menominee
    Kitch-it-kipi Photo credit: Monish Kumar

    This is an amazing ride that will take you along the Lake Michigan shore, crossing the Cut River Bridge and luring you off the road with plenty of places to park the bike and explore along the route. Consider stops at Kitch-iti-kipi, the Big Spring in Palms Book State Park, the boomtown turned ghost town at Fayette Historic State Park and Townsite, plus eating, shopping and enjoying trail and water time in Manistique, Gladstone, Escanaba and Menominee.

    This route is super easy to follow. From St. Ignace, hop on US 2 W. There are pull-offs to take in the beach stretches. Get in your workout walking the 270+ steps down to the Cut River Bridge State Roadside Park then climb back up — there are lots of camera-clicking views. Visit Manistique and Kitch-iti-kipi along the way.

    For a treasure-packed side trip continue west on US 2 then turn south onto M-183 and enter the Garden Peninsula. This easy-going ride will take you past farms and orchards, into small coastal towns along the Big Bay de Noc, then on to Fayette Historic State Park and the wonderfully secluded Sac Bay Beach at the peninsula’s tip.

    Return to US 2 W and then take another relaxing ride south onto County Road 513 T. Cruise down the Stonington Peninsula to Peninsula Point Lighthouse Park. If you come in late August to early September you will see a fall color tour treat when thousands of monarch butterflies layover at this peninsula’s tip. It’s on their 1,900-mile flight path to their winter home in Mexico.
    Return to US 2 with optional stops in Rapid River and Gladstone. Then take M-35 S to Escanaba and Menominee for more beaches, outdoor recreation and cultural destinations. 

Western U.P. Routes

  • Waterfall ride is color-popping gorgeous in the fall
    Fall Ride – Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
    Photo Credit: Aaron Peterson

    This ride is a favorite in late spring through early October. When the hardwood trees along this route start drenching this wilderness with their flaming yellow, red and orange leaf colors, you will be snapping your camera all along the way.
    Of the seven scenic motorcycle routes, this one is a fairly short ride. That’s because you will want to spend more time off the bike than on it for the scenery you’ll encounter.

    Where US 2 and M-45 intersect, take M-45 north to Paulding. Look for the Bond Falls signs and take in this 50-foot beauty. Return south to US 2 and next look for the Big Powderhorn Mountain Resort signs. Turn into the entrance, follow the road to the T-intersection and take a left onto Black River Road. Now be ready to stop along the Black River Scenic Byway to see some amazing waterfalls — Potawatomi, Gorge, Rainbow, Great Conglomerate and Sandstone. There’s a picnic area and Lake Superior beach when you pull off at Black River Harbor.  
     

  • Keweenaw Peninsula: An unforgettable ride to the U.P.’s northernmost tip
    Some bikers refer to taking this route as riding to the end of the world. If you don’t include Isle Royale National Park in Lake Superior, it’s as far north as you can go in Michigan. Gosh, this ride is worth the extra miles it takes to reach it. The Keweenaw Peninsula (which is actually an island) juts like a curved finger into Lake Superior. You will take in everything from a university town to rocky coasts that rival Highway 1 in California to spectacular mountain-top views to unpopulated beaches and long-shuttered, historic copper mining sites along the way.

    Brockway Mountain in Copper Harbor Photo: @musallam_photography

    Spend a day exploring Houghton with its Michigan Tech University college-town vibe and a vibrant downtown. Start your Keweenaw ride driving north on Route 230 along Portage Lake to F.J. McLain State Park, a popular place to hike, hang out on the beach, watch windsurfers and pick berries for your mid-afternoon snack. Continue north on Route 203 to historic Calumet, take in the sights and get lunch. From there, go west on M-26 along the Lake Superior coastline with a stop at Eagle Harbor. Follow M-26 with its rocky shoreline to Brockway Mountain Drive. This road is a bit rough, but the scenery getting to the top is worth the slowdown. We are talking looking out 500 feet above the shoreline!

    Ease your way down to Copper Harbor for food and shopping. This is a good place to stay over so you can watch the sunset and wake up to visit Fort Wilkins State Park and Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary.

    When you are ready to move on from Copper Harbor, you have two choices. If you like adventure, take Mandan Road around the tip of the peninsula and visit Bete Gris (gorgeous beach) then cruise along the eastern shore to Gay and follow the backroads south to the end of the peninsula, then west to Houghton.

    For a faster ride, with potential side trips to the mansion-town of Laurium or a tour of the historic Quincy Copper Mine near Hancock, take US 41 down the middle of the Keweenaw to Houghton. 

This is just the beginning of the scenic routes you can take by motorcycle in the U.P. We will continue to add more to this site, so check back for more ways to see this stunning peninsula! Whichever way you go, you will bring back memories to last a lifetime.