After tying the knot on August 13th, my wife and I spent a week honeymooning in Michigan’s upper peninsula. We’ve both been to the upper peninsula before, but we’ve never had the time we had on this trip to explore our surroundings. You’ve probably been to the U.P. before and seen some combination of Mackinac Island, Whitefish Point, Sault Ste. Marie, Tahquamenon Falls and the Pictured Rocks. Maybe you’ve even traveled further west to the Porcupine Mountains or Copper Harbor.
While those are some of the most widely known treasures of the upper peninsula, there are plenty of other places that often go unnoticed. Here are some of my favorites for you to enjoy on your next U.P. excursion:
Michigan’s upper peninsula is known for its waterfalls. No doubt, Tahquamenon and Bond Falls deserve their hype. But in this spot about 10 miles south of L’Anse lies Canyon Falls, a wonderful secret. An unassuming brown sign marks the roadside park that houses the trail to the falls. It’s a fine spot to get out of the car and stretch your legs. However, those who take the half-mile journey are rewarded with one of the most unique waterfall experiences in the midwest.
The trail provides an easy walk for most. Parts are paved, but most of the trail is dirt. I recommend you bring waterproof hiking boots. There are plenty of rocks and roots along the trail. As you continue down the trail, you’re met with several rapids and some tiny waterfalls. This was actually my favorite part. Depending on the time of year, you can walk right onto some large sandstone rocks and get right in the middle of the river. It’s a very pretty area, and would be fun for the kids!
Beyond the rapids, you begin to notice the steep rock walls, and the sound of much more water flowing. You’re close! Then, at the end of the trail, you’re greeted with truly unique rock formations, highlighted with a cascading waterfall into the gorge. If you’re wearing the right shoes, walk down some of the rocks at the end of the trail to the bottom of the gorge. The photo ops are awesome! Canyon Falls may not be the biggest in the state, but this is an easy and worthwhile stop along the way to the Porcupine Mountain or the Keweenaw.
Lake of the Clouds gets most of the the attention when people talk about the Porcupine Mountains. And rightfully so! When you go to the Porkies, go to Lake of the Clouds! But if you’re looking for something else to do while you’re there, take the trip to the top of Summit Peak.
Summit Peak lies near the middle of the 20 mile South Boundary Road at Porcupine Mountains State Park, so it’s not difficult to make the trip regardless of where you are in the park. Once you reach the parking lot, a half-mile hike awaits. This is a rather steep uphill hike, so it’s somewhat challenging, but totally doable for just about anyone. After traversing through some beautiful old-growth forests, you’re greeted with a viewpoint featuring spectacular views of the Porkies, the surrounding area, and even Lake Superior. At 1,958 feet, this is the third highest point in Michigan.
Just past the viewpoint lies a wooden observation tower. The 100 or so steps to the top might seem daunting, but please…don’t bail now. At the top of the tower, you enjoy some of the best views the state has to offer. With the extra 50 feet, the tower at Summit Peak becomes the highest point in Michigan. Clear views of the Porkies and Lake Superior are pretty much a guarantee. Most days, you get a clear view of Wisconsin’s Apostle Islands as well. According to the reading material at the top, on a clear day, you can even see Isle Royale.
In 1983, a pair of priests and friends set out to find a remote location for peace and worship. After some searching, Father Basil and Father Nicholas relocated from suburban Detroit to the Keweenaw Peninsula, mere miles from the top of the Michigan mainland. Their first winter was brutal. The duo almost didn’t make it! But thanks to help from neighbors, they survived.
Fast forward 33 years, the duo of monks has grown in numbers, and everyone involved has three goals: worship Jesus Christ, find peace and make jam. Thus the Jampot is born. The small operation opens Monday through Saturday in the summer near Eagle Harbor, MI. They specialize in the production of jam and baked goods. The monks strive to use local ingredients, and pick many of the berries themselves.
As an added bonus, Jacobs Falls lies across the street from the Jampot. Enjoy opportunity to stretch your legs and check out some scenery while working up an appetite on the way to Copper Harbor.
2The Calumet Theatre
The 116-year-old Calumet Theatre might be one of the most fascinating man-made places in the upper peninsula. The theater lies in the heart of Calumet, a small community just north of Houghton/Hancock with a bloody labor movement past. The theatre opens several days a week for self-guided tours, and hosts various entertainment throughout the year. Check their website for the latest times.
Many choose to visit the theatre in hopes of catching a glimpse of the ghost Madame Helena Modjeska. While the theatre employees wouldn’t speak much of the reputed haunting, the theatre often appears on lists of haunted Michigan locations. It’s worth noting that both my wife and I experienced odd camera issues at times inside the theatre. This was the only part of our vacation where we had any problems like this. Creepy!
Outside of the reported hauntings, the theatre provides wonderful old charm and beautiful architecture. It’s a worthy stop for any visit to the upper peninsula.
As the “metropolis” of the upper peninsula, Marquette seems far from underrated. While Marquette gets the credit it deserves as an up-north destination, the city really deserves more recognition and a midwestern cultural hub. Much of this credit goes to Marquette’s downtown area.
Downtown Marquette provides a plethora of unique shops, plenty of art and cultural events to please even the biggest hipster in us, a damn-fine craft beer scene, and some of the best farm-to-table restaurants you’ll find north of I-96. Add this to the breathtaking views of Lake Superior and the ore docks. Plus, some of the best hiking, rock climbing and biking in Michigan lies only a few miles away.
My personal favorites include Getz’s Department Store, a Carhartt lovers paradise and probably the only independently-owned department store I’ve ever seen, The Marquette Food Co-op, easily the biggest and nicest cooperative grocery store I’ve ever set foot in, and the Portside Inn, a casual downtown eatery with delicious and unique recipes. Take some time while you’re there to soak in the beautiful architecture and the slew of 100+ year old buildings that house many of these wonderful establishments.