Michigan UP: Closer (and more breathtakingly beautiful) than you might think.

log slide overlook in grand marais. those two black dots in the middle? my boys.

Log slide overlook in Grand Marais.
Those two black dots in the middle? My boys.

(I’m going to preface this post by saying: Yes, I know this isn’t technically summer in “Our Fair State,” but it’s NEXT to our fair state and that oughtta count for something, right?)

Did you realize the Porcupine Mountains are a mere five and a half hours away? Drive, drive, drive, Bam! you’re there. What’s in store for you once you arrive? Trees and water as far as the eye can see. And if you have Virgin cell service, not that (I consider a lovely bonus)!

Rather than hitting many spots very quickly, we decided to enjoy few places for a longer amount of time. So we only covered the northwest part of the peninsula making our way east to Grand Marais. Here are a few of the kiddo-loving highlights:

1. Camping! I’ve never been a camper, but I’m this —> || close to becoming a convert. For the full wonder-of-outdoors experience, I recommend immersing yourself in the woods with the bugs and bears. Besides, the kids get to play with fire and they like that. We did it at Porcupine Mountains here. Originally I had chosen a “modern” campsite with flushing toilets because I’m fancy that way. But after seeing how crowded and closely-situated each site was, we opted for a “rustic” site (Lost Creek) and I’m so happy we did. For our second stop near Pictured Rocks we stayed at Au Train Lake Campground—two big mosquito-biten thumbs up! Lots of kids and ample non-busy roads for them to scooter, bike, skateboard, play and meet other mini-campers. Oh and a beautiful lake with an easy 2–mile hiking trail (bug repellant is your friend!).

Our Fair State2. Syl’s Cafe in Ontonagon. Scene of where I lost my Pasty virginity. Also where my boy got a kids meal toy that wasn’t a Disney character.

3. Adventure Copper Mine Tours in Ontonagon. My little dude is very much into Minecraft and rock collecting (see #4) right now, so this was pretty much a no-brainer. It’s no surprise he loved it. And why wouldn’t he? He got to wear a headlamp and buy a little piece of mined copper from the gift shop. Also, there were bats.

4. Agate Beach in Grand Marais. We had a blast combing this beach for agates. Even if you don’t find any agates, there’s no shortage of gorgeous rocks. Bring a bucket. And maybe lift some weights to prepare yourself for the haul.

5. Shipwreck Glass Bottom Boat Tour in Munising. This was pretty cool. In addition to shipwrecks, you get to see some pretty impressive rocks and a nice view of the Grand Island Lighthouse. However, I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you I thought the tour was a wee too long (2 hours). Maybe that’s just me—I get antsy on boats.

6. Log Slide Overlook in Grand Marais. I’m not even going to link to it because none of the pictures I’ve seen online do it justice. Not only is the view from the overlook breathtakingly stunning with the bluest of blue water, but it’s at the top of a steep sandy slide that the hubs and boy slid down (and crawled back up) while mama kicked back with a cigarette and martini (no I didn’t). This video (not ours) will give you an idea of what I’m talking about.

It took a little more driving to make it east to Munising. But the drive to Porcupine Mountains and numbers 1-3 above are completely doable for a weekend getaway (fall color, anyone?). From what I’ve heard, our timing was good since we missed the black-fly season up there. I think it runs around June to beginning of August, so don’t go then unless you like that sort of thing.

In conclusion, go to the Michigan UP. You’ll like it.

Amy Hernandez

About Amy Hernandez

Amy Hernandez may not know a lot about land use and transportation issues, but she does know a few cool things to do with kids in the Twin Cities. A freelance copywriter, she lives in Northeast Minneapolis with one amazing boy, a saintly husband, and a hyperactive Border Collie mix named Chewie.

3 thoughts on “Michigan UP: Closer (and more breathtakingly beautiful) than you might think.

  1. Alex

    I love the UP too, the beaches up there are really beautiful, which no Minnesotan seems to have heard before.

    Also, for any urbanists that may happen to be reading streets.mn, Marquette is a great college town and Houghton-Hancock & Calumet are some killer rust belt towns.

  2. Daniel

    Yes, the UP is awesome. We took a road trip through the Keweenaw a few years ago and had a great time. Car camping in the Porkies inspired us to come back the next year and do a 5 day, 40 mile backpacking trip in the park. The trail followed miles of Lake Superior natural sand wilderness beaches, up gorgeous foothill-style mountains, and to a lone backcountry campsite on the stunning Lake of the Clouds.

    Also, I can’t trumpet the UP without mentioning Mount Bohemia. Bohemia is by far the most (or only) mountain-like ski resort in the midwest. I’ve been snowboarding all over out west and can say this place is comparable in snow depth (270 inches a year!), rugged terrain (they don’t groom or make snow, the mountain is gladed or unthinned forest, and there’s dropable cliffs everywhere you look). The way it falls short is it has only about 900 vertical feet, but since there’s no groomers to cruise it’s a fair bet you’ll be more than ready to get on the lift when(/if!) you finally make it to the bottom. I’m looking forward to our 7th annual trip this year.


    And just this summer, Bohemia started offering all-inclusive mountain biking/hiking/kayaking/fishing trips. They provide all the gear.


  3. Tom Kaiser

    I endured many days of the black fly situation to go through the Porcupine Mountains, Ontonagon and the Keweenaw. It’s my favorite part of the country – and the town of Calumet is amazing. I wonder why nobody’s filmed a horror film there yet…

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