An Introduction to Indianhead Mountain

Jesse Land of the travel site “Things to do in the U.P.” is a native Yooper who’s always willing to jump at the chance to explore Michigan’s great outdoors. Today, he fills us in on a recent ski trip he took to Indianhead Mountain Resort.  

No, it’s Not Powderhorn

As a good friend of mine observed last year before our annual western U.P. ski trip, when you mention you’re going skiing in the Western U.P., most people assume you’re heading to Big Powderhorn.

While Big Powderhorn may be the most well-known ski resort of the area, there are two others right nearby that deserve much more than an honorable mention. Namely, Indianhead and Blackjack. For this post we’ll take a look at Indianhead.

You Start Out On Top

One cool thing about Indianhead is that the lodge and parking area are at the top of the mountain, so your first trip of the day is down the mountain, not uphill on a ski lift. It’s a nice way to start things off!

As you might expect, the lodge at Indianhead is equipped with plenty of space for those who want to pack their own lunch, but it’s also got a pretty sweet restaurant / bar called “The Sky Bar Mountaintop Grill.” And the name is well deserved. The view from most tables in the place is fantastic. (They also make a great Bloody Mary.)

And it’s a Long Way Down

Indianhead’s 638 foot vertical drop is one of the largest in the Midwest, and whoever planned the hill did a great job carving out some nice long runs. My wife and I actually stuck to the same two runs all day long.

She’s a beginning skier and I’m an intermediate, but we both had a blast skiing Voyager’s Highway (a beginner run) and Chippewa (an intermediate run) repeatedly. Each run was easy enough for her to practice her skiing, but long enough (and with enough ups and downs) for me to really enjoy them too.

As a side note, I have skied every run at Indianhead and while these two are a couple of my favorites, every run is well worth exploring.

Then There’s the Tough Stuff

Of course, if double black diamonds and moguls are your thing, check out “Hiawatha” and “Crazy Horse” on the east side of the mountain. These steep runs are a challenge for even experienced skiers and snowboarders.

“Some Folks Just Make One Run Each Day… to the Red Dog”

And then, there’s “The Red Dog.”

My first time at Indianhead, I was talking to the elderly lady at the ticket counter as she chuckled “some people only make one run of the day… to the Red Dog.”

You see, in addition to the Sky Bar at the top of the hill, there’s a pretty substantial outpost called “The Red Dog Saloon” at the bottom of the mountain. Apparently some people like to ski, and then some people just like to ski their way to the bar.

My wife and stopped in the Red Dog for a Bloody Mary and a coffee late the first morning of our trip, and by Noon we were heading back to the hill and the place was packed, much more so than the Sky Bar. And it didn’t seem like any of the patrons planned to leave anytime soon.

In Closing…

All in all, everyone in our group of around fifteen people was pleasantly surprised by how much we all enjoyed Indianhead.

There were definitely plenty of families on the hill, but I got the impression that this hill tends to cater toward a slightly more adult crowd (compared to Powderhorn). That could also be because I wasn’t there on a family excursion, but suffice to say if you head to Indianhead with a group of friends you’re bound to have a great time, both on and off the hill.

A native Yooper, Jesse Land lives in Iron Mountain and enjoys hiking, biking, skiing, and camping with his family. He runs the U.P. travel site “Things to do in the U.P.” (www.thingstodointheup.com).

A Picture Perfect Fall Color Tour

Jesse Land, founder of Things to do in the U.P., is back to take us on another fall color tour around the Upper Peninsula. If you missed his last two posts, be sure to check out his recommendations on tours around the Keweenaw Peninsula and the central area of the U.P. 

For more ideas on fall color tours around Michigan, see this week’s Pure Michigan fall color report on michigan.org.

So far, I’ve taken you on one fall color tour through the rugged Keweenaw Peninsula, and on another “off the beaten path” through the central U.P. Today, I’m going to lead you from Marquette to Grand Marais, via the one of the Upper Peninsula’s crown jewels, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. You’ll definitely want to bring your camera along for this one!

Before we get started, Marquette has oodles of great places to stay. A couple of my favorite are the historic Landmark Inn and newly constructed Hampton Inn, both of which are within walking distance from Marquette’s many excellent eating and drinking establishments. (The Vierling is one of my favorites.)

Breakfast in Marquette

Both of the aforementioned hotels have good breakfast options. That said, the Sweetwater Café has been woven into the fabric of the Marquette breakfast scene for as long as I can recall, and is well worth a look. According to their website, they serve “both old fashioned favorites and unique dishes inspired by flavors from around the world.” Having eaten there more than a few times, I’d say that’s a very accurate description. Drink some coffee. Eat breakfast. Leave with a smile on your face.

The Morning Drive

Now that you’ve got a full belly and some caffeine in your system, lets’ hit the road! M-28 east stretches about forty five miles east from Marquette to Munising. It’s a pretty drive full of fall color. It also hugs the Lake Superior shoreline most of the way so you’ll see “the big lake” appear through gaps in the vibrant hardwoods every now and again.

Pictured Rocks – Via Boat Tour!

To make the most of your day, get to Munising in time to catch the 10:00 AM Pictured Rocks boat tour. The “regular cruise” lasts about two hours and forty minutes, and will show you some of the most popular Pictured Rocks sites, including Miners Castle, Lovers Leap, Grand Portal, and many others! It’s the best way to see much of what Pictured Rocks has to offer in a relatively short period of time. (2012 tours run through October 21st)

The Famous Highway H-58

Highway H-58, stretching from Munising to Grand Marais, is a wonderfully curvy drive. You’ll pass by the White Birch Forest (brilliant in fall) and wind through an endless stand of hardwoods as you drive east toward Grand Marais.

If you’re up for a hike, I’d recommend the venturing off on the three mile (round trip) hike to Chapel Falls. It’s roughly midway between Munising and Grand Marais, and leads down an easy trail through a forest of hardwoods that are always full of color in autumn.

H-58 boasts several scenic turnouts, but I’d highly recommend stopping at the Logslide Overlook. Once literally used to slide huge logs down the 300 foot drop to Lake Superior, Logslide is now a gorgeous scenic overlook that offers wonderful views of the Au Sable lighthouse to the west and the expansive Grand Sable Dunes to the east.

Destination Grand Marais

A little further east lies Grand Marais, a wonderful little harbor village that fills up in the summer but offers travelers some elbow room in the fall. As far as places to stay here, I’ve heard great things about the Hill Top Cabins, though they’ve always had no vacancy when I’ve called! (I’m thinking that’s a good thing.)

I recommend checking out the one of a kind Lake Superior Brewing Company for great pizza, fresh fish and locally brewed beer. And if you end up staying the night, the West Bay Diner is a standout breakfast spot!

If you do even some of what I’ve recommended, at the end of the day you should have a good handle on what Pictured Rocks is all about, and you’ll hopefully also have filled up your camera with picture perfect memories!

Jesse Land is the founder of Things to do in the U.P., a website dedicated to helping people discover the best of the Upper Peninsula. For regular Upper Peninsula travel tips, follow Things to do in the U.P. on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/thingstodointheup.

An Off the Beaten Path Fall Color Tour in the Central U.P.

Jesse Land, founder of Things to do in the U.P., a website dedicated to helping people discover the best of the Upper Peninsula, fills us in on his recommendations for taking a fall color tour around the central U.P.

Check out Jesse’s last post for tips on taking a fall color tour around one of the U.P.’s most cherished areas – the Keweenaw Peninsula. Stay tuned for additional fall color tour ideas from Jesse later this season!

When most people think of a fall color tour in the Upper Peninsula, the central U.P. (the Iron Mountain – Menominee – Escanaba area) is not what they have in mind.

Well, I’ll let you in on a little secret. It’s actually pretty cool if you know where to look!

Breakfast

Let’s start off with breakfast in Iron Mountain, shall we? The tourists eat at the Holiday Kitchen. I suggest you do like the locals do and pop into B’s County Café (629 S. Stephenson) for an authentic Upper Peninsula greasy spoon experience. The service is always friendly and the women bustling behind the retro countertop sure make a mean breakfast! Try the French toast on homemade bread. My stomach is growling just thinking about it.

The Morning Drive

Here’s where you leave the pack behind. Head east out of Iron Mountain on the ever popular U.S. 2, but make a right at the caution light in Vulcan (just past the Iron Mountain Iron Mine but before Northwood’s Adventures) and pick up county road 577. This smooth, curvy road is lined with hardwoods and birch and always makes for a beautiful fall drive.

Follow 577 all the way to Menominee, where I’d recommend exploring the historic downtown waterfront district for a while before heading north on M-35. This scenic route follows the coast of Lake Michigan’s Green Bay, and connects Menominee to Escanaba. There are plenty of beachside pit stop opportunities along M-35 and there’s sure to be plenty of color!

Lunch

All of that sightseeing is bound to make a person hungry. If you’re in the mood for a sit down, quality (though somewhat pricey) meal, The Stonehouse is tough to beat. They’ve got consistently excellent food and terrific service. Ferdinand’s Mexican Restaurant is a great place for a casual lunch, and if you’re looking to keep on trucking, grab a couple sub sandwiches from D&M subs and hit the road.

If you feel like stretching your legs a little while in town, drive down Ludington Street until you reach Lake Michigan, then park and walk around. The Sand Point Lighthouse is probably the most popular landmark in Escanaba, but the House of Ludington is also fun to check out.

Now it gets Interesting

Kitch-iti-Kippi (say that three times fast) in Palms Brook Sate Park, also known as “Big Spring”, is a standout attraction of this general region. And from Escanaba, you’re about fifty two miles away. Follow U.S. 2 east to county road 442 and then follow the signs from there. You’ll enjoy gazing down at huge trout as you float over Michigan’s largest natural spring. The water is crystal clear and the sand “erupting” below as water bursts upward through the ground is really something to see!

In my opinion, the Garden Peninsula is one of the most overlooked parts of the Upper Peninsula, and that’s where you’re headed next.

From Kitch-iti-Kippi, backtrack a couple miles on U.S. 2 then head south on county road 183, the road that heads to Fayette State Park. You’ll pass both the Garden Bay Winery and Threefold Vine Winery (wine tour, anyone?), as well as a couple art galleries. Of course, the standout feature here is Fayette Historic State Park, but one could just as easily spend the rest of the day exploring the Garden Peninsula’s other gems and beautiful fall colors.

County road 183 is a wonderful drive and the colors in this area are gorgeous in the fall. But best of all, since this is an off the beaten path fall color tour, you’ll have it all to yourself!

Jesse Land is the founder of Things to do in the U.P., a website dedicated to helping people discover the best of the Upper Peninsula. To learn about the best things to do in the U.P., follow Jesse on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/thingstodointheup.