5 Things You Can’t Miss On a Pictured Rocks Road Trip

The untouched natural beauty of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is unlike anywhere else in the world, especially near Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. This stretch of coast from Munising to Paradise is worth a visit for some of the most unbelievably beautiful adventures in the state. This is a great place for a family summer vacation, with a cool to moderate climate and unlimited things to discover. Come along as Jennifer from The Awesome Mitten shares five things that make this gorgeous area Pure Michigan.

The Upper Peninsula seems like it was made for adventures with incredible experiences available in both the summer and winter months. It’s easy to fall in love with the beauty of this area. With eighty four percent of the Upper Peninsula covered by forests and 917 miles of shoreline along the deepest of the Great Lakes – Lake Superior – this is the perfect place to get away from it all and have an unforgettable vacation. Don’t miss these unique experiences during your next trip to the Upper Peninsula.

Photo Courtesy of Jennifer Polasek

1. The Food

Brown Fisheries Fish House

With fresh fish caught within hours of hitting your plate, Brown Fisheries Fish House boasts the tastiest fish near Paradise. Served with either two or three pieces of fish, their ultimate meal is the Lake Superior Whitefish Baskets. It is the most delicious, flaky, perfectly flavorful fish you could imagine and all for an affordable price. This family owned and run business is very low key, so we’re letting you in on the secret of this amazing hidden gem.

Bear Trap Inn

When in the Upper Peninsula you must get a pasty, and you better know how to pronounce it! If you’re looking for a pasty near Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, look no further than Bear Trap Inn. Served by some of the friendliest folks, their food is hot, tasty and filling. The unique interior is unforgettable as well, with rooms filled with taxidermy animals exclusive to the area and a bar with hundreds of numbered mugs for all of the locals.

2. Lighthouses on Every Route

Whitefish Point Lighthouse

Jutting out into Lakes Superior, Whitefish Point Lighthouse is the oldest operating light on this Great Lake. All vessels entering and leaving this treacherous shoreline of Lake Superior must pass this light. This light looks out to the “Graveyard of the Great Lakes” where more shipwrecks have occurred than any other area of the lake so it’s full of remarkable and mysterious history.

Photo Courtesy of Jennifer Polasek

Au Sable Light Station

This active lighthouse along Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is in the middle of astonishingly beautiful shoreline. Just west of Grand Marais, it is right around the corner from Log Slide lookout and in the opposite direction Twelve Mile Beach. The 1-1/2 mile walk along the historic U.S. coast guard road is worth the trek. With scenic overlooks of Lake Superior and areas that lead out onto Twelve Mile Beach, the beauty only increases the closer you get to Au Sable Light Station. With over 180 degree views, this landmark is a place not to be forgotten.

3. Small Town Adventures

Munising

The name Munising comes from the Ojibwe word for “island at.” This is the gateway to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore since it is the largest and closest city to the area. This city boasts small town charm and great local businesses that are exclusive to the city. You can even see the stars from this city, whether it’s on billboards advertising Kid Rock’s “Born Free” music video that was filmed in the area of the Northern Lights.

Log Slide Lookout

Located about seven miles west of Grand Marais is Log Slide lookout. This incredible place is breathtaking, with views of where loggers used to slide logs down this steep slope and into Lake Superior, where they were then hauled away and turned into products. This is also a good place to glimpse the Au Sable Light Station.

Oswald’s Bear Ranch

With 29 bears, Oswald’s Bear Ranch is the largest Bear Ranch in the entire United States. Just north of Newberry, one man, Dean Oswald, created this preserve for abandoned and orphaned bear cubs from Michigan and other states. This unique experience allows you to see these incredible animals up close and personal while giving a loving home to these bears who weren’t able to live a healthy and normal life until they came to Oswald’s. As a proud associate member of the Zoological Association of America, Oswald’s Bear Ranch is an exciting place for visitors to take part in giving these bears a sanctuary for a better life.

Photo Courtesy of Jennifer Polasek

4. Waterfalls All Around

Munising Falls

The majority of waterfalls in this area are the result of water running over a shelf or cliffs of hard limey sandstone called the Munising Formation. This formation extends from Tahquamenon Falls to Laughing Whitefish Falls. There are quite literally waterfalls all around you when you enter this area, especially near Munising which even has its own waterfall named after the city.  Located within the city limits of Munising, a short paved trail leads you up the cool sandstone canyon along Munising Creek to two viewing platforms at the base of the falls.

Miners Falls

Just a short hike off of Miners Castle Road is the impressively powerful Miners Falls. The gravel path is a beautiful stroll through the northwoods wilderness that ends with two incredible overlooks of the falls. Make sure to bring bug spray, because you won’t want to miss this astounding waterfall.

Tahquamenon Falls

Well known for its sheer size, the Tahquamenon Falls State Park is one of the most popular attractions in the Upper Peninsula. With 46,179 acres, it is the second largest state park in Michigan. Tahquamenon Falls’ Upper Falls has a magnificent 50 foot drop, while the Lower Falls include cascades and rapids. Bordering along Lake Superior, the majority of this state park is located in Whitefish Township.

Photo Courtesy of Jennifer Polasek

5. Not Your Average Tour of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Stretching for about 15 miles along Lake Superior, these incredibly bold and colorful cliffs range from 50 to 200 feet and jut out directly from the lake. There are numerous ways to see these beautiful cliffs including Miners Castle which provides a wonderful vista of Pictured Rocks. However, the best way to experience these cliffs is by water. There’s a variety of different tours to choose from, but the only vessel that will allow you to get within arm’s reach from these massive cliffs is by kayak.

One of the most popular companies is Uncle Ducky’s Paddling Michigan tours. They feature a variety of unique experiences, but the most incredible Pictured Rocks tour is probably their six hour Sunset Paddle. With the sun at a lower angle, the cliff walls are illuminated in beautiful hues of orange and reddish copper. Gliding along the crystal clear waters and feeling the waves crash into the astonishing cliffs that rise up to 200 feet above you is a humbling experience that is breathtaking and mind boggling full of natural beauty. The journey features many landmarks including Miners Castle, Bridalveil Falls, Caves of the Bloody Chiefs, Mosquito river, and circling beneath the iconic Lovers Leap Arch. Whether you’re a novice or expert kayaker this adventure is built for every skillset.

Photo Courtesy of Jennifer Polasek

The beauty of this region is almost indescribable; you just have to go live the adventure for yourself. These were the most unforgettable places I experienced along my last road trip in the Upper Peninsula that I’d recommend over and over again. It’s incredible to live in such a diverse state that offers unlimited adventures. And Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is unlike any other part of Michigan because of the unique experiences that await around every curve.

What’s your favorite landmark near Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore?

AM1Jennifer Polasek is currently a student at Grand Valley State University earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in Writing. Jennifer splits her time working as a public relation and marketing intern for The Awesome Mitten and Opera Grand Rapids. She’s an avid adventurer and loves exploring the hidden gems within Michigan! She currently resides in Grand Rapids, but loves escaping to Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula during the summertime. She loves promoting Michigan because of its endless adventures and diversity. Follow her Mitten adventures on Twitter and Instagram

5 Misconceptions about Winter Travel to the U.P.

It’s no secret that with the beauty of Michigan in winter, some stereotypes come along with it. This certainly rings true in the Upper Peninsula, which some people think is nearly inhabitable during the cold weather months. But as U.P. residents and enthusiasts will tell you, there’s so much to enjoy during a Pure Michigan Snow Day in the U.P. Read below as two U.P. guest bloggers share five misconceptions about traveling to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in the wintertime. 1.       Winter travel limits the fun Those who live in and oft-visit the U.P. never let a little snow get in the way of a good time! Enjoying an evening on the town while avoiding slippery roads is easy in a place like downtown Sault Ste. Marie, where dozens of taverns, restaurants, and shops are found within a short three-block area. Plowed sidewalks are pedestrian friendly and snowmobiles are allowed on Downtown streets for those who arrive via trail. Who needs a car?

Tahquamenon Falls State Park in the winter

Photo Courtesy of Wolverine Photography

2.       Everything is closed in the winter Many attractions remain open all year long in the Upper Peninsula but take on a delightful new appeal when covered in snow. Visit Tahquamenon Falls State Park this winter to see incredible ice displays sculpted by Mother Nature herself. Anglers see their lakes transformed for a new catch and hikers get a new perspective when exploring snow-covered forests by snowshoe. At the day’s end, bundle up with hot cocoa or an Irish coffee at one of the Eastern Upper Peninsula’s four casinos.

sault

Photo Courtesy of Michigan Nut Photography

3.       It’s too cold to do anything outside Some people think that because the Upper Peninsula is so far north, it’s nearly impossible to do anything outside. Guess again! Between guided snowshoe hikes, dog sled races, antique snowmobile runs and restaurants ready to serve up a nice hot plate with a beer brewed locally, you’re sure to enjoy the outdoors.  Some residents say it’s just as busy in the winter as it is in the summer! One thing that folks in the Keweenaw Peninsula know is that Lake Superior actually moderates temperature enough to keep it cold, but comfortable, in the winter.

View from the top of the Mackinac Bridge.

Photo Courtesy of Tim Burke

4.       There’s nothing to see in the U.P., especially in the winter Let’s kick this misconception to the curb right away – you get to cross the western hemispheres’ LARGEST suspension bridge when traveling to the U.P.! Ask any Michigander who has crossed the bridge, it is a rite of passage. Besides the obvious, there are the beautiful campuses of Lake Superior State University, Michigan Tech and Northern Michigan University, and the breathtaking porcupine mountains. 5.       There’s nothing in the Upper Peninsula that you can’t find in the Lower Peninsula Not true! Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is famous for the amount of snow it gets, sometimes even up to 200 inches a year! While the L.P. has countless Pure Michigan Snow Day activities, the U.P.’s top-rated snowmobiling trails, ski resorts and winter festivals make it a blast for any visitor. What do you love most about the Upper Peninsula? Share with us below! Hoath-print   Linda Hoath is the Executive Director of the Sault Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, a post she has held for 13 years. Linda is an outspoken advocate for the Eastern Upper Peninsula and also plays an active role with several state and regional organizations.     amanda_oppe-300x300Amanda Oppe is the Social Media & Marketing Manager for the Keweenaw convention and visitors bureau. Originally from Illinois, Amanda and her family were drawn to the Keweenaw and have been living and working in the Copper Country for almost 4 years. Since coming to the KCVB, Amanda has established our presence along with advertising on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. Since the forward movement with technology Amanda has grown our audience by thousands. This past year Amanda completed a full upgrade to the KCVB website to make it mobile and user friendly, and designed and implemented a new mobile app that is an in-depth vacation guide making a visitor’s trip just a little easier. Amanda truly loves the Keweenaw and loves helping visitors enjoy the Keweenaw Peninsula and all it has to offer.

Six Ways to Beat the Winter Blues in St. Ignace

When you think of winter, do you think about golf or a bike race? In the town of St. Ignace, located in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, a little snow never stops the fun. In fact, Yoopers know there’s only one thing to do with the annual 60 plus inches of snow and that’s enjoy it. Guest blogger Mindy Rutger shares six ways to beat the winter blues in St. Ignace.

1.  Take a Swing at Ice Golf

Photo Courtesy of Dave Kunze

Photo Courtesy of Dave Kunze

The U.P. Ice Golf Scramble and Glow Ball Challenge (March 4 – 5) features a rather unconventional version of hitting the links. Carts are replaced with sleds and colored balls look like a Technicolor rainbow on frozen Lake Huron, which serves as the course. It’s a two-person, best-ball scramble with no handicaps, no pros, just lots of laughs and bragging rights to those who golf on 12-plus inches of ice. Friday night’s Glow Ball Challenge involves glow-in-the-dark balls, live music and beer tasting.

2. Hold Tight and Take Flight

You’ll feel like you’re flying when you sail down the hills of Silver Mountain Ski Area and Tubing Hill, grasping your inflated tube with a good case of the giggles. Thanks to tubing runs and snowboard hills, there are plenty of ways to catch some air in St. Ignace and a tow rope is never too far away to return you to your status as king or queen of the hill.

Photo Courtesy of Dave Kunze

Photo Courtesy of Dave Kunze

St. Ignace has elevated the sport of pond hockey to a whole new level, hosting the more than 200 teams who will compete in four-on-four action in a variety of age divisions from Feb 11-14.  More than 16 acres of ice will be cleared by Zamboni and divided into 30 rinks for the tournament The event has become a UP jamboree with food, a beverage tent, outdoor ice bowling, a snow cab and live entertainment.

4. Serene, Snowy and Silent.

For those who prefer the more serene nature of silent sports, there are a variety of scenic cross-country ski trails throughout the region and plenty of snowy woods to explore via snowshoes. Quietly make your way through the woods of Hiawatha National Forest for a chance to glimpse area wildlife and the sparkling, crystal trees of an Upper Peninsula winter.

Photo Courtesy of the St. Ignace Visitors Bureau

Photo Courtesy of the St. Ignace Visitors Bureau

 

When snow blankets the area, snowmobiles take to the region’s trails that provide access to the entire Upper Peninsula. More than 100 groomed miles of trails can be found in the St. Ignace area, woven beautifully through frosty forests. Get a glimpse of wildlife or simply make tracks for the quaint towns that gives the U.P. a distinctive personality.

6. Bicycle Ride Anyone?

There’s a new twist on playing in the snow when St. Ignace hosts its first Fat Tire Bike Race on Feb. 26. With a 16-mile and 32-mile course to choose from, racers will trek along the Lake Huron shoreline on bikes equipped for snow and ice conditions. A special beer tasting event will be held the evening before the race and the soup luncheon following the event is sure to warm everyone. The after-race party will conclude with an awards ceremony for competitors.

Find out what Yoopers know about winter fun and choose St. Ignace as your next winter vacation destination.

Mindy Rutgers is an Upper Peninsula native and the executive director of the St. Ignace Visitors Bureau. She has worked in Michigan’s tourism and hospitality industry since 1996. Find out more about Mindy and the visitors bureau at StIgnace.com or at facebook.com/stignaceVB.