Five Hotspots for Fall Colors and History in the Western Upper Peninsula

The Upper Peninsula offers spectacular views, especially during the autumn season. Guest blogger Bryan Much shares some unqiue history of Western U.P. and five places to enjoy breathtaking fall foliage. 

Fall is my favorite time of the year to explore some of the wonders of the Upper Peninsula, the comfortably cool temperatures and radiant colors set the stage for exploring the rich history of the region.

Saturated with unique history, the Western U.P. has almost too many to tackle in a single blog, so let’s take a look at five Western U.P. hotspots that offer an abundance of entertaining places to experience.

1. Keweenaw National Historical Park:  The area stretches between the cities of  Houghton and Hancock to Copper Harbor is loaded with old mines, historic towns and structures, winding and rolling shore roads, and stunningly beautiful scenery.  Take a drive to the top of Brockway Mountain and see if you can spot some ore ships sailing nearby.  Search out some attractions that pique your interest and plan a tour of your own. 

Photo courtesy of Bryan Much

Photo courtesy of Bryan Much

2.Ironwood, Bessemer and Wakefield:  Rich in mining history, these areas offer remarkable historic buildings that are a treat to see. When you are in Ironwood, be sure to drive to the top of Mount Zion to take in the spectacular view.  You can see the Copper Peak ski flying facility and the view just might inspire you to drive the Black River National Forest Scenic Byway to take a closer look.

3. Iron Mountain and Kingsford:  Explore Kingsford to see where Henry Ford manufactured wooden parts for his cars and used the scraps to make Kingsford \Charcoal.  During World War II, the plant was converted to glider production.  The museum in Iron Mountain features an exhibit on the Ford plant, a gigantic pumping engine that removed water from a mine and other pieces about of the mining history in the area.  You can even take an underground tour at the Iron Mountain Iron Mine.

4. L’Anse:  You can hike to the top of Mount Arvon  – the highest point in Michigan –and take in some scenic waterfalls along the way.  You can also visit the beautiful outdoor sculpture the Shrine of the Snowshoe Priest, which honors the early pioneer and Romanian Catholic missionary Frederic Baraga. My favorite place to visit in the area is Alberta Village where you can tour one of Henry Ford’s sawmills and witness just how it was during production.

Bond Falls - Photo courtesy of Bryan Much

Bond Falls – Photo courtesy of Bryan Much

5. Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park Go up high in the mountains and take in the fall colors as you stand high above Lake of the Clouds. You can take a hike on the Union Mine Trail, visit Silver City or the former mining town of White Pine. Visit the log cabins that served as the miner’s quarters, near Victoria Dam. Visitors can also go to the Adventure Mine Company for actual tours of mines and witness a mountain bike race that includes paths 300 feet below the surface in the mine.

Lake of the Clouds - Photo courtesy of Bryan Much

Lake of the Clouds – Photo courtesy of Bryan Much

So take a look, make some plans and go exploring in the Western UP.  You’ll find yourself coming back for more. See you there.

Where do you like to explore in the Western U.P.?

About the author: Bryan Much retired from the military after having advanced from private to colonel. He now spends much of his time advocating for off-highway motorcyclists and exploring and recording paths for them to ride and enjoy.  He serves on two councils relating to trails and is a member of many organizations related to this recreational interest.

Dog Days Inn

Tucker poses beneath the Days Inn & Suites sign

Kath Usitalo, a contributing writer for Michigan Travel Ideas, gives in to her husband’s plea and allows Tucker, the family dog, to be part of a mini getaway.

Traveling with a dog is overrated. Don’t get me wrong—we love Tucker, but his blend of Australian shepherd and terrier translates into lots of energy. His last road trip (one week with two teenagers) convinced my husband, TJ, and I that Tucker and trips just don’t mix.

With the kids in college, however, we decide to give Tucker another try—just a side trip—in what became affectionately known as our Dog Days Inn trip.

On our way home from our cottage in the Upper Peninsula, we detoured to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. After researching the Grand Traverse area, we decide on the Days Inn & Suites. With the 10 percent discount from their ad in Michigan Travel Ideas, we partially recover the $15 fee for Tucker.

We park outside our door, which makes it easy to unload our gear and Tucker. It’s a standard room with simple decor. The room includes a mini fridge, microwave and safe (for Tucker’s treats?). We drop off our bags and set out to find a dog-friendly eatery.

A restaurant meal with our dog is a first for us, but many Traverse City outdoor cafes welcome pups. We sit under an umbrella at a table on the deck at Folgarelli’s, a gourmet market, and tackle fabulous, made-to-order sandwiches. Two of us (sorry, Tucker) share The Mobster, a tower of Italian meat and cheese. It’s so filling that we decide we’ll have to try the luscious smoked salmon sandwich at lunch the next day. Tucker licks a classic vanilla cone from Dairy Lodge.

Too worried about leaving Tucker alone in the hotel, we skip the indoor pool. Next time, maybe. We like the flat-screen TV and free Wi-Fi. Did I mention the convenient dog run? Before hitting the road the next morning, we take turns walking Tucker and enjoying the complimentary breakfast bar.

To take Tucker’s mind off food, we head to Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive to enjoy the Sleeping Bear Dunes views. Well, TJ and I enjoy the panoramas of water and sand; Tucker barely glances up from the nearest shrub.

D.O.G. Bakery makes yogurt-frosted cookies in dozens of shapes, including the Michigan mitten.

D.O.G. Bakery makes yogurt-frosted cookies in dozens of shapes, including the Michigan mitten

After the drive, Tucker gets free samples of WoofWhomper Dog Cookies at Cherry Republic in Glen Arbor. While nibbling on cherry cobbler on the deck, we strike up a conversation with a couple who fall for Tucker. Of course, Tucker gives them the look hoping to score a head rub or more treats. In Traverse City, we can’t pass up the all-natural dog snacks from D.O.G. Bakery, a bright inviting shop.

All in all, we had a good weekend. We may give this Dog Days Inn thing another try; the chain has hotels throughout the state.

Kath Usitalo is a freelance magazine writer who is bi-peninsular. She is at home in the Detroit area and at her family’s Lake Michigan getaway, Blue Skies, in the UP. She travels and writes about Michigan—usually without her dog—for a variety of outlets, including Michigan Travel Ideas and her Great Lakes Gazette blog.