Be enthralled by the fearsome power of the Lake Superior as you tour the mesmerizing waterfalls, natural beauty, placid lakes, rivers and streams of the bejeweled region that inspired a famed poet to pen one of his most loved and treasured works.
Start this journey on a lonely winding road that will take you an hour west to Point Iroquois Light Station and Museum. From the top of the white tower's 72 tightly spiraling stairs, a spectacular view of Lake Superior unfolds. The expanse of blue seems to meld into sky; thin riffles of white flick onto the beach far below. Lake Superior is the largest and deepest of the Great Lakes. The glimmering lake lies flat in soft sunlight, but you can sense the power beneath -- as this is one of the world's most feared waterways.
From there, move on to Tahquamenon Falls State Park, site of one of the largest waterfalls east of the Mississippi River. The restaurant at the Upper Falls serves homemade root beer and pasties (PAST-ees), the UP's trademark meat pies.
Don't miss the waterfall region that inspired Henry Wadsworth Longfellow to pen Song of Hiawatha. You'll find the Upper Falls, an explosion of coppery water, well worth the climb down and up wooden steps. The Lower Falls four miles downstream is also captivating. The falls are smaller, but more numerous. Rent a rowboat for a close-up view and paddle your way to an island. Once landed, you can follow a three-quarter-mile-long trail that guides you within spray distance of five falls. The Tahquamenon River runs wide and only inches deep over flat river-bottom ledges, perfect for dipping toes.
At Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore hikers find solitude and scenic views of Lake Superior along 90 miles of trails. View its namesake sandstone cliffs from a narrated boat tour. Drive a 7-mile route or hit 80 miles of hike/bike trails and watch for protected species at home in the mid-peninsula Seney National Wildlife Refuge. The country’s largest remaining stand of northern hardwoods survives in Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, at the far western edge of the U.P. “The Porkies” also has 90 miles of hiking trails, dozens of waterfalls, challenging waters for paddlers and the photogenic Lake of the Clouds.
Motors are (mostly) banned, trails are unmarked, camping is limited and nature reigns at the pristine Sylvania Wilderness and Recreation Area near Watersmeet. The 11-mile Black River National Forest Scenic Byway between Bessemer and Black River Harbor passes waterfalls and old growth forest.
For a memorable wilderness experience, travel by boat or seaplane across Lake Superior to Isle Royale National Park, the least-visited park in the system, 56 miles from the northern tip of the U.P. Sight moose, wolves, fox, loons and birdlife along 165 miles shoreline.