Menominee - Escanaba - Manistique

 If you're looking for fabulous fall color, look no further than Michigan--it's around nearly every bend in the road. We invite you to take time along the way to discover the many local U-pick orchards, pumpkin patches, cider mills, and autumn festivals for a real taste of the harvest season in Michigan.

Best Enjoyed: Mid-September to Early October
Approximate Length: 290 miles

The Menominee River defines a good portion of Michigan's border with Wisconsin, anchored by the "Twin Cities" of Menominee (MI) and Marinette (WI).  The Upper Peninsula city claims that Menominee is "Where the Best of Michigan Begins," and it's a good place to begin an early fall color tour that stretches about 290 miles, much of it along Lake Michigan waters. Autumn color is usually best enjoyed from mid-September to early October in this region, which is sometimes called the "Banana Belt" for its relatively mild weather.

The Native American tribe of Menominee ("wild rice people") preceded by thousands of years the French voyageurs who arrived in the 1660s, and the lumbermen who established the first sawmill here in 1832. Evidence of the booming logging days remains in the grand lumber baron homes and ornate buildings, and in its Historic Waterfront District. In addition to its importance as a lumber-shipping port, Menominee became known for its commercial fishing, and the surrounding area for its dairy farms.

Enjoy Menominee's downtown shops, interesting architecture, parks, beaches and striking red North Pier Lighthouse. Pick up provisions for a picnic stop at one of several parks along M-35, then head in a northerly direction along Lake Michigan's Green Bay Shore.

About 25 miles out of town is the J.W. Wells State Park, named for a local lumberman and former Menominee mayor. The park boasts old-growth woods, a three-mile shoreline and seven-mile hiking trail.

Continue 30 miles along M-35 to Escanaba, a 19th century iron and lumber port that eventually received tourists who arrived by steamship. Visitors then, as today, enjoyed the waterfront Ludington Park and 1870 House of Ludington Hotel (Nelson Ludington was a prominent local lumberman). Nearby, standing sentinel as it has since 1867, is the gleaming white Sand Point Lighthouse.

Explore the one-of-a-kind shops and eateries along Escanaba's wide main street. Treat yourself to Sayklly's candy---the family has made it locally since 1906. Then follow US-2/41 for a breathtaking view of Little Bay de Noc to Gladstone, a quiet city on the bay that is home to Marble Arms, maker of collectible hunting knives, and Hoegh Pet Casket Company (tours are available).

Continue to Rapid River and eastward along US-2 a short distance to County Road 513. Follow that south along the Stonington Peninsula to the Peninsula Point Lighthouse. This scenic spot on the eastern shore of Little Bay de Noc is an important stop for thousands of Monarch butterflies heading south in late summer/early fall. The heaviest migration is in August, but usually continues through September when the hardwoods burst into color.

Once back on US-2, continue east through the Hiawatha National Forest to County Road 497, then head south to the former lumber company town of Nahma. A few buildings and residents remain, and varied wildlife viewing along the Nahma Marsh Trail.

Travel County Road 495 north out of Nahma to US-2 and continue east to the intersection at Garden Corners. County Road 183 will take you to one of the hidden gems of the Upper Peninsula, the Historic Fayette Townsite. En route you'll have opportunity to slow down and see what shops are open in the village of Garden, and sample the fruits of the Threefold Vine Winery, which makes its wine from grapes grown in the U.P. If the timing is right, buy apples or pick a pumpkin from the family's fields.

The Fayette State Park  tells the story of the remote community that manufactured charcoal pig iron from 1867-1891. Scheduled tours are offered in season, but visitors can roam the grounds year round to see the ruins and restored buildings, a lovely protected harbor on Big Bay de Noc, and hiking trail.

A few miles further east on US-2, turn north on state highway M-149 where the Thompson State Fish Hatchery welcomes visitors. Continue east on US-2 to the city of Manistique, known for its nearly two-mile long Lake Michigan boardwalk, lighthouse, main street business district, landmark 137-foot high water tower, and Kewadin Casino. Just north of Manistique is Indian Lake State Park as well as the Bishop Baraga Shrine. A chapel of logs and bark marks the site the original 1832 mission. At Rainey Wildlife Area, about five miles north of Manistique, a hiking trail through maple and birch trees leads to an elevated observation platform for viewing wildlife, including the fall warbler migration.

Not to be missed is Kitch-iti-kipi, The Big Spring, at Palms Book State Park. The largest freshwater spring in the state measures 200 feet across and 40 feet deep, with more than 10,000 gallons of clear water gushing each minute.

Return westward on US-2 toward Rapid River; shortly before town turn north on County Road 509 to the Tunnel of Trees, still in the Hiawatha National Forest. A short 1/4 mile foot trail follows Haymeadow Creek. Drive across Forest Road 2236 to US-41, head south and catch County Road 428 west to the old farming community of Perkins. Turn south on M-35 and be prepared for the high bluff overview of Little Bay de Noc and the Gladstone area. Slip through Escanaba along US-2/41 through the Escanaba River State Forest. Turn south on US-41 and enjoy the peaceful farmlands of Menominee County as you wind up your tour in Menominee which, you might tell the city officials, is "Where the Best of Michigan Ends."

Menominee North Pier Light Station
Harbor Drive
Menominee, MI 49858
Phone: (906) 963-2679
The first light was built in Menominee in 1877 to guide ships to the Menominee River. The current tower was built in 1927. The 34-foot tower was painted white and integrated with an attached fog signal building. The light was automated in 1972 and at that time the iron catwalk was removed from the pier. The tower was then painted red and relocated to a concrete platform in the center of the crib. The octagonal cast iron lantern room once housed a fourth order Fresnel lens. Today, a 300mm optic lens operates.
Wells State Park (J.W. Wells)
N 7670 Highway M-35
Cedar River, MI 49887
Reservations: (800) 447-2757
Phone: (906) 863-9747,1607,7-153-10365_24196-146545--,00.html
The Wells State Park Campground has 150 sites. All with electric. The sites are grassy with some trees. There are 20 sites located right on Green Bay for a spectacular view, one shower/toilet building for your convenience and 1/2 mile of sandy beach with toilet/changing facilities. Trails for hiking in the summer, and non-groomed trails for cross-country skiing in the winter. Be sure to also check out the new Bay Stone Lodge that can be rented on the grounds of the state park.
House of Ludington
223 Ludington Street
Escanaba, MI 49829
Reservations: (906) 786-6300
Phone: (906) 786-6300
Few hostelries anywhere in the nation can boast the credits piled up over the years by the House of Ludington, built in 1865. Known to many as the Great White Castle of the North, its glass walled elevator and medieval looking cupolas dominate the waterfront scene at the foot of Ludington Street. Singles, Doubles, Connecting Rooms, and Suites are available. Each room is individual in size, decor, and feature themes. Our rates are $55 - $85 per night. We have an onsite Irish Pub, and our two dining rooms feature gourmet dinners and luncheons daily, offering an atmosphere of simple elegance along with casual dining. Private parties and banquet facilities are also available in the Ball Room equipped with a private bar, wooden dance floor, and outside courtyard.
Sand Point Lighthouse
16 Water Plant Road
Escanaba, MI 49829
Phone: (906) 789-6790
Established in 1867 by the National Lighthouse Service, Sand Point's light has guided ships through squalls and shoals throughout its colorful history. A fire in 1886 destroyed the structure, but the lighthouse was rebuilt and served the sailing public until its decommissioning by the Coast Guard in 1939. Today an electronic club light guides boats into the harbor, and the lighthouse has been restored as a maritime museum.
Peninsula Point Lighthouse
Country Road 513
19 miles south of Rapid River
Rapid River, MI 49878
Phone: (906) 789-7862
Built in 1864 to aid sailing ships to avoid dangerous shoals hidden off the channels. The 1 1/2 story brick home was destroyed in 1959 by fire, but the 40 foot light tower is open. Also, a hiking trail through the wooded shoreline offers down to earth wildlife viewing. Commonly seen are ducks, geese, gulls and shorebirds. During the migration seasons look for monarch butterflies, spring warblers and blue herons. Restrooms and picnic areas are available.
Hiawatha National Forest
820 Rains Drive
Gladstone, MI 49837
Phone: (906) 428-5800
Located in the central and eastern Upper Peninsula of Michigan the Forest encompasses approximately 880,000 acres and receives 1.5 million recreational visits per year. The Forest affords visitors access to white sand, scenic beaches and relatively undeveloped shorelines.
Nahma Marsh Trail
14 miles E on US 2, 3 miles S on County Rd 497
Hiawatha National Forest
Rapid River, MI 49878
Phone: (906) 474-6442
This .3-mile long, fully accessible hiking trail ends at a viewing platform overlooking the marsh. A severe windstorm in 1998 leveled many trees, but hikers can still enjoy views of marsh wildlife.
Fayette Historic State Park
4785 II Road
Garden, MI 49835
Phone: (906) 644-2603
Once a bustling industrial community that manufactured charcoal pig iron between 1867 and 1891, Fayette offers visitors historic buildings set among the unmatched serenity of a Lake Michigan harbor, white cliffs and verdant forests. Three miles of shoreline on Big Bay De Noc. Park amenities include: sixty-one semi-modern campsites, boat camping, fully furnished, cottage that sleeps up to ten people, picnicking, beach, playground, fishing, and boat launch. Five miles of hiking trails overlooking town from limestone cliffs. Groomed for cross country skiing, perfect for the beginner.
Threefold Vine Winery
S232 Menominee St.
Stephenson, MI 49887
Phone: (906) 753-6000
Threefold Vine Winery, owned and operated by the Green Family, is pleased to offer wine that has been grown on their Southern Upper Peninsula farm located in Menominee County. The winery and tasting room are located at the historic bank building in downtown Stephenson, MI and is open for free wine samples and a chance to take home a honest U.P. wine. Threefold Vine Winery is the first Michigan winery for travelers entering the Upper Peninsula from Wisconsin.
Thompson State Fish Hatchery
944 South State Highway M-149
Manistique, MI 49854-8922
Phone: (906) 341-5587
Enjoy the interpretative programs that provide information on the importance of small tributaries to the Great Lakes, how watersheds work and how a hatchery operates. With both indoor and outdoor rearing facilities the fish hatchery produces a wide range of fish species for both inland and Great Lakes waters. Coldwater species produced for Great Lakes waters include Atlantic salmon (the only state hatchery to produce these fish), brown trout, steelhead, and chinook salmon. Brown trout and rainbow trout for inland waters are also produced at this hatchery. Coolwater species produced at this facility include walleye and northern muskellunge that are used for both inland and Great Lakes waters. Open to the public at no charge 7:30 am to 3:30 pm seven days a week.
Kewadin Casino - Manistique
5630 W US Highway 2
Manistique, MI 49854
Toll Free: (800) 533-9236
Phone: (906) 341-2951
Kewadin Casino, Manistique, located on US-2 west of the Mackinaw Bridge. Here, you will find a home town atmosphere right along side of the Vegas style table gaming and your favorite slot machines. 

Indian Lake State Park
8970W County Road 442
Manistique, MI 49854
Reservations: (800) 447-2757
Phone: (906) 341-2355
Indian Lake State Park is located on Indian Lake, the fourth largest inland lake in the Upper Peninsula with an area of 8,400 acres. It is six miles long and three miles wide. The lake was once called M'O'Nistique Lake. According to 1850 surveyor records, Native Americans lived in log cabins near the outlet of the lake. The park is composed of two units which are three miles apart and separated by the waters of Indian Lake. Amenities include camping, hunting, fishing, hiking, beach and beach house, picnic area, boat access site/launch and metal detecting area.
Rainey Wildlife Area
Dawson Road
Manistique, MI 49854
Phone: (906) 293-5131
Hiking trails, boardwalks, and an elevated observation platform provide outstanding views of wildlife in and along Smith Creek, Smith's Slough, and Indian Lake. Songbirds are plentiful. The spring and fall warbler migrations are especially good. There is moderate to high probability of viewing bald eagles and ospreys from the observation platform in spring, summer, and fall. This site has no facilities, so come prepared. Portions of this area are open to public hunting. Contact the Michigan Dept of Natural Resources for affected seasons and locations.
Palms Book State Park
8970W County Road 442
Manistique, MI 49854
Phone: (906) 341-2355
Palms Book is a rewarding side trip for the vacationer touring the Upper Peninsula, for here can be seen one of Michigan's alluring natural attractions -- Kitch-iti-kipi, The Big Spring. Two hundred feet across, the 40-foot deep Kitch-iti-kipi is Michigan's largest freshwater spring. Over 10,000 gallons a minute gush from fissures in the underlying limestone. The flow continues throughout the year at a constant 45 degree Fahrenheit. By means of a self-operated observation raft, visitors are guided to vantage points overlooking fascinating underwater features and fantasies. Ancient tree trunks, lime-encrusted branches and fat trout appear suspended in nothingness as they slip through crystal waters far below. Clouds of sand kept in constant motion by gushing waters create ever-changing shapes and forms, a challenge to the imagination of young and old alike.