5 Misconceptions About Winter Activities in the Upper Peninsula


There are often some stereotypes that come along with the beauty of Pure Michigan in the winter. This certainly rings true in the Upper Peninsula, which some people think is nearly uninhabitable during the cold weather months. But as U.P. residents and enthusiasts will tell you, there’s so much to enjoy during the winter season in the U.P.

Don't let these misconceptions about Upper Peninsula winters stop you from experiencing unforgettable cold weather fun.
 

1. Winter travel limits the fun

Christmas carriage ride through downtown Sault Ste. Marie
Christmas carriage ride through downtown Sault Ste. Marie | Photo Courtesy of Visit The Sault


Those who live in and often 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.


If you're exploring the central area of the Upper Peninsula, Marquette is a can't-miss. Home to Northern Michigan University, Marquette offers visitors fun experiences like the Marquette Harbor Light and Maritime Museum and Presque Isle Park. North of town, you can snap a photo of the iconic iron ore docks, one of the most notable landmarks in Michigan. What's more, this U.P. town has been previously identified as one of the nation's best places to live by Outdoor Life Magazine.


2. Everything is closed in the winter

Tahquamenon Falls in the winter
Tahquamenon Falls | Photo Courtesy of Wolverine Photography

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.

Don't forget! Mackinac Island is open during the winter, too. A visit to the island during the cold weather months is a perfect getaway for those who want a much slower pace - so that it's easier to get quiet, hang out and enjoy the company of friends, family and the great outdoors.
 

3. It’s too cold to do anything outside

Snowmobiling in Michigan's UP
Snowmobiling in Michigan's UP | Photo Courtesy of Michigan State Parks

Some people think that because the Upper Peninsula is so far north, it’s nearly impossible to do anything outside. Guess again! Between cross country skiingdog 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.

One sport that's seemingly made for the U.P. is snowshoeing. Snowshoeing in Michigan is a perfect way to see the tranquil beauty of the winter season while staying active. For great snowshoeing, check out Fumee Lake Natural Area. Fumee Lake offers a variety of trails, but the most popular are the "Little Fumee Lake Loop" and the "Big Fumee Lake Lopp."
 

4. There’s nothing to see in the U.P., especially in the winter

The top of the Mackinac Bridge
Mackinac Bridge | Photo Courtesy of Tim Burke

Let’s kick this misconception to the curb right away – you get to cross the western hemisphere's 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 UniversityMichigan Tech and Northern Michigan University, and the breathtaking Porcupine Mountains.

Another stop we recommend is the Bishop Baraga Shrine in L'Anse. Erected in May, 1972, this religious historical monument commemorates the work of Frederick Barage. The 35-foot, five ton hand wrought brass statue stands majestically amid the surrounding trees. What's better, he's holding a pair of snowshoes.


5. There’s nothing in the Upper Peninsula that you can’t find in the Lower Peninsula

Ice Climbing at Michigan Ice Fest in Munising
Ice Climbing at Michigan Ice Fest in Munising | Photo Courtesy of Pure Michigan


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 winer activities, the U.P.’s top-rated snowmobiling trailsski resorts and winter festivals make it a blast for any visitor. And who could forget about the 300+ waterfalls that call the UP home?! During the cold winter months, many of these waterfalls freeze over, creating an entirely new landscape, known as ice caves, perfect for exploring and even climbing! Ice climbing is a huge sport in Michigan's UP and there's even a festival that draws in athletes and spectators from all over.


About the Authors: 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 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.