For the last few years, Andy has participated in a multi-day bike ride across a state. Last year he biked DALMAC, a ride from East Lansing, Michigan to Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. Since Andy was going to be in Sault Ste. Marie without a way to get home, I drove up to meet him. We decided to road trip through Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (the UP) before we headed back to Chicago through Wisconsin.
Even though I lived in Michigan my whole life, I had only been up to the UP a couple times. Every place that we visited on our trip was something that I had not seen before so it was fun to experience them for the first time with Andy.
Places We Visited
Well, we really didn’t do anything in Paradise, but when you see a sign that says “Entering Paradise” you have to stop and take a picture. Who knew that all we had to do was drive to the UP to find Paradise…
Our first stop on our trip was a visit to Tahquamenon Falls, one of the largest waterfalls east of the Mississippi. It has a 50 foot drop and measures 200 feet across. The waterfall is unique as the water has a brown hue to it. This brown coloration is from tannins in the soil which come from the cedar swamps which feed the river. While it makes the waterfall look a little dirty, it is a unique feature that very few waterfalls have.
I visited this falls before I made it to Niagara Falls but it was still quite impressive. Up to 50,000 gallons flow over the waterfall every second. To put that into perspective, an Olympic size swimming pool holds 660,000 gallons. That means that the waterfall could fill the pool in just over 13 seconds.
There is a lower falls which is further down the trail. While we would have loved to see it, we both got completely drenched in a sudden downpour when we were hiking to the upper falls. We were actually so wet that we had to change our pants before we could even sit on the seats in the car! While it is never fun to have less than ideal weather on vacation, it is something that we laugh at when we talk about our trip. As luck would have it, after we left the weather cleared up and was beautiful the rest of the day.
We had scheduled a pictured rocks cruise for first thing in the morning but sadly, due to high waves it was cancelled. Even though we didn’t get out on the water, we still walked along the extremely windy coastline to see as much as we could.
If pictures of the coastline look familiar, it’s either from the Pure Michigan advertising campaign or the Kid Rock “Born Free” music video which was filmed on location.
After our cancelled boat trip, we scrambled to see what else there was to see and do in the area. There are a lot of waterfalls so we visited a few that were easy to get to.
After an extremely short 800 foot trail, we were at the falls. It wasn’t the most impressive waterfall we had seen, but it was nice and a very easy walk. We took a few pictures at the bottom of the falls then hiked on a trail to the right of the falls to get a different perspective. During our hike Andy was a lucky guy finding $1 on the ground.
Miners fall is a 1.2 mile round trip hike from the parking area. The hike to the falls was a very beautiful wooded area so the walk did not seem very long at all. Once we were at the falls, we took some wooden stairs down to a platform for a better view of the falls.
Miner’s falls was pretty cool – the water hit various rocks on the way down which made it more interesting than a waterfall which just goes straight down.
When we were looking for places to stay we looked at Escanaba as it was a larger city. I found the Sunset Lodge Motel which met all of our criteria – highly rated, inexpensive and family owned.
We checked in and were put into one of the rooms in the building behind the main hotel. Our room was not updated as the husband and wife owners were working on renovating all of the rooms slowly which made sense. Since it was a holiday weekend and we were there only 1 night, we didn’t mind being in one of the older rooms.
The best part of our stay was the owner Jerred. We interacted with him when we checked in, to get a recommendation for dinner and when we checked out. Every time we spoke with him he was very helpful and friendly. He was also a pretty cool guy – when we said we were in the UP becuase Andy just finished up his DALMAC ride, he told us about how he rode his bike across the US a few years earlier. This was particularly interesting for Andy as he has wanted to do this for years.
While our stay was great, in hindsight we should have looked at hotels in Munising as it was much closer to Pictured Rocks where our morning boat ride departed.
A Few Things to Note about the UP
- It can be chilly – even though we were there over Labor Day, the end of summer, it already felt like fall.
- Some restaurants/shops close on the holidays – this was surprising to use as we figured that holiday weekends would be one of their busier times.
- Restaurants close early! We wanted to get pasties, a staple of Northern Michigan cooking, but had a hard time finding anything that was open at 7pm. Luckily we found a place and Andy got to experience his first ever pasty.
We had a great time road tripping through the UP. As always, we tried to cram too much into too little time. I don’t think that we do it intentionally, I honestly just think we forget to factor in the amount of time that driving will take.
If we were to do it again we would:
- Spend 2 nights in the UP to allow for more time to see the sights. To be closest to the sights, we would stay in Paradise which is near Tequanimum Falls and Munising which is near Pictured Rocks.
- Book our pictured rocks cruise in the evening when the light is best for photos.
- Visit in July when the weather is warmer.