10 Must-Visit Michigan Locations on the Lake Superior Circle Tour
Michigan’s Upper Peninsula features more than 900 miles of scenic Lake Superior shoreline, which includes some of the most stunning scenery in the state. For many years the Lake Superior Circle Tour has been a popular road trip for travelers, giving them a chance to soak in the sights and sounds of Ontario, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan as they travel around the largest freshwater lake in the world (by area). If you’re considering this trip, here’s a look at our choices for 10 must-visit locations in Michigan on your Lake Superior Circle Tour (west to east).
1. Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park – It doesn’t take long to see why this park recently finished 2nd in a nationwide poll of the best state parks, as beautiful scenery can be found in any corner of Michigan’s largest state park. The waterfalls on the Presque Isle River at the west end of the park are a must-see, and there is also a semi-modern campground with great views of Lake Superior. Interior trails lead to backcountry cabins and numerous waterfalls, while the most popular spot remains the Lake of the Clouds overlook at the end of the 107th Engineers Memorial Highway. The park is also home to largest stand of old growth northern hardwood forest, and chances to spot elusive wildlife like the black bear, moose, wolf and bald eagle are plentiful.
2. Keweenaw Peninsula historic mining sites – The Keweenaw region was once incredibly prosperous thanks to the discovery of copper and the mining boom that followed. In many locations today, there is little left but building ruins and memories of the past. Visitors can still enter a few of the mines, like Adventure Mine (Greenland), Quincy Mine (Hancock), and Delaware Copper Mine (Mohawk). There are fees associated with these tours but it is well worth the cost for a look back at an importnat part of our state’s past. Those looking for ruins will enjoy visiting the Quincy Dryhouse Ruins or strolling through the many ruins on the property next to the hoist seen above or taking a self-guided tour through what was formally Central Mine.
3. Copper Harbor – You can’t travel any further north in Michigan by car than Copper Harbor, which sits at the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula. Take a trip back in time by visiting Fort Wilkins or taking a boat trip out to the Copper Harbor Lighthouse. Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary and Managnese Gorge Falls provide excitement for outdoor enthusiasts, as do miles of ORV and mountain bike trails. Consider a meal at The Mariner North and grab a beer at Brickside Brewery – another nice thing here is that nearly all attractions are located within a mile or two of each other. Spending a night at Fort Wilkins State Park or Lake Fanny Hooe Resort & Campground is highly recommended.
4. Baraga/L’Anse area – Top draws for this area are Baraga State Park, recreation on the Keweenaw Bay, the Shrine of the Snowshoe Priest and the highest point in Michigan- Mt. Arvon. L’Anse is home to a handful of waterfalls, with more located to the northeast as you head out of town towards Skanee. Baraga State Park has 115 campsites and is located right on the bay, where kayaking and fishing are popular options. The Shrine of the Snowshoe Priest is a six-story monument to Bishop Frederic Baraga, a Catholic priest from Slovenia who helped found an early settlement here as well as several other places on the Great Lakes. Mt. Arvon is located a few miles northeast of town and reached by a sometimes-rough journey on logging roads until its summit is reached at 1,979 feet.
5. Marquette – As the most populated city in the Upper Peninsula, Marquette boasts a great deal of options in every category. Hotels, campgrounds and restaurants are abundant and there are many shopping opportunities downtown as well as out on M-28. Along the lakeshore, enjoy numerous beaches, freighters loading at the historic ore docks, the bright red Marquette Harbor Lighthouse, and Presque Isle Park. Craft beer lovers will enjoy Blackrocks Brewery, Ore Dock Brewery, The Vierling Restaurant & Harbor Brewery, as well as the Chocolay River Brewery. Hiking and mountain biking trails in the area are numerous, and gaining a reputation statewide. In the winter there are many options for both cross-country and downhill skiing.
6. Munising/Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore – Munising is home to the western entrance to the stunning Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, and several of its most popular attractions. Take a boat trip with Pictured Rocks Boat Cruises, Glass Bottom Shipwreck Tours, or Riptide Ride and experience Grand Island or the Pictured Rocks cliffs from Lake Superior. Camping at Wandering Wheels Campground or Munising Tourist Park is a great idea for setting up a local base camp, and puts you close to Scott Falls, Alger Falls, Wagner Falls, Horseshoe Falls, Munising Falls, Tannery Falls and Memorial Falls. A short drive to the east leads to Miners Falls, Miners Castle, Miners Beach and stunning views of the lake and the towering cliffs. Local restaurants and shops provide a great rest from driving – check out our guide to 15 family friendly things to do while you’re in Munising for more ideas!
7. Grand Marais/Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore – While the western end of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is known for its towering cliffs and rock formations, the eastern end near Grand Marais is known for the Grand Sable Dunes (featured photo at top of page) and Sable Falls. The Log Slide Overlook and Au Sable Point Light Station (and neighboring shipwrecks, seen at top of post) are other popular stops at this end of the park, and provide a great look at the area’s history. In town, check out the Pickle Barrel House, the Gitchee Gumme Agate and History Museum, as well as the Lake Superior Brewing Company.
8. Tahquamenon Falls State Park – Michigan’s second-largest state park not only boasts one of the largest waterfalls east of the Mississippi, but several other drops around an island in the river further downstream. Upper Tahquamenon Falls is 200 feet wide and has a drop of nearly 50 feet, and has been bringing visitors back for years thanks to the picturesque quality of its copper-colored waters. The area boasts spectacular fall scenery, a well-established moose population, and large campgrounds. A restaurant and brewery as well as a gift shop give visitors a spot to take a rest at the Upper Falls, while a small concession stand gives visitors the chance to rent a rowboat and experience the Lower Falls from on the island they surround.
9. Whitefish Point – A trip north of Paradise leads to Whitefish Point, where fans of maritime history will fins numerous things to enjoy. The Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum hosts many artifacts, including some from the Edmund Fitzgerald. All vessels entering or leaving Lake Superior must pass by this light, and there are so many shipwrecks nearby that the area is referred to as the “Graveyard of the Great Lakes.” The Whitefish Point Light Station features a unique skeletal tower design and a light has been in operation here since 1849 (present tower constructed in 1861). Finally, the point is also home to the Whitefish Point Bird Observatory, with viewing areas set up across from the lighthouse and protected piping plover habitat located on the lakeshore.
10. Soo Locks/Sault Ste. Marie – There are so many things to do in Sault Ste. Marie that it easily warrants a day’s time on this trip. It is also the ideal start/finish for the trip around Lake Superior. The Soo Locks are easily accessible and visitors can watch Great Lakes freighters and ocean-going “salties” get raised or lowered in the locks so they can make the journey between Lake Superior and the St. Mary’s River/Lake Huron. History buffs will enjoy Fort Brady, the historic homes on Water St., the River of History Museum and the Tower of History, as well as the Museum Ship Valley Camp. Soo Locks Boat Tours provide an up-close view of the locks, and there are also a handful of campgrounds. Beer enthusiasts will enjoy a stop at Soo Brewing Company, while The Antlers, a local restaurant, has a reputation that goes beyond the state.