Whitefish Bay Scenic Byway – Hiawatha National Forest
The Whitefish Bay Scenic Byway (a National Forest Byway) is one of Michigan’s 23 designated byways, running 33 miles from Brimley to M-123 in the Eastern Upper Peninsula. It meets up with the Tahquamenon Scenic Byway at its western end. This smooth and scenic drive is located close to both Sault Ste. Marie and Tahquamenon Falls State Park, and it offers many outdoor recreation opportunities regardless of the season. In the winter, travelers can marvel at a frozen Lake Superior. Once spring arrives, hike the North Country Trail and look for wildlife. In summer, there are miles of beachfront on Lake Superior without the crowds you’ll find elsewhere. The byway truly shines in the fall, as the tree-lined road is filled with yellow, orange, and red leaves. In this post we will guide you through the “can’t miss” stops on the byway, while also looking at the history behind the route and the area’s early inhabitants.
Brimley State Park – Northeast of the village of Brimley is Brimley State Park, home to more than 230 campsites, a beach on Whitefish Bay, and opportunities for fishing, boating, and hiking. We love using this park as a base camp when visiting Sault Ste. Marie and/or sites to the west like Tahquamenon Falls and Whitefish Point. Be sure to take in a sunset on the beach, and keep an eye out for freighters on the bay.
Brimley/Bay Mills Indian Community – You’ll find U.P. small-town charm and a bit of history in the Brimley area. Check out the Wheels of History Museum, dine at Jack’s Pub and Grub or Pickles, and stock up on supplies at the Four Seasons Market across from the state park. The Bay Mills Indian Community west of Brimley has two casinos, a community college, a coffee shop, parks, and more.
Bay Mills Resort and Casino – For those who don’t plan on roughing it during their stay in the U.P., Bay Mills Resort and Casino offers plenty of gaming options as well as top-notch lodging. They also operate an RV park and a golf course on the other side of the road. The views from the 18-hole Wild Bluff golf course are some of the best in the area. Find out more at https://www.baymillscasinos.com/.
Mission Hill Cemetery – Many make the trip to the top of Mission Hill for the views from the overlook, but there’s also plenty of history in the Mission Hill Cemetery. Many of the area’s early residents are buried in this cemetery, and so are the crew of the steamer Myron, which sank off Whitefish Point in 1919.
Mission Hill/Spectacle Lake Overlook – The views from the overlook at the top of Mission Hill rival any others on the entire byway. You can see Spectacle Lake as well as Lake Superior – in the fall the vibrant colors here make it an incredibly popular stop (use caution as part of the drive is one-way traffic).
Monocle Lake Recreation Area – Those seeking a quiet that is harder to find at state parks and receation areas would be well served by stopping at Monocle Lake Recreation Area. There are spots for picnics and hiking, and a boat launch for fishing and other activities.
Monocle Lake Campground – Adjacent to the day use recreation area is a stunning rustic campground. There are 39 sites here, and some are located on the waterfront. You’ll have a table and a fire ring at each site, but the closest thing to modern amenities are water pumps and pit toilets spread through the campground loop. Sites start at $16/day, find out more at https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/hiawatha/recarea/.
Point Iroquois Lighthouse – One of the highlights of this drive is a stop at the Point Iroquois Lighthouse, an 1870 beacon that is open as a museum through the National Forest Service. Climb the tower for great views from 65 feet up, where you can see the Gros Cap Reef Light, the Canadian shoreline and its wind turbines, and the busy shipping channel between Whitefish Bay and the Soo Locks. Exhibits include an apartment restored to conditions the lightkeepers would have experienced, a historical look at the light, and a fourth order Fresnel lens from the Martin Reef Light.
Big Pines Picnic Area – Giant red and white pines tower over picnic tables, and a trail leads to a stretch of sandy Lake Superior beach at the Big Pines picnic area. Spend some time here swimming, relaxing, or looking for rocks on the beach.
Bay View Campground – Camp along the shore of Lake Superior at one of the 20 rustic sites at Bay View Campground. Each site has plenty of tree cover and privacy, and includes a fire pit and a picnic table. Sites start at $16/night, find out more at https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/hiawatha/recreation/.
Pendills Creek National Fish Hatchery – Since 1951, this hatchery has produced and stocked lake trout. Pendills Creek National Fish Hatchery produces up to 1 million lake trout yearlings each year, stocking them in Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. “The visiting public is encouraged to stop in to view the Visitor Lobby in the main hatchery building and walk through the fish production building located at the facility. When you arrive at the hatchery, a visitor’s parking lot will be to your left with an informational kiosk about our program. Depending on the time of year, you can see lake trout eggs, fry, fingerlings, yearlings, or display brood fish. Follow the signs to the visitor’s lobby inside the brick building for tours of our grounds. Public beach access to Lake Superior is across the road of the hatchery. ”
Naomikong Overlook/North Country Trail – This stop is a two-fer, with an overlook that has great views of Lake Superior and a hiking trail that leads down to miles of unspoiled shoreline. The North Country Trail crosses the byway here, and leads to the west while other trails lead to the east and Naomikong Point. This is one of the most popular hiking segments in the eastern Upper Peninsula.
The Shallows Day Use Area – An obvious favorite for its shallow waters and sandy beach, this day use area offers views for miles on Lake Superior. An informational sign here offers a glimpse at the fluctuation of lake water levels over time.
Bark Dock Day Use Area – The last stop on the byway before reaching M-123, Bark Dock is located near a spot where hemlock bark was gathered and shipped to Sault Ste. Marie for use in tanning. The informational sign here also dives into the history of fishing Lake Superior (mostly for whitefish), which dates back to the first Native Americans who resided here.