Millie Mine Bat Viewing and Millie Hill Lookout, Iron Mountain
The sign on U.S.-2/141 while driving through Iron Mountain had always made us curious: “Bat Viewing Site” with an arrow pointing to the right, but we had never investigated where the sign led until this pat summer. Our visit to the area found us having a quick dinner at the Chapin Pit and miner statue before heading up the hill to check out the Millie Mine Bat Viewing Site. We were a bit early in the day to see the bats flying around, but what we found just past the old mine shaft was a trail that led to a platform with truly amazing views of Iron Mountain. Wildlife viewing, historical information, AND amazing views? This turned out to be exactly the kind of place we love visiting.
Just a block off the highway on 3rd St. is a hard-to-miss small park with a statue of a miner, a replica mine shaft headframe, and a small trail that leads to an overlook of the Chapin Pit. The pit is now full of water but was once part of a very active mine. The statue was added to this site in 2016 (read more about that here). The Millie Hill Trail also starts in this park (look for a sign and the trail heading into the woods).
We drove farther east on 3rd St., then headed south on Park Ave., following it to the sign for the Millie Mine Bat Viewing Site. There is a small parking lot here, and it is a short walk up to the bat viewing site.
The bat viewing site is located just uphill from the parking lot. This abandoned vertical iron mine is now home to one of North America’s largest bat colonies. A steel grate covers the top of the mine shaft to keep people out and still let the bats move about as they please. Having spent a lot of time exploring old mine sites in the Keweenaw Peninsula, we had seen a few “bat mines” before but none that are known to be home to close to a million bats.
The best times for seeing bats here are in April/May or September/October around dusk. Signs near the mine give visitors information about types of bats in Michigan, why bats are good, and why bats hibernate.
From the mine we followed a hiking trail into the woods, curious where it would lead. As it turns out, this trail follows along the top of the hill before leading to a viewing platform with amazing views of Iron Mountain from above it.
There is a map on one of the informational plaques here that shows where major landmarks are. From here, you’ll be able to spot church steeples, the courthouse, schools, the few mining buildings that remain, and more. Another nearby plaque gives some facts about the many mines that operated in this area’s “Menominee Range.” Watching the sunset from here is pretty awesome!
The viewing platform is named in honor of Samuel Bassett, a Maine native who fought in the Civil War and spent the last 40 years of his life in Iron Mountain.
There are plenty of other things to do in Iron Mountain, including: the Cornish Pumping Engine and Mining Museum, WWII Glider and Military Museum, Fumee Lake Natural Area, Fumee Falls, the Ardis Furnace ruins, and the Pine Mountain Ski Jump. You’re also just miles away from the Norway Spring, Norway Viking Ship, the Iron Mountain Iron Mine, and Piers Gorge Recreation Area on the Menominee River (waterfalls, whitewater rafting).