I’ll be back in my home state of Michigan for the month of April to finish some requirements for my graduate degree. After I booked my ticket I found out that the school district I will be working in actually has Spring Break the first week of April. This unplanned week quickly morphed into an impromptu trip with my sister to visit my brother and future sister-in-law in the Upper Peninsula of northern Michigan.
My brother moved to Marquette, MI a few years ago, which has provided us a lot of opportunities to explore the UP. Some of the spots we visited on this trip we have seen before in the summer and it is amazing how much different they look as the seasons transition from winter to spring. Visiting in the off-season can be hazardous as we encountered a few closed roads, down trees, and icy trails. While some of the spots were a little difficult to access, we had the spots pretty much to ourselves!
Wetmore beach is just a few miles from town and a great swimming spot in the summer if you can stand the water temperatures. There is a short hike to reach Lake Superior, but there are quite a few trails that run along the shoreline, including parts of the North Country Trail.
Marquette Mountain & Morgan Falls
In regards to mountains, Michigan is lacking in the elevation department, but makes up for it with its gorgeous views of the Great Lakes. Marquette Mountain holds many cards with trails for hiking, running, a nationally acclaimed single track biking trail, and a winter sports area for skiing and snowboarding.
The access road to Morgan Falls is right across from Marquette Mountain and only two miles from downtown, making it one of the easier waterfalls to access. This waterfall is most easily accessed with four-wheel drive, so we all crammed in my brother’s
car truck* to avoid getting stuck in the mud and slush.
*I accidentally called my brother’s vehicle a car the other day and he was quick to correct me on this one. “It is a truck sis.”
The Black Rocks are near the tip of Presque Isle Park in Marquette. Check out where on the map. In the summer the Black Rocks is one of the most popular spots in the city. Either to watch the sunset or to cliff jump off the rocks into the icy waters below.
Canyon River Gorge
I had never been to Canyon River Gorge before, but one of our friends said that it is his favorite spot in the UP so we had to check it out. The hike to get back to the gorge was longer than expected, but took only around 20 minutes with all the ice and the snow on the path. The river was rushing at a decent pace because of all the recent snow melt. The entire trail leading up to the gorge follows the Sturgeon River which then cascades over Canyon Falls and pours into the gorge. The falls can be a little sketchy in the winter time, but thankfully there is a wooden fence that blocks you from slipping in. You need to be cautious of where you step because it can be difficult to decipher between rock and ice. Hence the lack of waterfall photos.
Porcupine Mountains Wilderness Park is about 2 1/2 hours from Marquette and since we had never been before we decided to take a day trip on one of my brother’s days off. We left around 9 a.m. and arrived shortly after 12, since we had stopped at the Canyon River Gorge on the way there. We had decided that the most important site to see was the Lake of the Clouds and upon arrival to the entrance we were greeted with a road closed sign with 7 miles to our destination. There were quite a few people parking at the entrance and hiking in, but we had 3 children with us and there was no way we were about to hike 7 miles there and 7 miles back. Assuming the road was closed due to snow and ice we risked it and drove on. About 5 1/2 miles on the road we discovered the real and legitimate reason why the road was closed; two down trees. We figured a mile and a half there and back was doable and we hiked the rest of the way.
On our way to Munising we stopped right off the road in Au Train to check out the sandy ice formations that dotted the shoreline. I’ve never been in the summer, but my brother and sister-in-law said that the river actually completely changes directions. We played in the dunes and walked along the beach hopping on and off little icy islands.
Pictured Rocks National lakeshore
We arrived at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and were faced with another sketchy seasonal road. While it its technically spring here in Michigan, it takes a while for winter to release her grip and for the state to slowly unthaw. We all hopped it my brother’s truck* and made it to Miner’s Castle without too much trouble. We almost had the place entirely to ourselves, there were two other guys who hiked in. The North Country Trail also runs through the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore so there are plenty of opportunities to hike if you are eager to get some hiking in!
My brother is clearly a little more ballsy than I am. He climbed past the little ice shelf that was resting against the rocks. I was too nervous that I would slide right in!
After about 5 days in the UP we faced the 7 hour drive back home down state with 3 tired little chitlens.
Have you ever been to the UP?
What is your favorite spot in your home state?