Michigan’s Upper Peninsula: A World Away

By Abbie Harris  (Instagram: teenxperience)

We are still teenagers, but we’ve been blessed with some wonderful travel opportunities. Still, when we decided to road-tip it to the Upper Peninsula to visit a friend who attends Lake Superior State university, we certainly didn’t expect to be treated to Mother Nature’s glory, but we got to experience stunning waterfalls, rocky cliffs, brilliant fall foliage, and the glistening expanse of the world’s largest freshwater lake.

Now, we are native Michiganders, but we tend to hover just north of the Indiana state line, just north of the University of Notre Dame. Our daily vistas of cornfields and Lake Michigan sand dunes make us forget that Michigan is a rather large and diverse state. Our road trip to Sault St. Marie took seven hours. If we have continued west across the entire Upper Peninsula, another five and a half hours would have been tacked onto our trip. 

Our first stop after meeting up with our friend was the Mission Hills trail. This trail in located in the Hiawatha National Forest which borders three of the Great Lakes, Superior, Michigan, and Huron. The Mission Hills trail offered us a perfect vantage point from which to view the spectacular fall colors surrounding Lake Superior. 

Next stop was the jewel of the Upper Peninsula, Tahquamenon Falls. We were honestly shocked to see such a magnificent waterfall in our own home state, but we learned that the UP is home to more than 100 waterfalls. Tahquamenon Falls gets its rootbeer color from the iron that is so abundant in the area. In fact, it was the iron that brought in many settlers to the region long ago. We thought the rich, dark color of the raging water was the perfect complement to the yellows, reds, and oranges of the surrounding trees. Trekking back to the falls was an easy hike and there is a nice observation deck from which to view the falls. 

Up next was Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, our country’s first designated national lakeshore. We hiked the trails and climbed on the rocks and took in the vastness of Lake Superior. Lake Superior is appropriately named! This lake is far superior to any we have seen before. It is more like an inland sea than a lake. And Lake Superior holds ten-percent of the world’s fresh water. The colorful, sandstone cliffs rise straight up from the water. While it was wonderful to see these cliffs from terra firma, we are already making plans to return to Pictured Rocks in the summer with our kayaks so we can experience this area from a different vantage point. 

While at Pictured Rocks, we hiked to Miner Falls and climbed up the forty feet to the top of the falls, always looking for the perfect spot to take in the incredible scenery. 
During our time in the UP, we felt as though we were in a whole different part of the world, not in our own home state. We left with an increased appreciation for the diversity of Michigan…and with plans to return again as often as we can!