Escape to Keweenaw Peninsula: Why the Tippy-Top of Michigan Will Be Your New Favorite Place

Keweenaw Peninsula Michigan Horseshoe Harbor - Cox

So Much to See and Do on the Keweenaw Peninsula

Far away, in the wilds of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, a rugged yet charming slice of paradise awaits: the Keweenaw Peninsula.

So read this guide, load up the car, and get ready for a journey filled with breathtaking scenery, outdoor adventures, world-class trails, and a whole lot of Midwest hospitality.

Keweenaw, Copper Harbor, Horseshoe Harbor Beach, Cox

We loved so many things about our Keweenaw getaway:

  • the vast wild lupine flowers painting the roadsides
  • exploring old copper mines
  • getting to know the charming town of Houghton
  • hunting for Yooperlites
  • digging into the authentic local culture and cuisine of Copper Harbor

With a little planning, you can follow in our footsteps and adventure on Keweenaw Peninsula, too.

We think you will love visiting here as much as we did!

Houghton, MI

This charming city is the gateway to the Keweenaw Peninsula.

It’s the fastest growing city in the U.P. You’ll love its down-to-earth culture, natural beauty, and seriously good eats!

Houghton, MI - Canva

In addition to its rich mining history and cool downtown scene, Houghton also serves as a launch point for backpackers en route to Isle Royale and is home to Michigan Tech University.

Houghton-Hancock Lift Bridge

US-41, Houghton, MI 49931

The iconic Houghton-Hancock Lift Bridge (aka Portage Lake Lift Bridge) is a double-decker, and the only bridge of its kind in Michigan.

The upper deck is for highway traffic, while the lower deck was once used by trains. The train traffic is gone, but it’s open to snowmobiles in winter.

Keweenaw, Houghton-Hancock Lift Bridge, Portage Lake Lift Bridge, Cox

Cool Idea: Stop by Keweenaw Brewing Company for a pour of their “Lift Bridge Brown Ale” which features an image of this historic bridge on its bottles.

Isle Royale Launch Point

Traveling to Isle Royale National Park from Houghton?

Hop aboard The Ranger III passenger vessel for a 6-hour journey, or catch a sea plane and you’ll be at Isle Royale in an hour. (This is the best way to day trip it to the island.)

Ranger III NPS Ferry at Isle Royale , MI - Canva

No matter how you get there, Houghton has all the comforts you’d crave before or after a wilderness adventure in one of the least visited, but most re-visited, U.S. National Parks.

Michigan Tech University

Houghton is also home to Michigan Tech where “the men are men, women are men and sheep are scared,” as my MTU alum husband likes to say.

Michigan Technological University started as the Michigan Mining School in 1885, with a mission to train mining engineers.

Nowadays, MTU is still renowned for their engineering program.

With a focus on outdoor adventures, the gorgeous campus is worth a stroll.

Michigan-Tech-kids-and-dad-on-husky-statue-Rudd

Quincy Mine

49750 US-41, Hancock, MI 49930

Put on your hard hat and take a two-hour tour into the depths of the Quincy Mine for a fascinating look into the region’s copper mining history.

Keweenaw, Hancock, Quincy Mine, Cox

Available tours include:

  • a full 2.5 hour tour that includes a section of the 7th level underground
  • a 35-40 minute surface tour
  • a 1-hour smelter tour (located in Ripley on Hancock’s waterfront)
  • self-guided tours
Keweenaw, Hancock, Quincy Mine Ruins, Cox

During the Industrial Revolution, the demand for copper increased. Keweenaw had a lot of it! In the late 1880s, immigrants came from around the world for jobs that copper mining provided.

Now you know why they call it copper country!

While you’re visiting the Quincy Mine, get an up-close look at a massive chunk of copper that was found in this area of the Keweenaw Peninsula.

Keweenaw, Hancock, Quincy Copper Mine, Cox

Gift Shop Goods: The color of oxidized copper is stunning, which is why I couldn’t pass up the pair of dipped copper earrings from the gift shop; their green patina color is a fun reminder of our Keweenaw Peninsula getaway.

The Ambassador Restaurant

126 Shelden Ave, Houghton, MI 49931

The Ambassador Restaurant has that dark, cozy atmosphere that makes you want to settle in for hours. Locals and tourists alike flock here for their tostada pizza — and maybe also for the colorful murals of painted gnomes across the ceiling.

Keweenaw, Houghton, Ambassador Restaurant, Cox

Kick back at this Keweenaw staple and you might just love it enough to buy the t-shirt… at least, that’s what my husband did when we ate there.

Side Note: In the U.P. episode of Delicious Destinations, Andrew Zimmern recommends the cudigi, so we ordered it. Worth it! This Italian beef sandwich with pizza sauce and cheese is a delicious must-try item if you’re interested in local cuisine.

Chutes and Ladders Park

W Lakeshore Dr, Houghton, MI 49931

Move over ordinary playgrounds: this one-of-a-kind play structure is unlike anything we’d seen before!

Upon arrival, our kids squealed with delight at the seemingly endless labyrinth of climbing structures and colorful slides of Chutes and Ladders Park.

Keweenaw, Houghton, Chutes and Ladders Playground, Cox

As if that playground is not enough, the surrounding Kestner Waterfront Park has a swimming area, picnic tables, hammocks, BBQ grills, RV Park, beach volleyball courts, and a bike path.

Portage Paddle Sports is right there, too.

Rent a paddleboard or kayak and paddle under the Portage Lake Lift Bridge.

When you get back, enjoy hand-dipped ice cream cones & vegan gelato from the same building.

Keweenaw Rocks

If your family enjoys rock hunting along the shores of Lake Michigan, Lake Superior offers different treasures like agates and Yooperlites that are even more of a challenge to find!

Keweenaw, Agate Beach, Rocks, Cox

Rock-Hunting Beaches
To find yooperlites (sodalites) and agates, your best bet is to search on remote, rocky beaches on the west coast of the Keweenaw Peninsula.

Here are some good beaches to try:

Calumet Water Works Park (Lakeshore Dr Calumet, MI 49913) has pavilions, toilets, picnic areas, playground, a volleyball court, and a basketball court. There is also a baseball area and a handicapped ramp to access the beach.

Hunters Point Park, (F4F5+WP Hunter’s Point Park, Copper Harbor, MI 49918) in addition to an unspoiled rocky beach, has walking trails that lead to the picturesque Plimpton Point. This is a great place to watch the Queen IV take brave passengers to and from Isle Royale some 60 miles across Lake Superior.

Gratiot River Park Beach (Gratiot River Shortcut Road, Allouez, MI 49805) has picnic tables, grills, fire pits – BYO wood.

Agate Beach and campground (12950 Agate Beach Rd, Toivola, MI 49965) offers a pure outdoor experience with no electricity, rustic toilets, picnic tables, and a serene, remote beach.

Hunting for Yooperlites

Whether you call them Yooperlites, Sodalites, or Glowdalites, these seemingly normal looking, gray rocks glow a vibrant orange and yellow under a UV light. This unique, glowing rock that can only be found on the shores of the Great Lakes is a marvel to hunt and collect.

If you’ve enjoyed looking for rocks during the day, wait until you try finding them at night!

Keweenaw, Agate Beach, Yooperlite Hunting, Cox

Before searching for Yooperlites, make sure you’ve got the necessary supplies. You’ll need a strong UV light, a glow stick, a flashlight other than your phone, a bag to put your finds in, bug spray, and patience.

Some Smart Tips When Hunting for Yooperlites:

  • Get to the location before dark to familiarize yourself with your surroundings
  • Do not rely on your cellphone for location coverage or use your cellphone as a flashlight. Carry a separate flashlight or headlamp.
  • Before it gets dark, use a glow-stick to mark the location where you parked and entered the beach. It’s easy to walk farther than you planned when you’re looking at the ground.
  • After dark, slowly shine a UV light back and forth across the ground. Yooperlites can be found in the water, along the shore, and even farther up near the tree-line.
  • Drag your feet as you slowly walk along, then every few steps turn around and use your UV light to see if you kicked any up that might have been hidden before.

Tip: Please follow all rock collecting rules on your adventures!

Calumet, MI

Calumet looked a lot different during the copper mining boom of the 1800s! Visit today for a chance to step back in time and learn about the Keweenaw Peninsula’s rich mining history.

Be sure to investigate the Visitor’s Center and Coppertown Mining Museum while you’re in town.

Keweenaw, Calumet, Cox

And, before you leave, take a walk or drive through downtown Calumet to see a swath of brownstone buildings from the mining era that have been preserved.

Calumet Visitors Center

98 5th St, Calumet, MI 49913

Visit the Calumet Visitors Center, located in the historic Union Building, to get hands-on with the area’s mining history.

Three floors of interactive exhibits let you experience what Keweenaw life was like for Calumet & Tecla Mining Company miners and their families in the 1840s and beyond.

Calumet Visitor's Center - Cox

The National Parks Service (NPS) runs the Calumet Visitor’s Center.

NPS rangers shared info about many sites and features around Keweenaw Peninsula that we added to our itinerary. We got our National Park Passport cancellation stamps here, too – a fun way to keep track of any National Parks or Historic Sites you visit.

Coppertown Mining Museum

25815 Red Jacket Rd, Calumet Township, MI 49913

This Keweenaw heritage site may be small, but it’s packed with historical items and artifacts. Films and photos on display at the Coppertown Mining Museum tell the stories of immigrant settlers who came to Keweenaw Peninsula during the Copper Boom.

Coppertown Mining Museum in Calumet, MI / NPS Photo – Nathan Miller

Good to know: The Calumet Mining Museum is staffed by volunteers, so call ahead to make sure it’s open the day you want to visit.

Calumet Pasty Fest

Saturday, Aug 17, 2024 – Downtown Main Street Calumet

You can’t visit the U.P. without trying a pasty (pronounced PASS-tee), one of the most underrated foods in the Midwest.

I would describe it as a meatloaf mixed with french fries and a few chopped veggies, wrapped in a pie crust. Sounds delicious, right?

Upper Peninsula, Pasty, Cox

Calumet’s Pasty Fest, held annually during the summer, celebrates the culinary invention of its Cornish and Finnish ancestry.

These hearty, portable pies were an ideal lunch for miners. The thick pinched pie crust could be used as a handle so they could eat lunch without surfacing from the mine to wash their hands first.

Depending on who you’re asking in the U.P., there’s a debate about whether pasties should be dipped in either ketchup or gravy. Don’t tell anyone, but I like mine with ketchup.

This summer’s Pasty Fest is on Saturday, Aug 17, 2024. If you go, come back and tell us how it was!

Snow Thermometer

58542 Wolverine St, Calumet, MI 49913

Don’t miss the Snow Thermometer as you’re driving up Hwy 41 near Calumet. The “Snomometer” displays the massive amounts of snowfall the Keweenaw Peninsula gets each year.

Keweenaw, Snow Thermometer, Cox

Our minds were blown by this unique roadside attraction… that’s a lot of snow!

HWY 41 (Scenic Tunnel of Trees)

Crank the volume up to 11 on your favorite road trip tunes and enjoy one of the prettiest drives in Michigan.

Highway 41 runs all the way from Miami, FL, to Copper Harbor, MI. The northernmost 11 miles, known as the Tunnel of Trees, have been designated as a National Scenic Byway.

If you’re going to Copper Harbor – this is the route to take!

Highway 41 Tunnel of Trees Keweenaw Peninsula Michigan - Canva

We loved the Tunnel of Trees so much we turned around and drove down it again just for fun.

Mohawk Superette

158 Stanton Ave, Mohawk, MI 49950

Need some snacks for the drive? Pull over at the Mohawk Superette to load up on food and treats for your road trip around the Keweenaw Peninsula.

It may not look like much from the outside, but inside you’ll find an amazing selection of ready-to-go sandwiches and snacks that are sure to keep your hungry crew satisfied.

Keweenaw, Mohawk Superette, Cox

Copper Harbor

Surrounded by the pristine waters of Lake Superior, you’ll find the village of Copper Harbor at the intersection of HWY 41 and M-26, as far north as you can go in Michigan.

Its rugged beauty, cool and pleasant summer temperatures (average daytime highs in the mid 70ºs), and “tip of the hat” location make it a top tourist destination. (About 100 residents live here year round and that number swells to 300 during the summer months.)

We visited at the peak of summer tourism season and enjoyed strolling up and down the village street, popping into gift shops, and grabbing treats at the local ice cream shop.

Island Goers: Copper Harbor offers another gateway to Isle Royale National Park. You can daytrip it and reach Isle Royale by seaplane or the Isle Royale Queen IV passenger ferry from Copper Harbor.

Horseshoe Harbor

High Rock Bay Rd, Copper Harbor, MI 49918

Pack yourself a lunch because when you get to this secret beach, you won’t want to leave.

Horseshoe Harbor, also known as Horseshoe Bay Beach, was our favorite place we visited while exploring Copper Country.

Keweenaw, Copper Harbor, Hike to Horseshoe Bay Beach, Cox

I heard “Ooh’s” and “Ahh’s” from my children as they reached this pristine, secret beach before I did.

The rocks and sand along the shoreline are copper colored, which makes the water look even more blue. To me, this hidden cove felt more like Maine than Michigan.

Keweenaw, Copper Harbor, Horseshoe Harbor Beach, Cox

When you visit, be sure to climb the jetty of bedrock cliffs and eat a picnic lunch perched above Lake Superior.

Directions to Horseshoe Harbor: take US-41 past the town of Copper Harbor toward Fort Wilkins State Park. Once the pavement ends, continue on Mandan Road for about a mile.

Turn Left onto High Rock Bay Road, which, I’m sorry to say, is in worse condition than the dirt road you were just on. THIS IS NO TIME TO LOSE HOPE! Don’t turn back! You’re almost there!

Keweenaw, Copper Harbor, Rough Road, Cox

Keep driving another mile on this rough dirt road to the small parking area. Yellow poles mark the trailhead of a lovely 10-15 minute forest hike out to Lake Superior.

Horseshoe Bay Beach isn’t the easiest place to get to, but once you arrive, Gitche Gumee’s wild, rocky shoreline is sure to steal your heart.

Copper Harbor Lighthouse

Rear Range Lighthouse, Mohawk, MI 49950

Feast your eyes on The Copper Harbor Lighthouse, one of the first two lighthouses to be established on Lake Superior. (Whitefish Point is the other.)

Sea Kayak to Copper Harbor Lighthouse – Keweenaw Adventure Company

The road that leads to the lighthouse isn’t open to the public so visitors can take a boat tour from the Copper Harbor Marina to get a closer look.

If you’re up for more of an adventure, consider paddling past the Copper Harbor Lighthouse as part of sea kayaking tour!

Brockway Mountain

US-41, Copper Harbor, MI 49918

Take a drive on Brockway Mountain Drive, a 9-mile road offering stunning views of Lake Superior, the Keweenaw Peninsula and the surrounding area.

Brockway Mountain is a popular spot for tourists, hikers, and photographers, especially during the fall when the trees change colors. Being so far from any city lights, this is the ultimate site for star gazing and possibly catching a glimpse of the Northern Lights.

Know: Brockway Mountain Drive is closed to vehicles during the winter months.

Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary

Burma Rd, Copper Harbor, MI 49918

Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary is one of the best places in the Keweenaw Peninsula to look for wildlife, listen to birds, and enjoy a peaceful stroll through an old-growth forest.

Two recently improved loop trails take you through towering pines and forest. The one-mile Cathedral Grove loop trail passes some of the largest and oldest giant white pines in Michigan, growing more than 125 feet tall and dating back 300 years.

Old growth virgin pine at Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary Copper Harbor, MI - Canva

Summer and Fall are the most popular times to visit Estivant Pines.

Eagle River

Eagle River, MI, is famous for its rock-strewn beach. It’s also home to the stunning Eagle River Falls, an easy-to-reach roadside waterfall with a park and viewing bridge.

Eagle River Falls, MI - Canva
Eagle River Falls, MI

Eagle River Beach

5033 Front St, Eagle River, MI 49950

Check out the unique copper-colored rocks at Eagle River Beach, known for agate hunting, incredible sunsets and views of the northern lights.

We loved chasing fish and wading in the warmer water of Eagle River where it flows into Lake Superior.

Keweenaw, Eagle River Beach, Cox

Every time my kids say they don’t need their swimsuits, they 100% end up getting their clothes wet. Are your kids this way, too?

Fitzgerald’s Restaurant & Inn

5033 Front St, Eagle River, MI 49950

Savor delicious meals at Fitzgerald’s Restaurant. This rare gem located right on Eagle River Beach serves delicious food at affordable prices, with excellent service.

Keweenaw, Eagle River, Fitzgeralds, Cox

Everyone in my family agreed Fitzgerald’s was one of our favorite stops on our Keweenaw Peninsula road trip.

We can personally recommend the Grilled Whitefish, smoked Brisket and Pork, and heavenly homemade Mac & Cheese, but everything on the menu sounded incredible.

HOT TIP: Make reservations ahead of time if you’re planning to dine indoors. Take-out orders placed up to 24 hours in advance can be enjoyed on their outdoor patio overlooking Lake Superior.

EVEN BETTER TIP: Make reservations to spend the night here and this could be your view as the sun sets:

The Jampot in Eagle Harbor

6500 State Hwy M26, Eagle Harbor, MI 49950

Indulge your sweet tooth at The Jampot, a little bakery in Eagle Harbor where local monks sell their wild thimbleberry jam, breads, and desserts.

Keweenaw, The Jampot Bakery, Cox

What’s a thimbleberry, you ask? I don’t know, but they must be good because the line was out the door!

The whole store smelled like gingerbread cookies, so we bought some of those too.

Keweenaw, Eagle Harbor, The Jampot, Cox

HOT TIP: Enjoy your treats at Jacob’s Falls just a short walk from the Jampot. On M-26, there’s a small pull-off where you can park to see the falls.

Mohawk, Lac La Belle & Hubbell, MI

In the resort area of Lac La Belle you will find restaurants, vacation rentals, hiking and biking trails, and Mount Bohemia ski resort – voted by USA Today readers as the #1 ski resort in North America in 2023.

Mount Bohemia

5852 S Lac Labelle Rd, Mohawk, MI 49950

Thrill-seekers will love the challenging slopes and beautiful scenery at Michigan’s steepest and deepest ski resort. Mount Bohemia has the longest runs with the highest vertical and deepest powder in the Midwest.

In the winter, this mountain is a true treasure for backcountry skiers and riders. Ranked in the top 10% most difficult ski resorts in the country, Mount Bohemia is not the place for beginners… which became very clear as my husband examined the map and couldn’t find a single run that wasn’t a black diamond.

Keweenaw, Lac La Belle, Mount Bohemia

The average snowfall in Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula is 273 inches. The lake effect snow is dry, similar to resorts out west, and accumulates as powder which the resort does not groom.

Looking for Michigan’s hottest place to chill? There’s a Nordic Spa on the grounds at Mount Bohemia. You’ll also find a village of yurts, steam rooms and saunas, and the Log Cabin Bar that serves wood-fired pizzas.

HOT TIP: In July and August, Kayaking, Paddle Boarding & Yoga on the deck is free for lodging guests.

Bete Grise Beach

15003 Lac Labelle Rd, Mohawk, MI 49950

Relax at Bete Grise Beach one of the best white sand beaches we found in Keweenaw. Located on the “quiet side” of Keweenaw Peninsula, its waters are shallow, and its sandy cove is a bit off the beaten path, making it an ideal place to settle in for an afternoon on the lakeshore.

Keweenaw, Bete Grise Beach, Cox

Mendota Lighthouse

13702 Bete Grise Rd, Mohawk, MI 48850

Catch a glimpse of the Mendota Lighthouse (also known as Bete Grise Light) at the end of Bete Grise County Road.

Keweenaw, Bete Grise, Mendota Lighthouse, Cox

This little slice of Keweenaw Peninsula heritage was built in 1895, and restored back to working condition in 1998. It’s privately owned, but is a registered working lighthouse that sends its white light almost 14 miles into Lake Superior every 20 seconds.

Hungarian Falls

Golf Course Rd, Hubbel, MI 49913

Hike to Hungarian Falls and watch Dover Creek tumbling over a series of falls on its way down to Torch Lake. The upper and middle falls are around 20 feet high, and the lower falls is a 50 foot drop, which is spectacular when the water is flowing.

Hungarian Falls Keweenaw Peninsula Michigan - Canva - Gary Ennis from Getty Images

The upper and middle falls are a short and easy walk from the trailhead off of M-26. The lower falls are the largest and a little farther downstream with slightly more elevation change, but still fairly easy to reach.

There’s a small pool to wade in at the base of the middle falls that gets up to 3-4 feet deep in some places, depending on the water flow and the time of year you visit. A great place to soak your feet before hiking back up.

Where to Stay in the Keweenaw Peninsula

There are a variety of cozy accommodations available in the Keweenaw Peninsula, from boutique hotels to rustic cabins or lakeside vacation rentals. Whether you’re visiting for the summer sunshine, fall colors, winter snowmobiling or springtime waterfalls, adventure awaits!

The Holiday Inn Express in Houghton served us well when we were there. I can’t pass up free breakfast when I’m traveling with my family of five.

Keweenaw Mountain Lodge has a 9-hole golf course and great location near Fort Wilkins Historic State Park in Copper Harbor.

This Lakeside Retreat in Bete Grise sleeps 12 and is an ideal basecamp for a Keweenaw Peninsula adventure in every season.

Fitzgerald’s Hotel in Eagle River has 6 newly renovated units with comfortable living spaces and Lake Superior views that can’t be beat.

Map of Things to do on Keweenaw Peninsula

Have You Been to the Keweenaw?

Share your experiences and tips about your visit to the Keweenaw Peninsula in the comments below. We can’t wait to hear your stories!

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