Take This Road Trip On Michigan’s Upper Peninsula
If you head all the way north on Interstate 75, you’ll cross the Mackinac Bridge onto the scenic Upper Peninsula in Michigan. The U.P. is a peaceful destination for RV camping between the dense north woods and sandy shoreline along three of the Great Lakes (Superior, Michigan, and Huron). This also makes for a natural playground if you love to go fishing, kayaking, canoeing, hiking, or biking.
Summer is the best time to visit when the weather is nice and warm. It is also especially scenic in the fall when the leaves change colors and in the spring when you can see blooming wildflowers.
We mapped out the best road trip on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Plan your own travels on RV LIFE Trip Wizard and with the RV LIFE App to find more great campgrounds, RV parks, and other points of interest.
1. Straits State Park
Straits State Park makes a great starting point right after you cross the bridge onto the Upper Peninsula. It also provides a perfect home base if you want to take the ferry over to explore the shops and historic sites on Mackinac Island. The park has two campgrounds—the upper sites are larger and nicely shaded in the woods while the lower campground has scenic views of the lake and the bridge.
2. Tahquamenon Falls
About an hour northwest, you’ll reach Tahquamenon Falls State Park near Paradise, Michigan. Tahquamenon Falls is actually two waterfalls, the Upper and Lower Falls, on the Tahquamenon River.
The Upper Falls can be reached along a paved, quarter-mile trail through the woods and down a set of stairs to a viewing platform. From there, it is a longer, 4-mile hike (roundtrip) along the River Trail to reach the Lower Falls. If you want to view the Lower Falls but don’t want to hike, you can also drive up to see it. There is additionally a shuttle service offered for a fee between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
The campground is close to the Lower Falls, as well as a gift shop and camp store. There is also a Brew Pub in the park that serves craft beer and various dishes like steaks, sandwiches, and pasta.
3. Pictured Rocks
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is a couple hours west of Tahquamenon Falls, along the south shore of Lake Superior. The park’s 100 miles of trails lead to beautiful waterfalls, along the sandy beach, through the woods to inland lakes, and to scenic overlooks where you can see the dramatic cliffs and rock formations.
The name Pictured Rocks comes from the colorful cliffs and the best way to view them is from the water. Go kayaking or take a scenic cruise on Lake Superior during the day or at sunset. The park has a few RV-friendly campgrounds including the Twelvemile Campground where you can camp with views of the lake. There is also a KOA and RV park nearby.
4. Keweenaw Peninsula
A few hours west of the lakeshore is the Keweenaw Peninsula, the northernmost point of the Upper Peninsula. This quiet, more remote area has breathtaking views of the Lake Superior shoreline as well as historic sites including the Keweenaw National Historic Park and Quincy Mine.
There are a few campgrounds along the northern shore including Lake Fanny Hooe Resort & Campground, Sunset Bay Campground, and Fort Wilkens State Park near Copper Harbor.
5. Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park
Head south from the Keweenaw Peninsula and you’ll reach Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, the largest state park in Michigan. This park has miles of hiking trails through the woods, many leading to waterfalls and scenic overlooks like the ADA-accessible Lake Of The Clouds and the Summit Peak Observation Tower.
The park has camping accommodations not just for RVers and tent campers, but also cabin and yurt dwellers. The Union Bay Campground has about 100 sites with electric hookups and modern restrooms.
6. Crystal Falls, Michigan
Continue back east towards Crystal Falls, a tiny town along the Paint River with lots of parks nearby for outdoor activities. Stay at Paint River Hills Campground, Bewabic State Park, or Runkle Lake and spend a day or two exploring the area’s peaceful trails, lakes, and waterfalls.
7. Fayette Historic Site
The historic townsite of Fayette is worth branching off to see on your way eastbound. This ghost town has been preserved as a living museum and is listed on the National Register Of Historic Places. There are over 20 restored buildings from the 1890s that visitors can still walk through today. The park also has 61 campsites with water/electric hookups, a short walk from a beach and a picnic area.
8. Palms Book State Park
Kitch-Iti-Kipi, also known as The Big Spring, is less than an hour north in Palms Book State Park. The natural spring water is so crystal clear you can see the trout swimming underneath.
The park has a floating observation raft, a picnic area with grills, and a store where you can purchase souvenirs and snacks. There is a large campground with pull-through sites only 10 minutes away at Indian Lake State Park.
9. Manistique Lakeshore Campground
Only 20 minutes east of the spring is the small town of Manistique. The town has a nice lakefront campground with wide and long pull-through sites and full hookups. Take a walk down to the beach or along the Manistique Boardwalk to see the lighthouse.
10. Lakeshore Park Campground, St. Ignace
Wrap up your trip at Lakeshore Park Campground in St. Ignace, less than an hour and a half east of Manistique via Highway 2. This family-owned park has pull-through sites with full hookups and beautiful views overlooking Lake Michigan. It is also just up the road from the St. Ignace KOA.
RV Trip Planning Made Simple
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We help you find the perfect campground and a safe route to get there. You’ll also be connected to the world's largest RV community and a host of RV-specific tools so you can journey with confidence.
Start planning your Upper Peninsula road trip today on RV LIFE Trip Wizard and with the RV LIFE App. You can also find more campgrounds and get tips from other RVers on RV LIFE Campgrounds and the iRV2 Forums.
I can recommend, if you want off the beaten path, Van Riper State park on Lake Michigamme. Nice park and not too crowded even at the end of July. Craig Lake State park just up the road is the most remote park in the State. Back country camping only. The eight mile hike around the lake was amazing. Not a scrap of paper or cig butt the entire way. No one on the trail until we got to the end. You can also walk your kayak or canoe back in and disappear into the beauty.
Perkins Park Campground on Lake Independence was also nice. Friday night fish fry at Thunder Bay Inn, where Anatomy of a Murder with Jimmy Stewart and Lee Remick was filmed in 1959 was pretty good. If you don’t mind a couple scratches and mud on your truck two tracks and beautiful remote waterfalls await. South of town we picked wild blueberries to our hearts content.
The Porkies (as the locals call them) are also amazing and very quiet once you get away from the places where the tourists run up take a picture and a selfie and leave. If you can get onto a couple trails you will find yourself alone for most of the hike. Lots of day hikes and also backcountry camping. Definitely get a reservation and stay a few days.
Lake Gogebic State Park is also amazing. Drove through to just check it out and ended up staying for a couple days. We hiked the Lake Gogebic Ridge trail and bald eagles flew overhead as we walked uphill to overlook the lake. As breathtaking and spectacular as Lake of the Clouds.
Yes, you can do the tourist stuff, and we have been to them all. The UP really shines when you can get away from the crowds
Conspicuously absent from your article is the eastern end of the UP. The Soo Locks in Sault Marie are an amazing engineering marvel. Sit in the VFW Post Canteen on Portage Street and watch the lake freighters rise and fall 23′ in the locks maybe 100 yards away. . The 2-3 hour boat tour through the locks, $31 is worth it at twice the price. Drummond Island is as far east as you can go in the UP. Take the vehicle ferry from De Tour village. Drummond Island is beautiful at 28 miles long. How many of know what is Puddingstone? A geological beauty found only on Drummond and one other island.
carlene hopkins says
I’m looking to head in this direction from the west, taking hwy 2 across from Washington State. But with solar on my Minnie Winnie no need for RV parks, what is the dispersed / boondocking availability? I won’t be heading there til 2020 or 2021.
carlene hopkins says
I goofed and hit the unsubscribed button (I think)… so just trying to get back to subscribing on this article.
WayBeck 2018 says
We just made a similar trip in June 2019. Route 2 is quite an adventure and you need to buy diesel when you find it! But, found some great local restaurants on that road.
Jay Freeman says
We have vacationed here 4 times in the last 6 years and absolutely love life in the UP. But you missed some interesting sights…Itchitikippi Springs, Seney National Wildlife Refuge, Oswalds Bear Ranch (commercial, but fun for kids), Soo Locks, Whitefish Bay and many other lighthouses. It is a different way of life up here!
Carlene Hopkins says
Oh my.. I so want to visit Seney NWR, in the spring when the Sandhill cranes hatch… probably 2021… thanks for the info…
How long would it take to complete this road trip?
Eric Chapman says
There are also dozens of National Forest campgrounds for more primitive camping experience. Plus hundreds of miles of ORV trails and routes. And Grand Marias sand dunes.
Thomas Fouts says
This is a great route to take and explore Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. We took this route in a rented van and saw amazing sights, met wonderful friendly people and even got a dose of history! Don’t forget to explore some of the side roads too! On one two track exploration we had a black panther with big yellow eyes cross the two track road right in front of us. If both my wife and dog didn’t see it with me, I would say I was seeing things!
Missie Oldner says
This is our plan for next Summer. In the process of buying a RV now. We were there in our sail boat years ago. The beauty has never been forgotten.
Thank y’all for all the information and ideas for our up coming trip. We are planning about 3 months to see as much of the area as we can. If anymore ideas and suggestions please email.
Thanks so much,
Lots to do in the UP. If you are in Houghton go to the Seaman Mineral Museum located on the campus of Michigan Tech. Wander along the shoreline of Lake Superior and look for agates. Copper Harbor has a very nice State Park and you can take a road to the end of the peninsula. Fishing is top notch with many places to rent boats and the streams are full of trout. Insect repellent is a must but getting off the beaten path you will find pristine coastlines and breathtaking sunsets.
Daniel S Kish says
Live in downriver MI….been to most of these places in this article. Absolutely beautiful. Well worth the trip. Spent 8 days in the Copper Harbor/Picture Rock/Munising area. WOW….Lots of water falls in the UP. Some are just a short walk others are a bit of a hike( if you don’t mind the mosquitoes or black flies). Well worth the trip….
John L Wagner says
For those interested in Michigan travel and lighthouses, I invite you to inspect my book, “Michigan Lighthouses, An Aerial Photographic Perspective” at my website: http://www.michiganlighthouse.com It is an aerial collection of all Michigan’s lighthouses, taken over a six and half-year period from my Cessna 172. I enjoy personalizing inscriptions in the book on page nine, the Title Page. Drop a note, I’d enjoy hearing from you! jlw
Fred Burns says
As a troll from the lower peninsula, we’ve made many trips to the UP over the years for one or two week vacations & have explored most every square foot of the UP, in summer, winter & fall for sight seeing, hunting, fishing & all forms of skiing. It’s a beautiful, soul calming place where you can get lost in nature. After going full time in 2010 we return to Michigan each summer to see our kids/grandkids. Then after labor day we usually head to the UP & cross it before heading south for the winter. In 2018 we took an entire month to travel up to Sault St Marie & then slowly work our way across the southern edge of Lake Superior to the Porcupine Mountains on the west end. That was a wonderful, slow trip that let us absorb so much more than our usual more hurried trips in the past. When I pass from this world, I hope It’s while I’m travelling thru the UP, because I’m sure I’ll go straight to heaven. If the UP isn’t heaven itself, then it’s surely just outside the front door to heaven.
Ralph Pinney says
Toss in Whitefish Point light house and museum to learn about the Edmund Fitzgerald and other ship wrecks.
Ralph Pinney says
Forgot to mention the free overnight camping at some of the Kewadin casinos.
Gary Martel says
I have been camping in the UP for over 40 years and have visited all the placed mentioned in the article. My favorite is the Keweenaw Peninsula.
I highly recommend City of Houghton RV Park. It is located in Houghton on the Portage Canal. It is very clean and well maintained, and inexpensive. Reservation are needed. look up their website for dates they can be made.
What makes this ideal for me is that it has all city amenities, downtown Houghton is only about a half mile walk away, but if you drive 10 minutes away, you are on some of the scenic drives you can imagine. Drive the Superior (M26) shoreline to Copper Harbor and to Brockway Mountain Drive to the overlook a the top. While this is good anytime of year, it is great during the fall color season..
Straits State Park is like must visit spot, we should at least went here once haha, thanks for sharing this!