Look at a map of Michigan. North of the state’s Lower “Mitten” Peninsula is the Upper Peninsula (U.P.). At its northernmost tip, the Keweenaw Peninsula extends into Lake Superior. It is one of the main reasons USA Today readers repeatedly designate the U.P. as a top 10 fall foliage destination (naming it #1 in 2020). Yet as alluring as the leaves are, there are many more reasons to visit the Keweenaw. Here are some insights to plan your fall journey.
When to see gorgeous colors
In early September, Keweenaw’s majestic hardwoods begin to paint the coasts, hills and valleys with red, yellow and orange. Warmer days and cooler nights drench the forests in fiery hues from late September to mid-October. As you tour, wear layers so you can shed the hoodie or slip on a heavier coat and gloves.
How to begin
Start at the base of the Keweenaw in Houghton with its college town charm and eclectic selection of shops, restaurants and breweries. Here the 25-mile-long Keweenaw Waterway slices the peninsula and offers plenty of walking, biking and paddling routes. When you’re ready to explore the Keweenaw, the Portage Lake lift bridge is your gateway to spectacular autumn vistas.
Where to aim your camera
US-41 Covered Drive is a must-see. The amber-and-orange-colored leaves form a complete canopy over most of the Scenic Heritage Route between Delaware and Copper Harbor.
M-26 Coastal Drive reveals ancient beauty. Let your vehicle hug Keweenaw’s north shore between Eagle River and Copper Harbor. View beaches, waterfalls, lighthouses, giant pines up to 500 years old and a black, volcanic-rock coast that rivals Highway 1 in California.
Brockway Mountain is the highest above sea-level drive between the Alleghenies and Rockies. It’s amazing what you can see from 1,300-feet above Lake Superior’s shore. Turn off M-26 west of Copper Harbor, and make your way 8.8 miles up Brockway Mountain Drive. Gaze out on Lake Superior’s azure waters and the tapestry of colors in the forests below.
Bring your hiking boots, kayak or mountain bike
The Keweenaw is a world-class outdoor recreation destination. For a soul-stirring adventure, take a seaplane, ferry or your watercraft to Isle Royale, one of the least-visited, most remote and untamed U.S. National Parks.
Hike miles of trails that criss-cross the Keweenaw. Kayak or canoe the 100-mile-plus Keweenaw Water Trail to see fall color, sugar-sand beaches, crystal clear water, sea caves and waterfalls.
For another thrill, mountain bike 90 miles of singletrack trails. Test your mettle against the unrelenting twists of the Copper Harbor IMBA Silver-Level Ride Center or go with the flow along the trail systems crisscrossing the peninsula..
How to satiate your hunger and thirst
Whether you are searching for a hearty beef and rutabaga pasty (pass-tee), mouthwatering barbecue or a crisp, craft brew, eating here is pure pleasure. Must-stops include The Ambassador Restaurant in Houghton, Fitzgerald’s in Eagle River, Gino’s Restaurant in Hancock, Harbor Haus in Copper Harbor, Keweenaw Brewing Co. in Houghton and Schute’s Bar (Shoot-eez) in Calumet.
Why stay awake? Watch shimmering colors dance in the night sky.
The most mesmerizing fall colors, however, happen after sunset if the atmospheric conditions are just right. That’s when the Northern Lights cast green, yellow, red, blue and purple across Lake Superior’s horizon.
Become part of our fall palette
Find the roads, historic stops, places to eat, sleep and challenge your limits this fall at www.keweenaw.info. Our vibrant leaves are whispering your name. Answer their call.