A journey to the UP

This post is about a trip we took to the UP from Northern Wisconsin.


  1. Day passes for Michigan State Parks are good for unlimited parking in any park for 24 hours. We managed to see 3 in one trip: Gogebic, Porcupine Mountains, and Bond Falls.
  2. There are two campgrounds on the southwest side of Lake Gogebic, the state and the county park. If you have a tent, go to the state park.

The trip

In early October back we decided to visit Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, also known as the UP (pronounced ‘yoop’). If you don’t know: Michigan is made up of two peninsulas and the two are connected by the Mackinac Bridge (or, “the bridge”). The upper peninsula is a little larger than Maryland and is about 30% of Michigan’s total size. It is said only trolls live below the bridge. At about 311 thousand residents the UP is technically large enough to become a state, and indeed statehood movements have been around about as long as Michigan has been a state. It even has a state fair – Michigan’s only. For what it’s worth, it would be the third state with representation in Congress with a population smaller than Washington, D.C.


Sun streaks through the trees on the Gogebic hiking trail.

Living in Vilas County we are just a short journey from the border with the UP. The nearest route into the UP is at Land O’ Lakes, WI, and the second is Presque Isle. On our way in from DC we passed through Escanaba but this time we headed north. Our first stop was Lake Gogebic, about an hour from here by way of Presque Isle.

We arrived about two hours before sunset and camped at Lake Gogebic State Park the first night. We decided to hike before we pitched the tent and, though it meant pitching it at sunset, meant we got to walk the short hiking trail at the park.

I woke up at sunrise over the opposite side of the lake. Gogebic is a massive body of water located in the heart of the almost-million acre Ottawa National forest and spans 14 miles north to south and 2.5 miles east to west. The water was still with that beautiful appearance of glass I love about lakes in the early morning. The Hungarians call this effect “tükörsima:” As smooth as the surface of a mirror. I really don’t know of a single word in English that captures that appearance.

Sunrise over Lake Gogebic

The Porkies

The next morning we planned to go home but instead packed up the tent and went north on Highway 64 to the Porcupine Mountains State Park, on the south shore of Lake Superior. We had just enough time to get there and hike along the Lake of the Clouds (the overlook hike was captured for Google Street View).

Greg and Danielle on the Lake of the Clouds hike.

Lake of the Clouds was amazing. A long lake situated between two ridges in the Porkies. As you walk along the north ridge, you follow the lakeshore from several hundred feet high. At some points you walk right along the cliff face and at others you are immersed in lush, old growth forest. The hike we did was about 2.5 miles out and back, but connected to other trails that could take you hundreds of miles deep into the heart of this impressive expanse of public land.

Bond Falls

We drove along the shore on the way back, opting for the slightly longer route along highway 45. For lunch we stopped in a cafe in Ontonagon before heading south to Paulding where we managed to sneak in a hike to Bond Falls before returning to Wisconsin. Unfortunately it was not dark enough to see the legendary light.

My aunt and uncle have a great story about a family vacation they took to the UP where everybody in the car was hungry and they were lost, trying to find their cabin. When they stopped to ask where the nearest McDonalds was, they were told “probably about 90 miles that way.” Depending on where they’re located the towns seem to be mining, shipping, or agriculture communities. But though the towns are few and far between comes a tremendous amount of public land. About a third of the peninsula is protected making it a dream destination for the particularly outdoorsy. With famous places like the Pictured Rocks, Sleeping Bear Dunes, and Sault Ste. Marie, places like Bond Falls, the Porkies or Gogebic might often go overlooked. If you have time to take the journey leisurely, though, little places like these are well worth the trip.