A Michigan Higher Peninsula Motorbike Journey in Autumn


Michigan Upper Peninsula Motorcycle Ride Cochran West Bluff
On the northern tip of Keweenaw Peninsula, West Bluff gives a sweeping view of Lake Superior and Copper Harbor, Michigan – an awesome spot to cease alongside this Michigan Higher Peninsula bike trip. Photographs by the writer and Craig Moll.

As a resident of Minnesota with incurable wanderlust, I’ve visited Michigan’s Higher Peninsula just a few occasions, together with doing the 1,300‑mile Lake Superior Circle Tour twice. However one space of the Higher Peninsula – identified regionally because the “U.P.” – I had but to discover is the Keweenaw Peninsula, a 150‑mile‑lengthy wedge of land that appears like a protracted dorsal fin jutting into Lake Superior. Earlier than Previous Man Winter introduced an finish to the using season, my buddy Craig and I squeezed in a mid‑October trip, making a giant loop across the U.P. the place we loved the realm’s wealthy historical past, unparalleled surroundings, and glorious motorcycling roads.

Michigan Upper Peninsula Motorcycle Ride Cochran REVER map

Scan QR code above or click here to view the route on REVER

We met up simply east of Minneapolis in Hudson, Wisconsin, on a cool, clear autumn day. Craig was on his KTM 890 Journey, and I used to be on my Harley‑Davidson Pan American, which I name “Filth Glide.” With no rain within the forecast, we have been excited to hit the street.


Michigan Upper Peninsula Motorcycle Ride Cochran Lake Superior
Lake Superior, which is the most important freshwater lake on the earth by floor space and the third largest by quantity, varieties the northern shoreline of Michigan’s Higher Peninsula.

We crossed into Michigan on U.S. Route 2 and continued northeast on M‑28 to Lake Gogebic, the state’s largest inland lake. The lengthy, finger‑formed lake is a well-liked spot for out of doors actions yr‑spherical. It has 13,380 acres of excellent fishing water, and there are many alternatives for mountaineering, mountain biking, looking, tenting, and winter sports activities. Surrounded by huge hardwood forests, it’s an awesome place to see fall colours. It additionally will get an annual snowfall of almost 300 inches and has a superb snowmobile path system.

Michigan Upper Peninsula Motorcycle Ride Chuck Cochran and Craig Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Chuck and Craig at Sand Level on the Pictured Rocks Nationwide Lakeshore.

For motorcyclists, a loop round Lake Gogebic is an gratifying scenic trip. M‑64 hugs the western shore, and East Shore Highway hugs the opposite facet, and there are parks, lodges, and eating choices dotted alongside the almost 40‑mile route. On the lake’s northern finish on the junction of M‑28 and M‑64 is Bergland, which has locations to eat, drink, and keep, in addition to a museum highlighting the native historical past of mining, logging, and sports activities.

Michigan Upper Peninsula Motorcycle Ride Cochran U.S. Route 41
U.S. Route 41 runs the size of the Keneewaw Peninsula, from Baraga to Copper Harbor. Within the fall, the altering leaves create a tunnel of colour. Picture credit score Danita Delimont / Adobe Inventory.

After having fun with the surroundings of the lake, we continued up M‑64 to the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, Michigan’s largest state park and residential of the Lake of the Clouds. Masking 60,000 acres with 35,000 acres of previous‑development forest, the park has waterfalls, rivers and streams, mountaineering trails, a campground, and miles of scenic Lake Superior shoreline.

Our trip as much as the Lake of the Clouds scenic overlook was rewarded with a kaleidoscope of fall colours and surroundings that lives as much as the lake’s identify. After just a few images, we have been again on the bikes and adopted M‑64 alongside the southern shore of Lake Superior to Ontonagon, the place we turned inland on M‑38 to M‑26, which runs up the middle of the Keweenaw Peninsula, also referred to as the Copper Nation area.

Michigan Upper Peninsula Motorcycle Ride Cochran Lake of the Clouds
Positioned in Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park alongside the shore of Lake Superior, Lake of the Clouds is idyllic.

At Houghton, we crossed the Portage Lake Elevate Bridge and continued north on U.S. Route 41. With the solar fading, we rode to our in a single day vacation spot on the AmericInn in Calumet. The lodge is inside strolling distance of eating places, shops, and the Keweenaw Nationwide Historic Park, which showcases the realm’s 7,000‑yr historical past of copper mining.

See all of Rider‘s Midwest U.S. motorcycle rides here.

We wandered via Calumet, a small city that was within the coronary heart of Michigan’s copper mining business. Its historic downtown has reward outlets, galleries, espresso homes, saloons, and eating places. We made our approach to the Michigan Home Cafe & Crimson Jacket Brewing Co., which is within the former Lodge Michigan that was opened by Bosch Brewing in 1905. As we speak, it’s a restaurant and brewpub, and the Oatmeal Specific stout was the right alternative for a fall night.

Michigan Upper Peninsula Motorcycle Ride Cochran Eagle River
Within the mid-1800s, Eagle River was a thriving mining city on the north shore of the Keneewaw Peninsula. We loved a scenic shoreline trip on M-26 from there to Copper Harbor.

The subsequent morning, we availed ourselves of the AmericInn’s complimentary breakfast and trudged out to our frost‑lined bikes. We continued using on U.S. 41 in a northeasterly course to Phoenix, the place we turned due north on M‑26, which curves its means alongside the Lake Superior shore, providing superb views and passing via nature and wildlife sanctuaries.

Earlier than the city of Copper Harbor, we turned on to Brockway Mountain Drive, which steadily climbs up and over an eroded volcanic prominence that rises 720 toes above Lake Superior’s waterline. At West Bluff, we stopped to admire an unbelievable vista of the massive lake to the north and the autumn‑coloured forest to the south. 

Michigan Upper Peninsula Motorcycle Ride Cochran Cinder Pond Marina
Cinder Pond Marina is a part of the charming waterfront in Marquette.

We cruised again downhill to Copper Harbor, Michigan’s northernmost city, which overlooks its namesake port close to the outer tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula. Surrounded by Lake Superior, its microclimate is cool in the summertime and comparatively delicate within the winter. Copper Harbor has an enchanting historical past, and the city is a good base camp for exploring the peninsula or a launching level for journeys to Grand Isle Nationwide Park.

After gassing up, we headed south on U.S. 41 after which Homosexual Lac La Belle Highway to the Bete Grise Wetlands Protect and the southern shore of the Keweenaw Peninsula. We stopped for lunch in Houghton, which is positioned on the Keweenaw Waterway that cuts throughout the peninsula and was as soon as on the epicenter of the area’s copper business.

Michigan Upper Peninsula Motorcycle Ride Cochran Lower Harbor Ore Dock
The huge concrete-and-steel Decrease Harbor Ore Dock is likely one of the most iconic landmarks in Marquette. Picture credit score ehrlif / Adobe Inventory.

We rode south on U.S. 41, which runs alongside the western shore of Portage Lake after which Keweenaw Bay to L’Anse, the place we returned to the mainland of the U.P. We adopted U.S. 41 east to Marquette, a Lake Superior port metropolis identified for delivery iron ore from the Marquette Iron Vary. With a inhabitants of 20,000 and residential to Northern Michigan College, Marquette is the most important metropolis on the U.P. We pulled into the Hampton Inn Marquette/Waterfront, which lives as much as its identify with an incredible view of sailboats and different vessels carving up the bay. Being a energetic faculty city, Marquette has quite a few bars and eating places to select from. We had dinner on the historic Vierling Restaurant & Marquette Harbor Brewery, named after Martin Vierling, who constructed the constructing in 1883 and ran a “gents’s saloon” on the location till Prohibition. Renovated and reopened within the Nineteen Eighties, the institution has a historic wood bar with giant home windows overlooking the harbor. 

Firing up the bikes the subsequent morning, we rode east on M‑28 to Munising after which on H‑58 for just a few miles to Pictured Rocks Nationwide Lakeshore. We rode as much as Sand Level, which has good views throughout the water to Grand Island, a nationwide recreation space.

Michigan Upper Peninsula Motorcycle Ride Cochran Whitefish Point
Extra ships have been misplaced within the neighborhood of Whitefish Level, also referred to as the “Graveyard of the Nice Lakes,” than anyplace else on Lake Superior.

The street to Munising and Sand Level was good, however the winding curves of H‑58 rivaled a few of the greatest roads we’ve ever ridden, with intensive twists and turns carved via the forest and alongside the Lake Superior shore. We continued east to M‑123 to go to Tahquamenon Falls State Park, which covers 50,000 acres. The Higher Falls is likely one of the largest waterfalls east of the Mississippi River and is about 200 toes throughout and drops 50 toes. The Decrease Falls are a collection of smaller falls cascading in lots of instructions.

East of the park, we made our means as much as Whitefish Level, which is called the “Graveyard of the Nice Lakes” and residential of the Nice Lakes Shipwreck Museum. There have been 550 identified shipwrecks within the space, and no less than 200 of them are off Whitefish Level, together with the well-known SS Edmund Fitzgerald, which sank in 1975 and was memorialized in a well-liked track by Gordon Lightfoot.

Michigan Upper Peninsula Motorcycle Ride Cochran Fayette State Park
On the southern, Lake Michigan facet of the Higher Peninsula, Fayette State Park is a restored nineteenth century iron-smelting village with 22 historic buildings, a museum, and a customer heart.

We made our approach to the southern facet of the U.P. on the northern shore of Lake Michigan, the place we spent the night time in Manistique, a leisure mecca for boating, fishing, tenting, and snowmobiling. Within the morning, we rode south on the Backyard Peninsula to Fayette State Park, which overlooks Huge Bay De Noc and was residence to one of many U.P.’s best iron‑smelting operations throughout the nineteenth century. When the iron market declined, the Jackson Iron Firm shuttered its operation in 1891.

Our return route west on U.S. 2 took us to Iron Mountain, residence of the Pine Mountain Ski Leap and the annual Continental Cup, one of many world’s greatest ski leaping occasions.

Michigan Upper Peninsula Motorcycle Ride Cochran Tahquamenon Falls State Park
Tahquamenon Falls State Park has 35-plus miles of trails and a number of viewpoints for the Higher and Decrease falls.

Subsequent we wished to take a look at an attention-grabbing phenomenon known as the Paulding Mild, a mysterious mild that seems on the finish of a deadend street in a valley positioned between the cities of Pauling and Watersmeet off U.S. Route 45. The sunshine has been reported because the Nineteen Sixties, and varied legends declare the sunshine is the results of paranormal exercise, the ghost of both a railroad brakeman who died in a prepare collision, a murdered mail courier, or a Native American dancing on powerlines.

Craig and I arrived on the location at nightfall and waited for the sunshine. At first we noticed nothing, after which…wait…what’s that? Certain sufficient, a faint mild appeared off within the distance above the tree line. On and off it went, so we determined to pursue this thriller for ourselves. We rode down a steep, sandy, rock‑strewn powerline street to a slim, rickety bridge that crossed a creek. As I hit the partially rotted bridge, I believed, Pan Am, don’t fail me now! Charging up the hill on the opposite facet, we tried to seek out the supply of the sunshine however to no avail. In 2010, college students at Michigan Tech mentioned they solved the thriller, claiming the Paulding Mild is attributable to headlights on a faraway freeway. I just like the ghost tales higher.

Michigan Upper Peninsula Motorcycle Ride Cochran
Considered one of our favourite components of touring round Michigan’s Higher Peninsula was the numerous roadside waterfalls, creeks, and overlooks the place we might cease and take just a few quiet moments to understand nature’s magnificence.

The subsequent day, we returned residence. It’s all the time bittersweet when a enjoyable bike journey involves an finish, however the beauty of exploring a brand new space is figuring out we will all the time come again for extra. Michigan’s Higher Peninsula presents seemingly countless alternatives for using and recreation, with a wealthy vein of historical past that runs via the realm like its deep deposits of copper and iron.

See all of Rider‘s motorcycle rides here.

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