The Upper Peninsula is a treasure trove of natural beauty. Surrounded by three of the Great Lakes, mostly undeveloped and featuring a fascinating array of waterfalls, scenic overlooks and unique geologic features, many snowmobilers call it Michigan’s better half for a darn good reason. The U.P. is home to literally thousands of miles of snowmobile trails, and some rather spectacular off-trail riding as well.
In this story that first appeared in Snow Goer and then was utilized in the Michigan special of Great Escapes, we split the 320-mile-wide land mass that is the U.P. into six regions, based on the notable north-south highways that chunk it up. Within each region, one specific ride is suggested, and there also is a sidebar on another attraction you may want to visit while in that region during the winter. Part 1 on the Lake Gogebic area can be found here. Below, we focus on the west central region of the peninsula. Look for the other sections to be posted to this website soon.
Experience The Keweenaw
No snowmobile trip to the western half of the U.P. is complete without a trip up to Copper Harbor in the Keweenaw Peninsula. If you truly want to make a day of it, however, start south of what locals call “the bridge” – though it should never be confused with Mackinac.
Start the day near Twin Lakes and head north on Trail 3 toward the Houghton-Hancock area. Tall trestle crossings take riders over sunken ravines that decorate the area, and a quick twist on the south and north Freda trails (120 and 121) can add to the interest level.
Crossing the two-level Portage Lake Lift Bridge that separates Houghton on the south from Hancock on the north is worth the trip all on its own – sleds travel on the snow-covered and packed lower level while cars and trucks make the crossing directly overhead. Once north, the trail quickly leads riders out of the city of Hancock and back into rural areas.
A trip up the west side of the long peninsula on Trail 3 will get you to the tip of the Keweenaw fast – it’s a rail trail that turns into the super-scenic Brockway Mountain Trail up at the top and leads into Copper Harbor. It offers breathtaking Superior views and a really neat overlook of the city of Copper Harbor once you get close.
Grab a meal in Copper Harbor, then consider a quick but worthwhile side venture up Trail 136 which dead ends at High Rock Bay, where the ice often freezes crystal clear. The return trip back toward the bridge is even more interesting if you go down the east side of the peninsula – expect travel time to more than double, but the adventure is worth it.
ANOTHER MUST SEE: Bond Falls
For those who are going to stay south in this region, the famous Bond Falls is another destination that’s worth checking out. Located between Watersmeet and Bruce Crossing off of Trail 3, follow the signs to the amazing falls for the view of a lifetime. As you walk up, the falls appear to be laid out like a theater – super wide, with water rushing over rocky formations and landing in the calm pool below.
Soaking it all in from below is spectacular, but the adventurous members of your group may want to carefully walk up the boardwalk on the right side – it’s almost always covered in snow and ice during the winter, so trek carefully. The path takes walkers incredibly close to the rushing water and leads them to the higher end of the falls, which is more gentle but still fast moving.
There are six viewing locations along the 600 feet of boardwalk, and each is worth the time spent away from your sled.