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  • Writer's pictureSam Hageman

Exploring Michigan: 2021 Winter Trip to the U.P.

Updated: Apr 4, 2021

The Upper Peninsula is our favorite place in the entire U.S. It is the best kept secret in the U.S. Winter in the U.P. is even more spectacular. We had only been able to go to the U.P. once in the winter, so this year we decided to take a Winter Trip to our favorite city, Marquette.

We left for Marquette driving up I-75 to the Mackinac Bridge in a winter blizzard. We took a quick pit stop at a rest stop along I-75 where the dogs bounced through the fresh foot of snow. We then stopped at our favorite pasty shop, Hunt's Mackinaw Cookie & Pastie Company, then took it to eat in the car at Fort Michilimackinac State Park. We walked around for a little while to see the blue ice, but the blizzard was strong & we were only able to see a little bit.

We drove the rest of the way to Marquette & got to our hotel, My Place Hotel in Marquette. It was an easy check-in process & they easily accommodated the dogs for only $10 a night. The room was great with a Queen bed, full kitchen, & very clean room. This made for an easy night in after a long day of driving. We ordered some pizza & hit the hay.

On Valentine's Day we celebrated by sleeping in with the dogs. We headed out for our first hike to Dead River Falls in the -10 degree Fahrenheit weather. When we got there we hiked the first massive hill & slid down the next onto the trail to the falls. We walked about 1/4 of a mile until we hit a dead end for the dogs & dangerous path for us. Due to the winter conditions, the hills were too steep & icy to try to have the dogs go up & the ice on the river was not frozen over to be safe. We watched some snowshoers take 15 minutes to climb up a different part of the trail & saw a few others turn around at the first falls we made it to. It definitely turns into a very difficult trail in icy/snowy conditions & unsafe for dogs. Highly recommend making sure you have Microspikes or some other form of ice spikes for hiking boots if you want to attempt this trail in the winter. Even though we could not go far, we were able to enjoy some of the beautiful sights in the wintery pines & the frozen river.

After our bust at Dead River Falls, we headed to Sugar Loaf Mountain. We hiked the Sugar Loaf hiking trail & avoided the stairs until we had to towards the very top of the Mountain. The trail was beautiful in the winter & the top of the Mountain gave a spectacular view of Marquette. Although it was windy at the top we all enjoyed looking over the edge of the Mountain & were happy to have our Microspikes to help with the icy portions. On our way down we slid down part of the trail, although I do not recommend this. You can go way too fast & end up injuring yourself, like myself. Although I made the mistake to slide down, it still was a great shorter hike up a Mountain in the winter.

We headed back to the hotel for some leftover pizza & rest with the dogs. We gave the dogs dinner & then headed out to Lake Superior to ice skate & walk by the Ore Dock in downtown Marquette. Although we missed the beautiful clear ice by a few days, we were able to skate on the ice as some amazing locals shoveled paths on the ice for everyone to enjoy. Garrett had a blast ice skating on Lake Superior & I enjoyed walking on the ice in my Microspikes taking photos. We concluded our adventure with a trip to Ore Dock Brewing Company for some beer flights & a late night run to Meijer for some snacks & dessert.

The next morning we took a trip out to Laughing Whitefish Falls Scenic Site. It was a beautiful sunny day, making all of the fresh snow glisten in the trees. The dogs had fun prancing in the snow on the lightly used trail, while we snowshoed our way to the falls. We were able to get a cool view of the falls from the top, but were only able to go down the first few sets of stairs to the first platform due to the icy/snowy conditions that made the stairs quite dangerous. You can generally walk all the way down, but it was more like a slide down which made it a little difficult to get back up. It was still cool to see the falls completely frozen over. We did unfortunately get our truck stuck in the snow because the road to the falls is not plowed for the last 1/2-1 mile. However a kind Jeep owner pulled us back out of the snow pile & we were able to head out without a problem after. I would definitely recommend unless you have a truck built for high snow levels (even if you have good clearance like us), just park at the start of the unplowed section & hike in.

After our trip to the falls we headed to the Eben Ice Caves in the Hiawatha National Forests. The start of the trail is on private property. The owners are kind enough to plow the roads up to the trail, provide porta-potties, & even have a stand for some treats. You can leave a tip for the owners as well to help maintain their contributions. After you park at the beginning of the trail you walk through some forests until you hit a a hill, then you go down the hill to the river. You can then follow the river until you hit a gap in the hills where you will see the ice caves. We walked up the hill to find a lot of people. Everyone was backed up to allow everyone space to explore the caves & being very considerate of others. There were also a bunch of ice climbers who were preparing to climb the ice caves. We were able to explore within the ice cave & take some fun photos before hitting the trail back out. We headed back to the hotel, dropped off the dogs, & went out to eat at The Vierling Restaurant & Marquette Harbor Brewery for a good dinner & beer.

The next morning we packed up, sad to leave Marquette. We hit the Huron Mountain Bakery in Marquette for some amazing paczkis & headed back. We made a stop at Palms Book State Park, best known for the Big Spring in Michigan's U.P. Kitch-iti-kipi. Many snowmobilers come to the sight in the winter, but compared to the summer the place was deserted. We hit the spot at the perfect time, there were only two other groups ahead of us who used the platform to go over the beautiful mirror water & a snow storm came in. We were able to walk around a bit to take some photos & see the beauty, then use the platform all ourselves. It was absolutely stunning in a blanket of snow. Although we enjoyed the beauty, sadly Garrett got a bloody nose making us stay a lot longer than we planned.

We made one more pitstop to see the blue ice at Fort Michilimackinac State Park. Thankfully it was a sunny day at the Mighty Mac. We hiked under the bridge to the Lake Michigan side away from the crowds on the Huron side & found some pleasant blue ice with barely anyone around. We took some pictures & hung out for a little bit until we were ready to head home. After that we headed back down I-75 back home.

Although we love the U.P. & Marquette all year round, nothing beats them in the winter. We definitely will be taking more winter trips to the U.P.


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