Backpacking, Kayaking, and Mountain Biking in the Upper Peninsula

Michigan's Upper Peninsula has way more than big lakes. Explore it all by foot, paddle, or pedal.
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Michigan's Upper Peninsula has way more than big lakes. Explore it all by foot, paddle, or pedal.

Backpack

Trek the Superior Coast

Michigan's Porcupine Mountains are misnamed. Geologists say a summit must be 2,000 feet high to be a mountain, and though the Porkies just fall short, they do qualify as a worthy weekend stash: You'll find misty waterfalls, 23 miles of undeveloped Lake Superior coastline, and more than 30,000 acres of virgin hardwoods.

From the Highway M-107 trailhead, the 16-mile Lake Superior Trail leads through aspen stands to lake overlooks before dropping to shore. After Buckshot Cabin (3 miles), head east off-trail to camp on the cobblestone beach. Hike 5.5 more miles to the junction of Big Carp River Trail, make the 3-mile side trip to Shining Cloud Falls, and trek most of the last 7.5 miles of the main trail inland through several wild ravines. www.michigan.gov/dnr

Sea Kayak

Explore sea caves and arches

The clear water of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore evokes the remote Caribbean. Until you dip your hand in, that is, the water rarely gets above 60°F. And until you see the mineral-streaked cliffs, which look like huge red, orange, and blue finger paintings left out in the rain.

Launch from Miner's Beach and paddle to sea caves at nearby Miner's Castle, a turretlike sandstone formation. Follow the coast for 8.5 miles, along 200-foot cliffs and sandstone crannies and sea arches. Camp at Chapel Beach (permit required), then go 1.5 miles to the dramatic Spray Falls. The next 12 miles lead past the white-sand Twelvemile Beach, home to both backcountry camping and a campground that serves as a pickup point for shuttles (see www.northernwaters.com).

Mountain Bike

Pedal a Midwestern Moab

Copper Harbor, on Keweenaw Peninsula, was named for its rare mother lode of pure copper. Now cyclists mine the area for the stellar singletrack on the 20-mile (and growing) trail system, plus a maze of remote logging roads and spurs. The unique exposed bedrock is the Midwest's best stab at evoking Moab.

The 9-mile Red Trail loop starts at the trailhead near Lake Fanny Hooe. The deep-woods singletrack leads around Lake Manganese and toils up a 550-foot climb. The reward: 3 miles of lightning-fast descent culminating in the hairball Paul's Plunge. Then take US 41 two miles east to Mandan Road; after 4.5 miles, the left fork is a 2.5-mile trail to High Rock Bay. Camp there on a cliff near Manitou Island. www.keweenawadventure.com