Adventure Driving Michigan's Upper Peninsula

On the trails

“Let’s camp in the U.P.” That’s what we said one night over beers at Soo Brewing. The owner, standing across the bar from us, said we would not be disappointed and that we must enjoy some microbrews on our trip. Soon I was hooked up with a forum called UP Overland and my desire to overland was rekindled. Actually, it wasn’t just rekindled, it was a full out burn. My 2001 Jeep Cherokee was not going to be a mall crawler. I wanted her to see mud and trails.

Since this was my first time hitting two tracks, and with limited time available, we decided on a more “adventure drive” format rather than a full out overlanding adventure. What’s the difference? An adventure drive is a short (usually one day) drive on back roads and trails. Overlanding proper is a longer (a few days to years) vehicle-dependent adventure on back roads and trails. Either way, you see some amazing things.

For our adventure drive, we started out from our campground just outside Munising, MI at Bay Furnace. After a hearty breakfast, we headed to Munising Falls and Sand Point. After a stop at Miner’s Falls in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore we kissed the pavement goodbye. It was all forestry roads and two-tracks from there to Grand Marais where we sampled the fare and drink at the Lake Superior Brewing Company. Heading out of Grand Marais the road quickly turns to a horribly washboarded dirt road with some absolutely incredible views of Lake Superior.

More trails and forestry roads and we found our way to Crisp Point right around sunset. This would be the end of the road for us. We hit the main roads (still dirt for the most part in this part of Michigan) and found our way back to the highway then to camp. We were exhausted, but ready for more. It turns out, the journey is the best part. The destination is just icing on the cake.

What’s the point of this? I want you to get out there and drive. You don’t have to leave the pavement to have fun. Pick a road and see where it goes. Put the GPS coordinates for some landmark in your phone and ditch Google Maps…find your own way. Cars are ours to enjoy, and vehicle-based adventuring can be anyone’s.

[Image Credits: ©2013 Hooniverse/Dustin May, All Rights Reserved.]

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24 responses to “Adventure Driving Michigan's Upper Peninsula”

  1. SSurfer321 Avatar

    Man I miss upper Michigan. So beautiful.
    All I did last weekend was park in some grass.
    <img src=";, width=500>
    We were exploring a new KY park that turned out to be nothing more than an open field. But the In-Laws riding along thought it was great fun "off-roading".

  2. dwbf11 Avatar

    Cool story. I ran one of those two-tracks (that might be generous, it was more like a hunting trail) outside of the Soo in a rental Ford Taurus Limited last October (thanks Garmin). We were in the woods for about 5 miles. Breathtaking scenery for sure, just got a little dicey with some of the puddles (it had rained the previous evening) and uphill muddy grades.
    If you haven't done so, take a ride along Lakeshore Drive along Whitefish Bay. Great beach access and awesome views.

  3. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar
    Peter Tanshanomi

    <img src=""&gt;
    This explains why I felt compelled to wear my Finlandia U. hat to work this morning.
    It must have been in your honor: Finlandia (in Hancock, on the Keweenaw P.) is the UP's only private college.

    1. engineerd Avatar

      That may be the only university I've seen to offer a "Finnish Studies" major. I wonder if rally racing is part of that?
      Speaking of rally racing, the road to/from Crisp Point Lighthouse was seriously fun. It would easily be traversed by a small car, so in the Jeep I found myself flying through it on the way out. I would have gone faster, but I was worried about someone coming the other way.

      1. Van_Sarockin Avatar

        I'm sure that's all some folks can finnish. I'm getting my degree, 1.5L credit at a time. Why is it that no limes grow where vodka is made?

  4. Neen85 Avatar

    Icon rims… jealous.

    1. engineerd Avatar

      They'll be getting 245/75R16 tires sometime in the next year. Most likely Duratracs.

      1. Neen85 Avatar

        Is that going to fit under your suspension or is it lift time 😉

        1. engineerd Avatar

          I've already got a 2.5" lift, so 31" tires will fit no problem!

  5. Hatchtopia Avatar

    Took my FWD Ford Escape partway up Hurrah Pass near Moab this spring. Only turned around because the wife wasn't enjoying the bumps. Next time, I'll go as far as two-wheel-drive will take me.

  6. VolvoNut Avatar

    I spent some time bombing around the forestry roads in Mt. Ida, Arkansas. I second the vote for getting off the beaten track!

  7. BobWellington Avatar

    I get excited just taking my Explorer on a dirt road. It's sad. There's really no off roading around here.

    1. engineerd Avatar

      You don't have to offroad. Pick a 2-lane highway and take it as far as it goes. See what's on the other end. That's my point. Even in a Yugo the drive can be the event.

      1. BobWellington Avatar

        Oh, no, I know, there's just no off roading here, and it's what I like to do most. But I do enjoy a scenic road trip even on pavement.

  8. longrooffan Avatar

    Excellent adventure and fantastic images.
    This post makes me miss my Cherokees, both of them, as well as my Commanches, both of them as well.
    Maybe there will be another in my future.
    Beautiful country.

  9. JayP2112 Avatar

    How'd the bumper get wanked?

    1. dr zero Avatar
      dr zero

      Usually that infers that the bumper did it itself.

    2. engineerd Avatar

      Long story short…guy was driving like an ass cutting in and out of traffic on the freeway. He cut me off twice. The second time I might have not backed off to give proper following distance and he brake-checked me. Pro tip: A 2013 Focus ST brakes way faster at 70 mph than a 2001 Jeep Cherokee. I flipped him off and kept going. He stopped driving like an ass.
      The good news is, this moved a new bumper with recovery points from the "want" to "need" column!

      1. Xedicon Avatar

        I have to know where that bridge in front of the waterfall is! Serious please let me know if at all possible, I'd really appreciate it! 🙂

        1. engineerd Avatar

          This one?
          <img src="; width="333" height="500" alt="Geoff and Dan being all photographer-like">
          That's at Munising Falls, on the western edge of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. It's gorgeous. Tons of waterfalls and some incredible beaches and views up there.

  10. Van_Sarockin Avatar

    Glad to see you finally made it around to the back side of the garden center! Lovely truck. Lovely trip. Lucky dog.

  11. Rattler Avatar

    Great write up on my favorite travelling/adventure area!

  12. robbydegraff Avatar

    Great story- my girlfriend lives and goes to school up there, so during the fall-spring I'm up there like every other weekend. Truly beautiful

  13. Xedicon Avatar

    "My 2001 Jeep Cherokee was not going to be a mall crawler. I wanted her to see mud and trails." – YEAH BABY!

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