The Great Northern Route

Hwy-28: Marquette

Midway across the Upper Peninsula along Hwy-28, the UP’s biggest and, in many ways, most attractive city is Marquette (pop. 20,680), a Lake Superior ore port with a lovely lakeside setting. Blocks of 100-year-old beaux arts buildings fill the business district above the heavy industrial harbor, and the presence of government offices and the region’s main college (Northern Michigan University) have given it a lively, prosperous feel. From downtown, you can follow the lakeshore drive 3 mi (4.8 km) north to Presque Isle Park, 323 ac (130 ha) of pristine wilderness.

Other aspects of UP life are documented down the road in neighboring Negaunee, 11 mi (17.7 km) west along Hwy-28/US-41, where the excellent Michigan Iron Industry Museum (906/475-7857, daily May-Oct., Mon.-Fri. and first Sat. Nov.-Apr., free) tells the full story of the $48 billion Michigan iron mining industry. Farther west, the lighter side of UP life is the theme of Yooperland (906/485-5595, daily, free), a.k.a. “Da Yoopers Tourist Trap,” a gigantic gift shop-cum-cultural museum along Hwy-28/US-41 in Ishpeming that features the “Largest Working Chainsaw in the World” and “The World’s Largest Working Rifle.” If you’re looking for comic postcards of giant pasties and similar oddities, this is the place to come.

Huron Mountains

Stretching north and west from the Marquette region, the Huron Mountains hold the highest point in Michigan (1,979-ft/603 m Mt. Arvon), but almost all of this rugged 50 by 25-mi (81- by 40-m) area is privately owned and pretty much off-limits. It’s also one of the wildest corners of a wild part of the country. The private owners (with last names like McCormick, founders of International Harvester, and Miller, of Miller Beer infamy) keep it pretty much as it has always been—before the miners and loggers had their way with the rest of the Upper Peninsula. The best place to get a feel for the Huron Mountains region is the hamlet of Big Bay on Lake Superior, 28 mi (45 km) northwest of Marquette.

Map of the Great Northern through Michigan.
Map of the Great Northern through Michigan.

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