Hiking Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

It’s hard to believe today is Wednesday already, this month is flying by! Ever since summer vacation started the days have been blending together and it takes me a minute to figure out what day it is, and that we only have a few left in June! It really is true what they say – time flies when you’re having fun.

We returned yesterday from our long weekend vacation to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula! Our trip was amazing, and we were able to see some truly incredible things in such a short time.

Each year we typically take a week and travel around Northern Michigan with our tent, jumping from campground to campground in order to explore as many places as possible. This year we shortened our trip due to limited time this summer because of our wedding, but I am so glad that we were still able to get some time up north!

We started our trip on Friday by driving up to Mackinaw City and camping at Mackinaw Mill Creek Campground. We stayed at this campground last year for a few days and were really impressed! It’s not a state park, but sure looks like one. You can see Mackinaw Island and the Mackinaw Bridge right from the campground, plus it has the added bonus of a camp store, a pool, and mini golf! We stayed here just the first night in order to split the drive up.

While we were in Mackinaw, we visited the Headlands International Dark Sky Park, just 10 minutes away. We had great weather with very few clouds in the sky! We headed over around 11 pm, and it turns out this was still a little too early. We could see light off in the distance and the people there told us that because of the summer solstice it took much longer to get truly dark. The park was so neat! There were large steps like an outdoor arena where everyone could sit and had enough space to lay down.

On Saturday, we packed up camp and crossed the bridge into the Upper Peninsula.

We were headed up to Marquette, but stopped a few hours into our drive at Palms Book State Park to explore the spring – Kitchitikipi. I had seen pictures of this spring online and definitely wanted to check it out and see if the water was really that blue. It sure was! The spring is over 40 feet deep in the middle and you can see right to the bottom. It was cloudy when we visited, so I’d imagine the colors are even more vibrant on a sunny day. There is a raft that we took across the spring to get a full glimpse of it.

After visiting the spring, we traveled a few miles down the road to do a short hike at Indian Lake State Park. We struggled to find the trails that I had read about, but finally stumbled upon a short 2 mile loop near the entrance to the park. The loop was nice, but it was super muddy since it had rained the few days before we got there. The loop took us through the woods and out by the lake. It was a nice short hike, and would definitely be better without the mud!

When we finished our hike, we got back in the van and headed for our final destination – Van Riper State Park, in Michigamme, MI. About 5 minutes into our drive it started to rain, and the sky sure did not look promising. The radar showed us that it was supposed to be raining where we were camping for the rest of the night, so we knew we were going to have to battle some water when we got there. We arrived in the rain and set up our canopy right over the fire pit, so we could start a fire. We decided to cook dinner and wait to see if the rain would let up for a little bit so we could set our tent up.

Van Riper State Park

Sure enough, it did! We put our tent up in the evening without rain. Once it was set up we had a few hours of dry air before the rain started again. We managed to sleep through the night without getting wet though!

Sunday morning, we woke up and got ready to head out for our hike. The radar showed that we had a morning with no rain, but that it was going to return with full force in the evening, so we wanted to make sure we allowed plenty of time to hike. We headed to the North Country Trail, just a few miles up the road. We started hiking at Canyon Falls and it sure was beautiful! We parked at the trail head and it was less than a mile before we hit the falls.

After we saw the waterfall, the trail continued along the river for about a mile before splitting off and heading north. We hiked through the woods for the most part, but there were a few sections of really tall grass. It had rained so much that these areas were filled with a few inches of water! It was like hiking through a swamp here. We powered through and had to go a few feet off the trail to avoid complete mud, but managed to stay dry for the most part.

We hiked about 3.5 miles out before we decided to stop for lunch and then turn around. In total we hiked 7 miles. We got back to the car and found the best ice cream on our way back! They had dark chocolate flavor and it was amazing. The ice cream tasted so pure and fresh. We had a few dry hours at the campground to enjoy before the rain started again. We were under a severe thunderstorm warning that called for ‘periods of hail and torrential downpours’. We made sure our tent was secure and decided this was the best time to head out for dinner!

We found a local tavern down the road and ate there for a few hours. The tavern had cards at the tables which was awesome! We stayed there and played euchre for a little bit before finally braving the weather and heading back to camp.

When we returned to camp we made a fire and sat under the canopy for a little bit. I found a tick on my neck which definitely made me a little paranoid! It hadn’t attached itself yet so it was easy to get off, but I spent the rest of the night check myself and my clothes for ticks repeatedly. My friend also found a tick on his arm right before we went to bed, and it had already started to burrow it’s head. Yuck! There is nothing like finding these ticks and knowing you are going to sleep in clothes that may or may not have more on them.

I am all about powering through and toughing it out when camping, but we woke up in the morning to heavy rain that had not stopped. The top of our tent was starting to get wet now and the floor felt like a sponge, so we decided to call it quits and start heading towards home a little early. We had planned to hike Sugarloaf Mountain in Marquette but it looked like there would be no point without rain. Plus it was cold! The temperature was only 48 degrees when we woke up, and at this point most of our clothes and things were wet.

We started the drive back to the lower peninsula, where it looked dry and sunny. I swear the rain followed us along the way! We stopped in St. Ignace for brunch at the bridge and it was still raining. We decided to drive until it looked like it was clear, but that never ended up happening. We tried to plan out many different activities, but by the time we got to all those spots it had started to rain. We finally decided this was a sign and headed home a day early! We also found two ticks on the way home in our van and decided we would need an extra day to get everything washed and cleaned to ensure they had all died 😉

Despite the torrential downpours, ticks, and cold temperatures, I had a great time! I love exploring new areas of this beautiful state and am so happy for the days we had. I already can’t wait for our day trips this summer more time outdoors!

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