Take an epic, Autumn road trip through one of the greatest getaways in Michigan
Words by: Erica Zazo
In the fall, right around early October, the Keweenaw Peninsula lights up with hues of burnt orange, fiery red, and every shade of gold.
It’s one of the most beautiful times to see the Upper Peninsula. And on the Keweenaw, a 125-mile sliver of paradise that juts out into the icy cold Lake Superior, road trippers will swoon over the views, solitude, and authentic “Up North” vibes.
A road trip through the Keweenaw is the ultimate way to peep at Michigan’s fall color before the leaves fall off in the winter chill. The peninsula’s main road, M-26, strings together tiny up-north towns, forests full of endless trails, and roads that splinter off to take you to the shoreline.
Here are some of the Keweenaw Peninsula’s greatest road trip pit-stops you can’t miss.
The Lake of the Clouds [Carp Lake, MI]
Even though the Porcupine Mountains aren't technically in the Keweenaw, they're a convenient neighbor and a great jumping-off point for your road trip. When you go, take in a sea of autumn color while standing on an outcropping over The Lake of the Clouds in the Porcupine Mountains. The glassy, oval-shaped lake, surrounded by miles and miles of dense forest and rolling hills on all sides, is one of the most popular places to visit in the Upper Peninsula. But in the fall, the view is even more epic. Hike the longer Escarpment Trail or the shorter Lake of the Clouds Trail hikes. Both routes take you through thick stretches of hardwoods and over small streams trickling down the mountain-side.
When you’re done, check out the Porcupine Mountain Ski Area to ride the ski lift to the top. The view up as your boots dangle over the changing trees is magical. The view down is even better: panorama views of Lake Superior as you float over the forest.
Konteka Black Bear Lodge [Ontonagon, MI]
The Konteka Lodge is an 80s time capsule. It has a vintage bowling alley with a coin-fed jukebox, a no-frill bar serving cold Budwiser and PBR, and a dinner buffet your grandparents would go crazy for. It’s the epitome of “Up North” and a must-stop if you’re looking for an affordable place to sleep indoors for a night, or just want to bowl with your buds over a pitcher of beer and pizza.
Keweenaw Brewing Company [Houghton, MI]
Drinking beer in Michigan is a way of life. The Keweenaw Brewing Company is a local-owned pub run by partners with a tie to the college on the same street. Wooden walls, a wood-burning stove in the center of the main bar area, and a back porch overlooking downtown Houghton are all reasons to swing in for a pint. You can’t go wrong with the Widow Maker Black Ale, a light bodied ale that’s deceiving for a dark beer, or the Red Jack Amber Ale, a classic Oktoberfest-style brew. Psst...did we mention their pints are $3?!
Fitzgerald’s BBQ [Eagle River, MI]
After a day of hiking or biking in Copper Harbor, you’re going to want to slam some fall-off-the-bone tender ribs and brisket that melts in your mouth. Fitzgerald’s is your place. It’s right on the shoreline of Lake Superior and its interior is themed after the Edmund Fitzgerald, a famous Great Lakes freighter that sank to the bottom of the lake back in 1975. They have local beers, a huge spread of whiskey, and a menu that really makes it hard to pick what you want to eat because it is all that good. You’re not going to regret stopping here.
The Jampot Bakery [Eagle Harbor, MI]
Buy some baked goods from a Monk at The Jampot, a bakery tucked away on the side of the road in Eagle Harbor. Inside the quaint and small white building, you’ll find jarred jams stacked to the ceiling and pastries practically falling off the counter because it’s so full of sweets. White-bearded men smile cheerfully behind the counter, and if you peek into the kitchen, you’ll see even more mixing the dough for the next batch of almond cookies.
Brockway Mountain Drive [Copper Harbor, MI]
A fall roadtrip in the Keweenaw would not be complete without a drive up Brockway Mountain. Branches stretch over the street to create tunnels of fall foliage, and the two-laned street winds up the 9 ½-mile mountain drive. The sights you take in zig-zagging through the trees are arguably just as beautiful as the view up top. On the mountain peak, 360-degree views over Copper Harbor, the lake, and the surrounding towns across the Keweenaw is Pure Michigan at its finest.
Jamsen’s Fish Market [Copper Harbor, MI]
Right on the waterfront, bakers sling thimbleberry turnovers, cheddar, bacon, and chive scones, and blueberry muffins at Jamsen’s Fish Market. What looks like a little fish-town shack is actually one of the cutest bakeries you’ll ever step foot into. The building is so small, no more than 15 people can fit in the main bakery without feeling squeezed. But in the back, a larger room opens up into an art gallery space with local jewelry, pottery, stained glass, and paintings for sale.
Gear Before You Go
This fall, we’re dropping a brand new line of gear that’ll perfectly outfit your road trip. Check our new line of knit beanies and fleece that pays homage to the Upper Peninsula. Our new camp cups will become your new camp-bud around the fire.