Looking for an Upper Peninsula road trip option to get away from it all? The Tahquamenon Scenic Byway, M-123 in northern Michigan, offers that– natural beauty, scenic views, history- and a lot more.
Beginning in Eckerman and ending in Newberry, both at M-28, unusually u-shaped, 63-mile highway will start in the eastern portions of the Hiawatha National Forest, take you into Tahquamenon Falls State Park at the top of the U and end in the Newberry State Forest Area on the backside. You will drive through thick green forest and small towns and alongside the Tahquamenon River and Whitefish Bay with Lake Superior right there for the taking.
A Pond and Paradise
Upon turning onto the eastern end of M-123 watch for the very small brown sign pointing you towards Eckerman Pond. Turning off the road will present a narrow dirt path for a couple thousand feet, at which time the pond and true Upper Peninsula nature will present itself.
As you walk onto the bridge you will hear the rushing East Branch of the Tahquamenon River beneath you. Grab the canoe off the top of your car and circle the pond. Set up a picnic and/or fish for a trout or two. The old-school water faucet on site also catches the eye.
Continue road tripping northward, now in Tahquamenon Falls State Park. In Paradise, stop at the Whitefish Bay Picnic Area. You will get that first taste of Whitefish Bay and the biggest Great Lake, Lake Superior. Stare at the vast, blue bay in front of you, let your dogs run through the water, or get your own feet wet. You will find picnic opportunities aplenty here as well.
Not all of the fun that this part of the Upper Peninsula has to offer is right off the byway. As you pass through Paradise, follow the signage off M-123 up to Whitefish Point. In eleven miles, the oldest continuous running lighthouse on Lake Superior will be front-and-center.
For a nominal fee, climb up-top the Whitefish Point Light Station then go on a historical Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum tour. Many ships have met their match on this stretch of the lake, including the Edmund Fitzgerald, which lies on the lake floor. Tip: No flip flops or sandals are allowed in either, wear close toed shoes.
Walk out onto the rocky beach from the sandy trail. Look straight out and you might catch a freighter or two off in the distance. Look up because this is a popular spot for birds to be on the move. Look down and you’ll be amongst colorful driftwood scattered across the shoreline. Be advised that this is a popular spot, so you might have to park a ways away during peak times.
Once you have doubled back to Paradise, turn right to continue on M-123 now heading west. Back in the state park, the Lower Falls will be up first, then the more popular Upper Tahquamenon Falls. Capture the second largest falls east of the Mississippi River from various vantage points on the parks walking trails. Head down the 94-step staircase to watch up close the copper-colored water fall fifty feet into the Tahquamenon River up close before it continues on its path through the unadulterated natural landscape.
For a longer adventure, take the four-mile hike to the Lower Falls alongside the river from here. Grab a brew and some eats at the Tahquamenon Falls Brewery afterwards and then some souvenirs from the expansive gift shop in Camp 33.
Down The Back Stretch
Exiting the Tahquamenon Falls State Park area, you will enter the back stretch of your journey now heading south where you will enter the Newberry State Forest Area. This is a favorite stretch of road to get out alongside and capture the woods, nature and remoteness on either side.
View more of what to expect when on and around the Tahquamenon Scenic Byway and M-123 in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula: