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Over 300 Miles of Adventure Await on a US-2 Road Trip in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is a wonderland beloved by residents and visitors and one of the best ways to see all it can offer is a trip along US-2. Stretching over 300 miles from St. Ignace to Ironwood, US-2 is one of the most popular thoroughfares in the U.P.

The route cuts a path through more than a half dozen counties across the heart of the U.P., past waterfalls, pasty shops, and small towns.

With so much to see above the Mackinac Bridge, we’ve created a handy guide that takes travelers on an east-west journey from St. Ignace to Ironwood on the way to Wisconsin. You can also go west to east, but ultimately the route showcases many of the things that make the U.P. special.

Map Of Us-2 Road Trip Through Michigan's Upper Peninsula

Getting to Know US-2

While Yoopers and out-of-town visitors know US-2 as one of the main roads through the U.P., US-2 runs for over 2,100 miles all the way from Washington to Maine in multiple segments.

The first segment runs from Everett, Washington, through Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin on the way to the U.P. The second segment begins at Rouses Point, New York, and ends at Houlton, Maine.

Traveling on US-2 in Michigan

Traveling from St. Ignace to Ironwood (or vice versa) takes a touch over five hours — almost the same amount of time it takes to drive the entirety of I-75 in Michigan. But to make the most of your journey, stopping at restaurants and attractions along the way allows travelers to soak up the best of the U.P.

Since the U.P. is a popular tourist destination in the warmer months, traffic increases in the summer as travelers ride over the Mackinac Bridge to enjoy U.P. tranquility. Cities like St. Ignace and Escanaba can see an increase in traffic, but US-2 also has comfortable spots with less traffic.

Us-2
US-2 | photo via vertefille_

Names & Auxilluries Along US-2 in Michigan

While a map shows US-2 winding its way through the Upper Peninsula, it goes by a few other names in the U.P.

In 1949, most of US-2 was designated as the United Spanish War Veterans Memorial Highway. Between northern Escanaba and CR-426 in Delta County, the road is called Amvets Memorial Drive.

Two sections of US-2 are part of the Great Lakes Circle Tour. The segment from the Wisconsin state line to M-28 in Wakefield is part of the Lake Superior Circle Tour and the M-35 junction in Escanaba to St. Ignace is part of the Lake Michigan Circle Tour.

A small section of US-2, from Escanaba to Mather Avenue in Gladstone is part of the UP Hidden Coast Recreational Heritage Trail — which follows three different highways. Additionally, US-2 from Thompson to St. Ignace is designated as the Top of the Lake Scenic Byway.

Us-2 -Brevort
US-2 – Brevort | photo via unionpotato

Best US-2 Stops in the Eastern U.P.

Your journey along US-2 begins just over the Mackinac Bridge in St. Ignace, where travelers can enjoy incredible views of Lake Huron, and a whole lot more.

RELATED: There are multiple historic bridges along or near US-2. One is the Mackinac Trail-Carp River Bridge, which carries H-63 (a successor to US-2) over the Carp River north of St. Ignace. A steel arch bridge can be found on a former stretch of US-2 in Sault Ste. Marie over the Power Canal.

St. Ignace

Michigan’s Home Port is a bustling city during prime tourist season, but it’s also a quiet city that’s more than just a gateway between Michigan’s two peninsulas.

Because of its proximity to the Mackinac Bridge, start your journey by soaking in some last looks at the bridge before you head west. As you drive through downtown, find a spot to pull over and enjoy the view!

Right after crossing the bridge, you’ll see a sign for a place called the Mystery Spot and if you like roadside attractions, this one is worth stopping for. Here you’ll see fascinating illusions like someone climbing a wall and water running up a tube.

St. Ignace is also home to Castle Rock, an iconic attraction since 1928 that treats visitors to views of Mackinac Island, St. Ignace, and Mackinac Island from nearly 200 feet up.

RELATED: One of Michigan’s Paul Bunyan statues is also at Castle Rock for a fun photo op.

History buffs can enjoy visiting the Museum of Ojibwa Culture and the Straits Cultural Center. The center displays photos and artifacts that showcase the town’s importance to Michigan and the museum offers insight into Ojibwa culture with different exhibits and artifacts.

Mackinac Island gets a lot of hype for its fudge, but St. Ignace has plenty of shops offering chocolate goodness without the needing to go to the island.

RELATED: If you do want to take a detour before you get going, St. Ignace is one of two cities in Michigan — Mackinaw City is the other — where you can catch a ferry to Mackinac Island.

St. Ignace Restaurants

Hungry travelers can find several great restaurants in St. Ignace to enjoy a good meal. Some of our suggested eateries include:

RELATED: The U.P. is pasty central and travelers will pass by several pasty hot spots on the way to Ironwood.

Cut River Bridge - Lake Scenic Byway Us-2
Cut River Bridge – Lake Scenic Byway US-2 | photo via @wtkphoto

Cut River Bridge

Less than a half-hour outside St. Ignace, travelers will arrive at another of the historic bridges on US-2.

The Cut River Bridge, a 641-foot steel cantilever bridge, carries the highway over Cut River between Epoufette and Brevort. The bridge was built in 1947 and is one of two such bridges in Michigan — the other crosses the Pine River in Manistee County.

Visitors will find a staircase leading to the valley below on the east end of the bridge and an office door under the main section with a plaque inscribed “T. Troll”.

Brevort

If you don’t want to miss anything along your US-2 journey, make sure you stop for a minute or two in the unincorporated community of Brevort.

Why stop here? You can enjoy several miles of Lake Michigan beachfront and sand dunes. The dunes and easy beach access also make Brevort a popular stop along the Lake Michigan Circle Tour.

RELATED: Adventurers looking to stretch their legs can explore the Sand Dunes Cross-Country Ski Trail off US-2. The trail is groomed for classic cross-country skiing and features a complex set of trail loops that range in ski level and distance.

Garlyn Zoo Wildlife Park | photo via gustafsonssmokedfish

Garlyn Zoo Wildlife Park

One of the best parts of any road trip is the roadside attractions and the Garlyn Zoo Wildlife Park in Naubinway is a perfect place to stop.

This small, family-run zoo started in 1994 nestled in the mature pine forests. The zoo has a child-friendly atmosphere and features North American animals like foxes, alligators, wolves, and deer along with exotic animals like African lions, Siberian tigers, and reindeer.

NOTE: The zoo is open seasonally from May 1 to August 31 and September 1 to October 31.

Whether it’s winter or not, travelers can also stop at the Top of the Lake Snowmobile Museum in downtown Naubinway. This vintage and classic snowmobile museum showcases nearly 200 displays and is the site of many events during the year, including a show and ride and a swap meet.

While passing through Naubinway, journeyers can turn off US-2 and make their way along Marina Drive to Millecoquins Point — the northernmost point of Lake Michigan.

Engadine

An Amish community is located near Engadine and travelers can visit Fannie’s Amish Quilt Shop, an Amish bake stand, and a country store to buy quality, homemade goods.

Gulliver

For those who love unique photo ops, a stop in Gulliver is a must. There, travelers will see a sculpture of a farmer and a cow, known locally as “The Yooper and his Cow” in the corner of a field.

Manistique

Nestled about 80 minutes from St. Ignace (we know you’ve got a long way to go, but keep going!) on the Lake Michigan shoreline, Manistque is a scenic place to stretch your legs.

No trip to Manistique (or along US-2 for that matter) is complete without a visit to Kitch-iti-kipi. Michigan’s Big Spring is just a short distance off US-2 in Palms Book State Park and is one of the state’s best natural wonders.

This 40-foot-deep natural spring features crystal-clear waters and always seems to glow green. The Ojibwe people once called it the “Mirror of Heaven” and visitors can take a raft ride to see it up close.

DID YOU KNOW: Another of the U.P.’s historic bridges can be found a short distance off US-2. The Siphon Bridge extends over the Manistique River is measures 294 feet long. It is so named because the river’s water level is higher than the road surface, creating a siphon effect.

In Manistique proper, travelers can enjoy a nearly two-mile boardwalk used as a fishing pier, a picnic spot, views of Lake Michigan, and access to the east breakwater light.

Journeyers looking for a spot to shop can visit The Mustard Seed to find unique gifts such as coffee, art pieces, planters, and other pleasing decor.

Manistique Restaurants

Hungry customers can find plenty of tasty options in Manistique. Some of our suggested eateries include:

Gladstone
Gladstone | photo via tkfehrenbach

Best US-2 Stops in the Western U.P.

Thompson

Traveling further along the Lake Michigan coast on US-2, travelers will arrive in Thompson. This civil township has a population of around 800 people, but it was the starting point of the famous Christmas Tree Ship’s final voyage in 1912 before it sank near Wisconsin.

Rapid River

After passing through Garden Corners, Isabella, and other small townships, the next stop on your US-2 journey is Rapid River.

The big attraction here is Peninsula Point Lighthouse, a 40-foot yellowish tower built in 1865 on the tip of the Stonington Peninsula. Visitors can tour the lighthouse, but the peninsula is also known as a popular rockhounding spot and is in the migratory path for birds and monarch butterflies.

DID YOU KNOW: On the way to Gladstone, you’ll pass through the neighborhood of Kipling in Brampton Township. Both Kipling and Rudyard in the eastern U.P. are named for famed author Rudyard Kipling.

Garden Township is home to the U.P’s first wind farm — the 28 MW Garden Wind Farm — which was completed in 2012.

Gladstone

Known as the “Year-Round Playground,” Gladstone offers a range of outdoor recreational activities, such as fishing, boating, hiking, and camping, making it a fun final stop for travelers of all ages on a journey along US-2.

Van Cleve Park is a perfect spot for family fun in Gladstone. Shallow water makes it an ideal place for swimmers of all ages, and it has a huge playscape that will give parents a break and allow kiddos to burn some energy.

The park also includes a fishing pier, multiple athletic fields, and changing areas, allowing solo travelers or family groups to easily spend a few hours here.

Van Cleve Park is also home to the Gladstone Lighthouse, the only active light in the area. The lighthouse stands over 30 feet tall and overlooks Little Bay de Noc. As one of the newest Great Lakes lighthouses (built in 2010), it is an electric-powered breakwater light.

RELATED: If you want to see more of the Lake Michigan coastline, Gladstone marks one end of M-35, which continues to Escanaba and on to Menominee. This journey along Michigan’s Hidden Coast affords a chance to stop by lakeside parks, historical sites, and even a golf course.

Gladstone Restaurants

Escanaba

Believe it or not, Esky, the Walleye Capital of Michigan, is the third-largest community in the Upper Peninsula, and there are plenty of good spots to hook into those golden beauties, including the north end of Bay de Noc.

A trip through downtown Escanaba isn’t complete with a stroll through the Walk of Planets. Condensed into 18 downtown blocks, visitors can walk a full-scale recreation of the Solar System. Starting at City Hall, visitors can see the sun and continue down Ludington Street to see all 9 planets.

DID YOU KNOW: Wells, which is less than 10 minutes north of Escanaba is home to the Smiley Face Water Tower which makes for a friendly photo op.

The Sand Point Lighthouse has been a symbol of strength in Escanaba since the 1800s. This majestic white tower is a popular maritime museum that offers insight into life in the U.P.

Escanaba Restaurants

Norway
Norway | photo via americanatlas

Norway

Heading west out of Escanaba, travelers will pass through small townships and villages on the way to Norway, a true U.P. hidden gem. The City of Trails is a quaint community that offers a bit of everything.

One of Norway’s best-known attributes is Norway Spring, a spring fountain known for its exceptional water quality, and it’s not uncommon to see residents and visitors filling bottles and jugs during the warmer months.

RELATED: Norway is also very close to Piers Gorge near the Michigan-Wisconsin border. This scenic attraction contains fast-moving water, making it unsuitable for general canoeing but offers beautiful scenery and wildlife viewing opportunities.

Norway is the site of the yearly Dickinson County Fair, which has been going strong for over 100 years and presents entertainment for everyone.

The Dickinson Trail Network builds and maintains multiple trails just outside downtown, making it easy for adventurers to enjoy mountain biking, hiking, fishing, and more.

Norway Restaurants

Iron Mountain

A little more than three hours into your US-2 journey, you’ll arrive in the idyllic former iron mining community of Iron Mountain in the southwestern U.P. — it’s the first of three “Iron” towns you’ll pass through in the next two hours.

Iron Mountain is a year-round destination, especially in the winter, and ski enthusiasts flock to Pine Mountain Ski & Golf Resort — the only ski-in and ski-out resort in the U.P. It’s also home to the Pine Mountain Ski Jump — the tallest man-made ski jump in North America.

RELATED: Near Iron Mountain, visitors can make a trip to see the Millie Bat Cave, a former mine that’s a resting place for thousands of bats.

The Fumee Lake Natural Viewing Area is one of the best spots to soak in the natural beauty of the area, featuring several miles of underdeveloped shoreline and space for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, wildlife viewing, and photography.

The Iron Mountain Mine is a seasonal attraction that offers a fun way to learn about the area’s former success as an iron mining town.

Iron Mountain Restaurants

Crystal Falls

The city of Crystal Falls is home to the historic Crystal Theatre. It opened in 1927 as a vaudeville and movie theater and has been restored to its original grand state.

RELATED: The U.P. is home to hundreds of waterfalls, including Chicagon Falls, Horse Race Rapids and Glidden Rapids in Crystal Falls. Other falls on US-2 include Gorge Falls, Great Conglomerate Falls, Potawatomi Falls, Rainbow Falls, Rapid River Falls, and others.

Crystal Falls is also home to two fun festivals: The Bass Festival in July features a 5K, a canoe race, and more, and the Humongous Fungus Festival in August celebrates a 38-acre fungus that was discovered near town decades ago.

Iron River

The further west you head on US-2, the closer you get to the Upper Peninsula’s top-rated ski resorts, including Ski Brule.

In the middle of 3,000 acres in the U.P., Ski Brule offers affordable fun and 17 trails to accommodate skiers of all levels. Ski Brule is known for having some of the best snow and tries to stay open as long as possible.

MORE: Explore some of the U.P.’s best breweries near US-2.

Ski Brule offers plenty of space for skiing, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing in the winter, and fishing, kayaking, target shooting, canoeing, and much more in the summer. Visitors can also enjoy comfortable lodging options and tasty dining options.

Away from Ski Brule, the Apple Blossom Trail, and the Iron County Heritage Trail offer opportunities to enjoy the scenery and the Iron County Historical Museum affords the chance to learn about local history.

Iron River Restaurants

Wakefield and Bessmer

Heading west from Iron River, skiing enthusiasts will happen upon some of the U.P.’s biggest and best ski resorts.

  • Big Powderhorn Mountain in Bessemer is considered one of the Midwest’s top resorts and sees more than 200 inches of snow each year.
  • SnowRiver Mountain Resort consists of two family-friendly resorts: Black River Basin in Bessemer and Jackson Creek Summit in Wakefield.
Ironwood
Ironwood | photo via ironwoodmichigan

Ironwood

Congratulations! You’ve reached the final major stop on your US-2 journey after more than five hours and 300 miles (the route extends for about 12 more miles west if you want to complete the exact end of the journey). Ironwood, nestled against the Wisconsin border has something to offer everyone.

One of the most well-known attractions is Copper Peak, a ski flying hill that towers more than 200 feet above the crest of the hill on which it stands. Known as the “Eiffel Tower of the North,” it offers awe-inspiring, beautiful views that are particularly a favorite of those who love Michigan’s fall colors.

If you’re looking for one more roadside attraction to photograph, Ironwood is home to the 52-foot, 9-ton, Hiawatha Statue — dubbed the “World’s Tallest and Largest Indian Statue”. It’s been a mainstay in Ironwood since 1964.

RELATED: The Ironwood Theatre in Ironwood was built in 1928 and has one of the last functional Barton organs.

Ironwood is also home to the famous Stormy Kromer factory (a must-have for Michiganders in wintertime) and you can buy one of these famous hats in many styles and colors.

Ironwood Restaurants

Millie Hill Scenic Lookout
Millie Hill Scenic Lookout – Iron Mountain | photo via heidistros

Choose Your Own Adventure on US-2 in the Upper Peninsula

Whether you drive all the way from St. Ignace to Ironwood, go halfway, or use US-2 as a starting point for adventures off the beaten path, there’s something for everyone to discover along US-2.

Sink your teeth into a pasty or another tasty treat; stop for selfies with unique roadside attractions; stare in wonder at undisturbed countryside; feel the wind in your hair and a chill on your cheek as you ski at some of the finest resorts in the country.

Whatever you choose, you’re setting the stage for an unforgettable journey along US-2 in the Upper Peninsula.

Discover more of the U.P. on other unique road trips and discover why the U.P. is such a beloved part of Michigan.