Earth : North America : United States of America : Midwest (United States of America) : Michigan : Upper Peninsula
The Upper Peninsula  (known throughout Michigan and in surrounding areas as "the U.P.", or sometimes "the Yoop") is a region of Michigan. It is not connected (except by a bridge) to the rest of the state, but is connected at its southwestern end to Wisconsin. Therefore, in general the Upper Peninsula is located much closer to Ontario, Canada and the neighboring state of Wisconsin than to the Lower Peninsula, separated by a small channel connecting Lakes Michigan and Huron. This gives the region a distinct style and heritage of its own. As a result, it shares much more in common with its neighbors in Wisconsin and Canada than to the Southern Peninsula of Michigan.
Secluded from the rest of the nation (let alone the rest of the state), the Upper Peninsula of Michigan is sadly often even left off published maps in newspapers or magazines or mistakeningly "made" part of Wisconsin. It is, however, a real treasure to visit and should be instead highlighted on any nature lover's map! Plentiful sandy public beaches, breathtaking recreational and fishing lakes, and vast state and national parks and forests makes the region an ideal location for a vacation during any season. If you enjoy the outdoors, this natural jewel is a place for you. About the only major drawback is the huge numbers of biting black flies that beset the angler.
Applying the term "cities" to anything in the U.P. could cause some laughter. If the UP were its own state, it would be home to fewer people than well any other state! It is mostly rural, with a few large towns, and Marquette tipping the scales at just under 20,000. Due to its rural nature, those downstate sometimes find no reason to visit the region. The population is generally of Northern-European heritage, though there are certainly exceptions, including a substantial Native American population. The U.P. is very similar in topography to Finland and therefore a large Finnish-American population in the region is not surprising. Most towns were formed as mining or logging operations in the nineteenth century and have not seen much economic success since those days. There are several ski resorts which offer some of the best skiing and snowboarding in the Midwest (including a substantial snowcover) thanks to Lake Superior. A good example of the heritage of the area is preserved at Fayette Historic State Park south on 183 from US-2. For a taste of one of the most remote, wild and rural places east of the Mississippi, head to the U.P., a world of its own!
"Say ya to da UP, eh?" This is the UP's answer to the state tourism office's slogan "Say Yes to Michigan!"
Yoopers (inhabitants of Upper Michigan) have an accent with a Canada-meets-the-Midwest flavor. "Ya" and "eh" are the most well-known and often mocked of the colloquial slang. "Eh" (ay) is often appended to statements to turn them into a question or to ask for agreement, much like in stereotypical Canadian usage.
In the Western U.P., the accent is more attributed to Finnish influence rather than Canadian. After all, Detroit is closer to Canada, ey? In Finnish, the expression of "ey" means "no" in much the same sense as the English appendage "isn't it?" or the general-purpose French "n'est-ce pas?" Also, a lot of Yoopers tend to drop their prepositions; the Finnish language doesn't use them. So, to ask if we are going to Green Bay, for example, it is rendered in the vernacular as "We go Green Bay, ey?"
Many of the town names have a wonderfully distinctive native American lilt to them, such as Escanaba (ES kuh NAH bah), Ishpeming (ISH peh ming), or Ontonagon (ON tuh NAH gun).
The most scenic route from the lower peninsula would be US-31 along the coast of Lake Michigan over the Mackinac (pronounced mack-in-aw) Bridge and through St. Ignace.
Access from Wisconsin is most common through US-45 (central), US-141 (central-eastern), US-41 (far eastern) or US-2 (western). US-41 and US-2 are probably the most scenic choices.
You need a car, unless you are sailing. If it is winter you need to be prepared to drive on snow and ice. Snow tires and four-wheel drive would be helpful, as snowfall and drifting can get quite deep. Driving at night during a snow storm can be dangerous, especially because of the distance between towns with gas stations that stay open late. Be prepared to pull over and wait out storms; keeping a warm blanket in the back seat for this purpose is a very good idea. On the bright side, motels are cheap, if they haven't been abandoned.
There is very little public transit in the UP.
The pre-eminent scenic east-west route in the Upper Peninsula is US-2 along the northern shore of Lake Michigan. It follows the coastline very closely for miles and there are several areas in which you can pull off and park to access the beach directly, especially close to St. Ignace. M-28 also runs along the Lake Superior shore for long stretches, especially as you get close to Marquette, but contains the infamous "Seney Stretch", a segment of two-lane highway west of Seney, without a curve, bump in the road, or turn-off for 34 miles.
Large tracts of the Upper Peninsula are devoted to national forests, and are not breathtakingly scenic, although they do have their charm. An example of this would be M-28 through much of the central portion of the UP. However, for camping opportunities and the outdoors, M-28 leads to some extraordinary finds, as it passes through both Hiawatha National Forest and Ottawa National Forest. Another recommendation is going from M-28 to 94 through the Seney National Wildlife Refuge. Heading further north, US-41 takes you through the Keweenaw (pronounced KEE we naw) Peninsula, up to Fort Wilkins Historic State Park. This route takes you through beautiful forests, along the lakeshore (via M-26) and offers sightings of many lighthouses and waterfalls. Sticking to the posted "circle tours" and following roads close to the lakes are probably your best bet for scenic road trips.
During the winter months snowmobiling across much of the UP is possible and trails are maintained.
Road and off-road mountain biking is getting more and more popular. Wear bright colors!
The traditional food associated with the Upper Peninsula is the pasty (pronounced "pass-tee"). Brought to the area by Cornish miners, it was a hand-held "no dish" meal for miners who had no time to come above ground for lunch. The standard pasty consists of potatoes, diced (not ground) beef, carrots, onions, and rutabaga in a pastry crust. The miners could heat their pasty back up on their shovels on top of their lanterns. The pasty's appeal crossed ethnic barriers and has been adopted as this region's specialty. Many places will sell 10 or 20 frozen pasties, so you can take them home. There's lots of smoked fish for sale, too.
Don't make yourself look like a white-tailed deer during hunting season. If you are camping, keep your food outside of your tent, as there are black bears. The UP has little to no violent crime, even near its cities. Drunk driving and drunken snowmobiling are huge problems and hazards like in the rest of the rural Upper Midwest. Be careful! Given the extreme rural nature of the place it is advisable to not wander onto private lands. Black bears do live in the in the forest but hardly pose a risk, its the moose and deer that you need to look out for when you are driving.
The most dangerous situations you can encounter in the Upper Peninsula are often weather related. During the long winter season, major snow events and subzero temperatures are fairly common. Snowfall totals from large storms are often measured in feet, not inches, especially in the Western UP. While the locals cope very well with all the snow, it is NOT a good idea to attempt to travel if heavy snows are possible. Even with a four wheel drive vehicle, you may get stuck. Pack your car/SUV/truck for such an event if you do head out! (Including a cell phone and charger, blankets, food and water, a snow shovel, flares, kitty litter and snow-chains for your tires.)