By: Allison Derouin
Any seasoned Yooper is well aware that the summer months are fleeting. We implore you to take advantage of the warm temps while we have them when you visit the Western UP this summer! (Trust us, they don’t last long) One of the best ways to get the most out of your trip to Ontonagon, MI, and the Porcupine Mountains is to tick as much off your list as possible. Galavant on the shores of Lake Superior, check out our festivals and explore trails and rivers to your heart’s content. There’s summer exploring (and relaxing) for everyone, so load up the family and journey to the Western Upper Peninsula of Michigan!
Where There’s a UP Summer, There Must be Water!
Lakes and rivers and waterfalls – oh my! Ontonagon and the Porkies have plenty of bodies of water to quench your summer excursion thirst. There is something about being around gushing falls or flowing rivers that truly caps off the ultimate hot weather experience.
Who doesn’t love a day where the only item on the agenda is “nothing”? I know I do! Take the short drive to Lake Superior for a day at the beach. Pack a picnic, a towel, and your favorite book, and you have the perfect sun-soaked day ahead of you. If you stay late enough, you could observe a stunning Western UP sunset. Don’t forget the SPF!
One of my favorite summer activities is to get on the water by any means necessary. Luckily, Ontonagon has a variety of places to rent a boat, kayak, or canoe to float all your troubles away. Some rivers are too shallow for watercraft, but you can venture to Ontonagon River and Black River Harbor for a kayak or canoe adventure. Of course, Lake Superior is great for kayaking (as long as the water is calm!) Bring your own or rent a kayak or canoe here and here. Venturing out on a pontoon makes for an excursion the whole family can enjoy! Check out Lake Superior pontoon rentals here and book early to reserve your spot. Can you blame everyone for wanting a piece of Superior to add to their summer experience?
You can also check out Lake Gogebic (Michigan’s largest inland lake!) for prime boating and kayaking. Rentals for both are available here. If you’re feeling daring, power boat rentals are available. They pack some serious horsepower, so hang on tight!
Maybe you’d like your Western UP vacation to take you to flowing waters tucked away in the Porcupine Mountains. Don’t worry, we’ve got you! The Porkies are home to many waterfalls, ranging from calm and serene to rushing and wild. Nonesuch Falls is right on the Iron River, where you can also explore the old Nonesuch Mine, as mining is a rich part of Ontonagon’s history. Despite this next waterfall’s name, it’s one of the most sought after ‘falls within the state park – Overlooked Falls. It’s easy to access from Little Carp River Road, so it’s ideal to bring your little ones. What a great way to introduce them to the wonders of nature early on! You could easily spend several days checking out all the other waterfalls in the area, and what an epic vacation that would be!
We know you’ve heard of deer hunting, elk hunting, and even bear hunting – but have you ever tried rockhunting? (aka rockhounding) Traveling along our beautiful shorelines collecting some local stones is a lovely way to spend an afternoon and to bring home some momentos from your Western UP vacation. Did you know that Michigan is one of the best states for rockhounding? You could stumble across a stunning agate or brilliant yooperlite (that glows in the dark!) on Lake Superior for treasures straight from the sandy beach. Searching for yooperlite does require a nighttime excursion so be sure to bring a flashlight and lots of mosquito repellant!
Western UP Summer in the Fast Lane!
There is a string of summer festivals to check out in Ontonagon, and the first one kicks off towards the end of July with CopperFest. It’s a town-wide celebration of its over 100-year history that has great food, crafts, vendors, and even the Great Lakes Timber Show! This event features real-life lumberjacks that possess serious skills in axe-throwing and log rolling. CopperFest is a weekend event where all ages are welcome, so add it to your Ontonagon, MI itinerary!
Next up for summer events is the Ontonagon County Fair, which takes place the weekend after CopperFest at the Ontonagon County Fairgrounds. Indulge in tasty fair food treats, give the kids a couple of bucks to try and win a prize, and don’t forget to stop by some of the local artist booths to snag some unique Yooper creations for souvenirs.
Speaking of souvenirs, if you love antiques and relics, check out the Old Victoria Craft Fair, which takes place annually around mid to late August. Head over to Victoria Dam Road, take a step back to indulge in delicious homemade cinnamon rolls and check out some unique arts and crafts from local vendors. Old-fashioned kid’s games will be available too, so be sure to bring the whole family and enjoy a day in yesteryear!
If you’re looking for a rocking time, head to the Porcupine Music Festival! This event takes place at the end of August and features a variety of musical genres and artists from all over the country. Dancing the night away is mandatory! Be sure to grab your tickets here, and pack a lawn chair and a poncho to bring (just in case!) because this festival is happening rain or shine.
Some people think that the “end of summer” is Labor Day weekend – so what better way to toast to another great Western UP summer than to hang out at the Labor Day Festival? (Aka Summer Festival). Head down to the Ontonagon Township Park and Campground for a pancake breakfast, a car show, live music, and more! The party starts the Friday of Labor Day weekend, so clear your calendars and end summer on a high note with your friends and family during the Ontonagon and Porcupine Mountain tradition.
In classic Yooper fashion, we plan to cling to every last drop of summer we can. It is precious, after all. That means we’ve got one more event to share while the weather is still warm! The Ewen Log Jamboree takes place towards the end of September and is a celebration of the region’s rich logging history. Believe us when we say it’s got the whole shebang! Enjoy live music, kid’s games, arts and crafts, contests, and mouth-watering food vendors, too. Check out their Facebook page for more updates and details as the event gets closer!
Make Memories in the Porcupine Mountains Ontonagon Area!
While summer may be the shortest season in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, there is certainly no shortage of fun or memories made when you visit. Whether you’re catching rays or dancing into the wee morning hours at a music festival, Ontonagon is sure to keep you coming back for summertime year after year. This tranquil Western Upper Peninsula of Michigan community welcomes all to stay a while and marvel at its natural splendor, which has been a local secret for far too long! Vibrant history, fascinating culture, charming residents, all surrounded by beautiful landscapes – what more could you ask for in a summer getaway?! Pack your bags, load up the car, and see how we do summer in Ontonagon and the Porkies!