10-Day Michigan Upper Peninsula Road Trip Itinerary

Afterward, I followed a narrow path to the beach in the pelting rain, which seemed appropriate. The wind blew, and I could see whitecaps far into the distance. Washed up logs, limbs, tree stumps, and thousands of round stones worn down by the elements––were telltale signs of the power of Mother Nature in this region. 

Whitefish Point Bird Observatory

Birder Alert!

I couldn’t work it into my schedule, but I’ve heard great things about the Bird Observatory not far from the lighthouse. Its position at the tip of the peninsula makes it a prime spot for over 340 species of migratory birds, many of them rare.

Where to Eat in Trout Lake

Other than coffee and muffins in the morning, Covid put the kibosh on in-house dining at Birch Lodge until 2021, when a restaurant will open.

For snacks, drinks, and ready-made sandwiches, the nearby country store is your best option if you’re looking to grab supplies for a busy day of exploration.

The front facade of Trout Lake Tavern
Trout Lake Tavern

In the evening, three restaurants in Trout Lake serve the small community: The Buckhorn, Trout Lake Tavern and Grill, and McGowan’s Restaurant, and Motel, all of which are within short walking distance of each other and the country store. From Birch Lodge, they are all less than a five-minute drive, clustered around the town’s single intersection.

Trout Lake Tavern & Grill

My first night, Trout Lake Tavern was the only place open. It was 6:30 pm, and I was told it would close early if there weren’t enough patrons, so I should get there ASAP.

Occupying the ground floor of an old frontier-style building, the tavern is a classic small-town dive (I say that with love) with an obligatory pink neon sign, threadbare red carpeting, a ball-worn pool table, and spotty fluorescent lighting.

The night I was there, Tom, the owner, ran the show: he was the bartender, waiter, and cook.I sat at the bar, which I typically prefer when traveling alone––it’s easier to strike up a conversation than sit at a table. But that night, I chose it because it was easier to socially distance myself there.

I ordered a cheeseburger, and while I wasn’t expecting much, I was pleasantly surprised by one of the best hamburgers I’ve had in a very long time. The fries.. not so much.


On my second night, Buckhorn was the only restaurant open. It’s an upscale dive with a much longer bar and less war-torn than the tavern.

At the back of the room, flanking the entrance to the kitchen, stood an old jukebox on one side and a vintage Pacman video game on the other. I saw the two relics and knew I’d like the place.

Eye candy was everywhere. Tacked on the walls were signed dollar bills from past patrons, “Youper” t-shirts (translation: the nickname native Upper Peninsula folks call themselves), and a myriad of signs with humorous wisecracks, giving me plenty to look at. Baseball played on a large screen TV.

I ordered a grilled cheese and onion rings. The sandwich was spot on, but I loved the onion rings. Crispy, flavorful, and not oily. Yum.

Steve, our bartender sporting salt and pepper hair, a baseball cap, and a goatee, was a very jovial guy who kept the vibe light behind the counter.

Paula, the owner, a twig of a woman with reddish hair and black horn-rimmed glasses, kept me company at a distance while I ate. I’m told that during non-Covid snowmobiling season, this place is rocking.

My fourth day was a bit of a bust. The weather went from drizzly to downright nasty. Yet oddly, in such a wilderness, storms have their own beauty.

I planned to take my time driving from Trout Lake to Munising by way of grand Marais, where I took H-58 scenic drive along the coast straight into town.

I had tickets for a sunset cruise to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, a coastline of multi-color cliffs, pinnacles, and sandstone formations.

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