Lake Superior Circle Tour
- Two scenic Lake Superior Cruises you might enjoy this summer: the Apostle Islands Sea Caves & the Pictured Rocks of Pictured Rocks National Park.
Our Lake Superior Circle Route Travel Planner is a supplement to our SuperiorTrails.com website. The regular pages of our website offer photos and more extended descriptions of the various attractions we’ve discovered in our numerous travels around Big Gitchee Gumme. While we know people appreciate the detail, it tends to obscure how much time it might take to complete a reasonable trip around the lake. Thus the travel planner was born.
It is a more condensed version of the regular website pages and organized so that one page makes a reasonable day’s journey with time included for exploring attractions along the way. There are twelve pages in all, suggesting that 12 days of travel would be ideal to cover the entire circle route and take time to experience each region and some of its most attractive features. Most people, however, will not take such a leisurely and concentrated tour and I suspect will be able to find ways to cut that in half to six days (See our suggestions for shorter trips below.)
The travel planner pages are organized in two sections. One set follows a clockwise travel route around the lake.
The second set of pages does the opposite, follows a counter-clockwise travel route around Lake Superior.
Clicking on the “Map” button on each page will bring up a map of the current page you are on with mileage figures. Here is the Master Map Directory with mileage data
If you don’t have 12 days and want to compress the schedule, here’s some ideas for your consideration.
Condensed Travel Plan 1 – Compress 12 days into 6
Compress Wisconsin 1 and 2 into one day; allot the bulk of your discretionary time to Bayfield. Compress Minnesota 1 & 2 into one day; overnight before in Duluth and arrive there early enough in the day to enjoy its attractions but you’ll need to get an early start the next morning. Also have advance reservations in Thunder Bay so you can arrive there fairly late and not have to worry about finding a place to stay. If you are coming the other direction – from Canada, same advice: advance reservations in both places and arrive early enough to see the Thunder Bay the afternoon/early evening before. Ontario 2 and 3 can be combined to cover Thunder Bay to Wawa in one day. Ontario 1 and Michigan 5 can combined to cover Wawa to Tahquamenon Falls in one day. If you are not camping, you should get advance reservations in Paradise or Bay Mills because my sense is the few motels/resorts close to Tahquamenon Falls are well booked in the regular season. So far this trims off 4 days.
In the remainder of the UP there are 3 strong attractions that make halving the trip difficult: Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore Park, Copper Harbor/Keweenau Peninsula, and Porcupine Mountains/Black River Harbor. To trim what we have outlined in four days to two days, I think you are going to have to bypass one of these three jewels. Personally since I like mountain top vistas, hiking and waterfalls I’d definitely include the Porkies area in my must see and toss a coin between Copper Harbor and Pictured Rocks. However, if you are coming in the middle of what has been a hot dry summer, the waterfalls aren’t going to be much so that might change my vote. (Hot and dry also means that you could skip Tahquamenon Falls). If you like quaint artisan villages, go for Copper Harbor and its neighboring fishing villages on the Keweenau.
Condensed Travel Plan 2 – Focus on either a Southern or a Northern Leg
This is a modified version of what we have done over the years. Our first trip skipped the South Shore entirely. We began at Duluth, Minnesota and went around west to east through Ontario. We spent a little time in Sault Saint Marie, Michigan but then headed south and west missing most of the UP shoreline. So our five or six days gave us a good taste of Minnesota and Ontario but not much of Michigan and Wisconsin. On subsequent trips we gave these two states greater emphasis. Also because we live in Wisconsin we’ve taken a number of mini long weekend tour loops along only the South Shore of Lake Superior – sometimes focusing only on Wisconsin or only on the UP.