The U.S. state of Michigan is made up of two major peninsulas. The Upper Peninsula (UP), is the northern of the two. In my opinion, the best weekend to go camping in Michigan’s upper peninsula is during the fall. There are endless adventures when the trees are bursting with bright colors. Camping in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is also eco-friendly! As sustainable travelers we try to stick close to home for mini staycations throughout the year. Camping in Michigan is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint and travel responsibly.
I hope you enjoy my guide to The Perfect Weekend Camping in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Eastern Region edition!
Where To Camp in Michigan Upper Peninsula
It was the end of the season in late October, we had JUST made it to see the fall colors. It was the last weekend the campground was open, and we were the only ones crazy enough to be camping that late in the season. We camped directly on Lake Superior at Brimley State Park, one of the oldest parks in the UP. In typical Logan/Chelsea fashion we arrived at our campsite in the dark. Setting up at night was never a concern of mine, in fact I kind of like it… waking up in a new place, really seeing it for the first time that morning. It’s like a surprise, or a present waiting to be unwrapped.
Our gift the first morning was waking up to a snow covered tent… in October. Really neither of us were surprised…welcome to The UP.
Michigan Upper Peninsula Fall Road Trip Adventure
Freezing and in desperate need of caffeine we went in search of coffee. We fueled up and hit the road, enjoying the views as we sipped our way back to warmth.
Pro Tip: Take the scenic route along W Lakeshore Dr on your way to Tahquamenon Falls. This route will take you along Whitefish Bay giving you gorgeous lake views and the opportunity to see a lighthouse!
Point Iroquois Lighthouse
Just a short 15 minute drive from Brimley, this historic lighthouse is worth the stop. The lighthouse was placed on the National Register of Historic back in 1975. Its name meaning “Place of Iroquois Bones” derived from a battle fought back in 1662 by local Native American’s of the Chippewa and Iroquois. The lighthouse was closed for the season so we couldn’t climb the tower but we were able to explore the grounds.
Tahquamenon Falls State Park
Located in Paradise, Michigan- this state park is one you won’t want to miss. Experience one of the largest waterfalls this side of the Mississippi- Tahquamenon Falls. It’s beautiful rust colored falls are caused from leached tannins of the cedar swamps which the river drains. Explore the park, and stop into the Tahquamenon Falls Brewery & Pub for some local made beer!
Where to Hike in Michigan’s UP
There are hundreds of miles of hiking trails throughout the eastern region of the UP. Hiking in the fall is my ideal hiking conditions- beautiful fall colors, crisp air, lower temperatures.
Jasper National Park is home to some of the best hiking, skiing, and climbing in the world, making it an adventurer’s paradise. The park is one of the largest National Parks in the Canadian Rockies, offering over 4,000 mi² of vast wilderness to explore. From peaks extending over 11,000 square kilometers, to glacier rivers snaking along the base there are endless adventurous activities in Jasper.
Here’s my adventurers guide to Jasper National Park!
The National Park campgrounds in Canada fill up FAST. With no reservations prior to arriving, we took our chances and ended up in the overflow lot of Snaring Campground. There were not any facilities- because there weren’t any designated campsites- you just pitched your tent where you could find a spot! Rustic style. Don’t know what to pack when camping in national parks? Check out my Packing Guide: Camping National Parks .
Go White Water Rafting
White water rafting was the perfect mid afternoon adventure. Cool off in the refreshing glacier waters as you navigate your way along the Lower Athabasca River. I sat front and center, unbeknownst to me- that was the danger zone. I found out when we hit the first rapid and a wall of ice cold water came up over my head. We went through Jasper Rafting Adventures for our tour, and had a great first time rafting experience. The two hour trip seemed a bit short for us- I would recommend doing the longer river run if you have the time.
Hike the Sulphur Skyline
If you only do one hike while you’re in Jasper- this should be it. The Sulphur Skyline hiking trail has some of the most spectacular panoramas that Jasper has to offer. The hike is moderate with a consistent incline, dress appropriately (hiking shoes recommended), take lots of water, and break along the trail. The 8.0 km to the summit will take around 1.5-3 hours to reach (one way). It was hot and rainy at the trail head, and cold and windy by the time we reached the summit- pack a jacket and a lunch! Have a picnic at the summit and enjoy those pano views!
Go Rock Climbing
I’m not going to lie- this one pushed me out of my comfort zone. See the little pink blob at the bottom? That’s me, and this rock was nothing like the rock wall I practiced on at home. The rock climbing scene at Jasper is legendary. People flock from all over the world to climb the incredible Canadian rockies. We went through Rockaboo Mountain Adventure for our tour, and had an incredible experience! We did the 4 hour tour which began at the office in Jasper. Our certified ACMG guide was so knowledgeable and friendly- which helped with the nerves. All the climbing gear you need for the adventure is provided- including shoes.
Spot a Bear
The wildlife in Jasper National Park is abundant. We saw mountain goats, several black bears, and elk. Much to Grace’s dismay, we saw no moose. The park is home to both black and grizzly bears- carry bear spray if you plan on hiking. You never want to surprise a bear, make noise to alert them while you’re on the trail. We didn’t see any bears while hiking, but as we drove around the park we were able to view a few from inside our car at a safe distance. DO NOT approach the bears, and please be mindful of your speed while driving through the park, as many animals are killed each year due to vehicles.
Hang Out In a Tree
Find the perfect spot to relax for the day, or stack your hammocks with your travel crew to see how high you can build! Looking for a great summer hammock? Check out Madera, for every hammock you purchase, two trees will be planted!
Know Before You Go
Help preserve the beauty of this park and practice the leave no trace principles.
Showers are only available at the Whistlers Campground, but if you camp at Wapiti Campground they allow you to use the showers at Whistlers.
It is a 3-3.5 hour drive from Edmonton or Calgary. I would recommend flying into one city and out of the other to save on drive time.
There is a cute downtown area inside the park with shops, restaurants, and a grocery store.
The U.S. state of Michigan is made up of two major peninsulas. The Upper Peninsula (UP), is the northern of the two.
Locals of the Lower Peninsula will often say I’m going “up north” for the weekend. Which could be anywhere north of their local county. Memorial Day weekend, my boyfriend and I took our fur babies camping up north to Michigan’s UP to welcome the beginning of the summer season. “Up North” for the weekend took us 6 hours north of Detroit straight up I-75 to the central region of The UP.
The summer months (Late May- August) are best for tent camping in The UP. Temperatures range from mid 70’s to low 90’s, depending on how close to the waters you go. Lake Superior touches the northern part of the region, while Lake Michigan/Huron (depending on what side of the Mackinac Bridge you’re on) border the southern region.
Where To Camp
Indian Lake State Campground
We left right after work Friday to make the most of our three-day holiday weekend. Arriving to our campsite at night per usual (we’re getting SO GOOD at setting up camp in the dark). We camped at Indian Lake State campground for the weekend, it was centrally located for all the activities we had planned. Michigan has some INCREDIBLE state campgrounds, I would recommend booking early, as most fill up quickly during the summer. Our camp site for the weekend was right on the lake! Check out my packing guide for what gear I use. *Note* If the state parks are all full, there are private owned campgrounds in the area as well as cabin rentals.
Kitch-iti-kipi known as “The Big Spring” is another gem in The UP’s crown. The 40 ft. deep spring pumps over 10,000 gallons of water a minute! Be sure to ride the self-operated observation raft across the spring, it offers a unique perspective, providing striking views to the bottom.
Big Spring is located inside Palms Book State Park, beautiful all year round… Big Spring doesn’t freeze! Visiting in the winter to see the crystal clear blue waters surrounded by a winter wonderland would be an epic adventure. (Mental note made)
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is 40 miles of breath taking lakeshore along Lake Superior. There are nearly 100 miles of hiking trails winding through dense forest that will take you to waterfalls, pristine beaches and other secluded beauty.
Take A Hike
Deciding which hike to do will be tough, there are so many things to explore! I would recommend doing a couple hikes inside this bubble of national protected land to best see the beauty the UP has to offer. Michigan is so incredible! As we hiked along lakeshore north country trail the trail suddenly went from dirt to boardwalk as we crossed over some swamp lands. As we continued further, I looked around… we were completely surrounded 360 degrees by bright yellow flowers.
Relax at Chapel Beach
Explore the beach area and hike to the waterfall nearby!
Take A Dip
At the end of the hike there was the opportunity to cool off in a bath of crystal clear ABSOLUTELY FREEZING Lake Superior water. I wouldn’t recommend swimming for too long, while the surface temperature of Lake Superior varies seasonally, the temperature below (660 ft; 200 m) is 39 °F (4 °C) I dipped my toes in and decided that was enough for me! 😊
For more on what to do in Michigan’s U.P check out my post on the Eastern Region!
Iceland is full of sharp contrasts. This is a country with fire and ice co-existing. Where the winters are long and dark, but the summer’s midnight sun makes up for it, making the day’s feel much longer in summer.
Iceland has been a dream of mine for about 5 years now. The first time I saw pictures my jaw dropped. Who knew the country with “ice” in the name was so stunning with such a diverse landscape? Not me. Iceland immediately jumped to the top of my list. I started researching how much a trip to Iceland would cost me… and my jaw dropped again. There was nooo way I could afford that! Or was there? *Puts on thinking cap*
Here’s my 8 Day Itinerary for Iceland’s Ring Road!
How to Get to Iceland
Fly into Reykjavik International Airport (KEF). Flights are typically one of the largest expenses when traveling. I fly on budget airlines frequently, especially if it’s going to end up saving me a couple hundred dollars a flight. We flew direct into Iceland on the budget airline WOW. *WOW IS NO LONGER IN BUSINESS*
How to Get Around Iceland
Once we arrived in Reykjavik, we took the Airport Direct bus into the city (we found that to be the cheapest way into the city without a rental car). The bus had WIFI, and put public transportation buses in the US to shame. We were dropped off within walking distance to our AirBnB and the city’s attractions. Reykjavik is extremely walkable, so I’d recommend exploring on foot!
A rental car is necessary if you plan to explore Iceland’s ring road or outside the city of Reykjavik. You can pick up your rental right at the airport or take the bus into the city and get your car when you’re ready to leave the city.
Perhaps the most iconic building in Reykjavik, Hallgrímskirkja is a beautiful Lutheran church standing at 244 ft high. The height of the church makes it the largest church in Iceland, and one of the tallest structures in the country!
Reykjavik Sun Voyager Sculpture
The Sun Voyager is a sculpture created by Jón Gunnar. The Sun Voyager sits along the coastline of the city and has a cool history. In 1986 Gunnar’s design for Sun Voyager won best outdoor sculpture in a competition funded by the city. The competition purpose was to create a sculpture that would commemorate the 200th anniversary of the city.
Where to Get Food in Iceland
Snacking on the traditional Icelandic food was… interesting. Logan tried things where I drew the line, such as fermented shark and dried pounded fish. The rye bread ice-cream however, I could eat in gallons.
Icelandic hot dogs are not like ordinary hot dogs, because they’re made mostly from Icelandic lamb, along with a bit of pork and beef. We ordered ours the traditional Icelandic way. A hot dog on a warm, steamed bun topped with TWO kinds of onions- raw white, and crispy fried onions, finished off with ketchup, sweet brown mustard called pylsusinnep, and remoulade, a sauce made with mayo, capers, mustard, and herbs. It was delicious, and much preferred by locals over the fermented shark.
SO MUCH COFFEE. Iceland knows coffee, every cup I had was exceptionally delicious. Which is GREAT, because it’s cold and rainy almost all the time, and coffee is a requirement for me to become a functioning human in the mornings.
Everything about Iceland is expensive. Including the food. We easily spent around $25-50 per person a meal while in the city. Before we drove to our first cabin we went grocery shopping at the local Bonus.
Spend 3 Days in Golden Circle
We headed east towards Thingvellir National Park where our next AirBnB was. The road trip had officially begun! Make sure to check the road conditions (here) during your trip, the weather in Iceland is unpredictable, in one hour we saw sunny clear warm weather turn to hail and wind blown frost.
GUYS. If you haven’t yet used AirBnB to travel, you’re missing out on some amazing deals. AirBnB and Skyscanner are my two KEY TOOLS I use when planning and budgeting for my trips. What are the two largest expenses for travel? Accommodation, and flights. So where do you want to maximize your savings and cut costs? Accommodation, and flights. But seriously… check these out.
We spent two nights in this stunning cabin. Like most cabin’s in Iceland, this one came with a hot tub and was in great proximity to all the major attractions we wanted to see in The Golden Circle!
Golden Circle Activities
Chase breathtaking Icelandic waterfalls like the ones below
Enjoy breathtaking views as you drive the Golden Circle
Explore Thingvellir National Park, where tectonic plates meets
Witness the wonders of the Strokkur geyser, it erupts every 5 minutes!
Spend 2 Days in Southern Iceland
Head south from the Golden Circle to continue your journey along Iceland’s Ring Road. The two hour drive will take you to Vik, where we took a tour with Arctic Adventures.
Katla Ice Cave Tour
Our tour guide was awesome, enthusiastic and a slightly crazy driver. Our group drove through scenic landscapes to the volcano Katla in a tour van. Once there we were provided safety gear such as helmets, and crampons. These are required to be worn during the ice cave tour, trust me – you’ll want them. After the tour we still had plenty of time to explore until it got dark out.
There were a couple attempts to go behind the waterfall…
After the successful attempt at getting soaked- we went inside a local restaurant next to the waterfall parking lot to warm up with some delicious lamb stew.
Thanks to that summer midnight sun! The picture above was taken around 11:00 p.m. Remember that in May, the day’s in Iceland are long, and the sun never fully sets at night, at midnight you’ll still see the sun on the horizon.
This meant a couple things, 1. We weren’t going to be seeing the northern lights (huge bummer, huge) 2. Sleeping at “night” became a challenge. Without black out shades/curtains and no sleeping mask, it was difficult to fall asleep and confusing when you woke up (I never knew what time it was). We talked to a couple locals about it and they laughed, and said we’re used to it, it’s all they knew! I would recommend bringing a sleeping mask if you’re visiting in the spring/summer months.
The south coast of the island is unbelievably beautiful. On our way to the glacier lagoon we came across what used to be a giant farm. Back in 894, the first recorded volcano eruption of Katla (yes, the same one we went under to get to the ice caves) destroyed the entire farm.
Laufskálavarða, is a lava mound that was named after the farm. In memory of those that were lost, it is surrounded by stone cairns. Travelers crossing the desert of Mýrdalssandur for the first time would pile stones up to make a cairn, which was supposed to bring them good luck on their journey. The tradition continues to this day, leave a stone when you drive by!
Secret Glacier Lagoon
As we continued our drive along the coastline we came to our next stop, the “secret” glacier lagoon. We found it thinking it was the main glacier lagoon we were trying to get to… it wasn’t. Looking around, we had the place to ourselves. We realized we had found “the secret lagoon” the local’s told us about.
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
We were greeted immediately by the reindeer grazing in a clearing when we pulled in to park. Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is a must visit destination on your trip to Iceland. Boat tours are available on the lagoon to take you further into the glacier water. We were shocked that despite the freezing water of the lagoon, it was full of wild life.
We watched the sea lions play in the lagoon while we sat and listened to the sounds of the ice moving in the water. After we’d had our fill of adorable animal friends we headed out of the lagoon and across the street.
The ice from the glacier lagoon washes ashore the black sand beach. Scattered across the beach were giant chunks of ice, giving the beach the famous name “Diamond Beach”.
When we could no longer handle the cold beach in our wet clothes, we headed back to our cabin for the night, where more amazing scenery awaited.
Our next cabin had a sheep farm in the back yard, and it was spring. That means BABIES. And in my opinion, there are few things cuter in this world then baby animals. I sat on my bed while I watched them play outside my window. With the window open, I could hear them BAAAing at each other and feel the crisp salty air blowing in off of the sea. (BLISS)
Spend Two Days in North Iceland
We got up early and took advantage of the complimentary breakfast the cottage offered. It was a 5.5-hour drive north to get to the city of Akureyri, Iceland’s second most populous city. We spent 2 nights in the northern part of Iceland, chasing waterfalls and exploring the Lake Myvatn areas.
Krafla Vita Crater
Last Day: Blue Lagoon
It was another long drive from Akureyri to Reykjavik. We had an appointment at the Blue Lagoon in the afternoon we were trying to make. The national speed limit of Iceland is 90 km/h on paved rural roads… which is REALLY slow when you’re driving around the entire country. Which is probably why we got pulled over in the middle of nowhere and received a speeding ticket. Trust me guys, you DO NOT want to get pulled over for speeding in Iceland- like everything else, the tickets are outrageously expensive.
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There are over 10,000 waterfalls beautifully cascading around Iceland. Here are 9 Wonderful Waterfalls of Iceland around the ring road that you won’t want to miss!Read more Iceland Waterfall Bucket list
Visiting every National Park in the United States has been a huge bucket list item of mine for years. The National Park Service (NPS) works to protect and preserve these important eco systems around the country everyday, as a visitor we must do the same. To help preserve our extraordinary National Parks, it is VERY … Read more 20 Extraordinary National Parks to Visit in 2020
Death Valley National Park is located on the California, Nevada state borders in the United States. Death Valley holds the title for driest, hottest, and lowest of all the U.S. National Parks. PLUS it’s the largest National Park outside of Alaska. In January, Logan and I spent the Perfect Weekend in Death Valley National Park. The plan was to see as much as we could in the time we had. The National Park was so amazing, we’re already planning our next trip back to explore more of this diverse landscape!
The park entrance fee is $25 usd per vehicle per day- I have an annual pass ($80 usd) we used to get in. With over 3 million acres of wilderness, sand dunes, slot canyons, rocky rainbow peaks, and miles of back country roads to explore- where do you begin?! We flew into Las Vegas after work the Friday of MLK weekend and rented a car to make the 2 hour drive through the desert into Death Valley.
Enjoy My Death Valley National Park Guide!
How to Get to Death Valley National Park
PRO TIP: Make your rental car and camping reservations early. Spend the money on a 4×4 high clearance vehicle. You’ll need one if you plan to do the backcountry drives- that includes the famous racetrack. It’s 27 miles of HARD road to get there, and the ever logical Logan deemed our compact car unfit for such conditions… preventing us from seeing the racetrack and other park sites (getting a flat or needing a tow truck in the middle of no where sounded not so fun).
Day 1: Death Valley National Park East Side
Stay the Night at Sunset Campground
We spent more time dicking around in Vegas than we anticipated, so we got to the park a little later than planned, meaning we got to drive around in the dark looking for an open site… the campground is first come first serve and there were plenty of spots (it seems we’ve made setting up camp in the dark an unintentional tradition). The campsite didn’t have a fire pit or picnic table but the campground had water and flush toilets (no showers). The sites weren’t very private and it felt like we were in a giant parking lot more than a campground. We set up our tent facing to the darkest side, and watched the sky light up with stars.
Artists Scenic Drive Loop
This scenic loop drive is 9 miles of paved road that takes you through multi-hued colorful volcanic and sedimentary hills. We had the the one way road to ourselves so we took our time as we drove. As the famous Artist Palette came into view we got out at the pull off and explored further into the rock formations for a small hike. Our little compact car did fine on the paved road.
Natural Bridge Hiking Trail
We did a few hikes in our time at the park, but this by far was our favorite. The road to get here is rough and rocky, we didn’t think our car was going to make it- thank God it did. The out and back hike took us 1 mile round trip from the natural bridge formation- bbbbbut don’t stop there!
We hiked back as far as we could get past the bridge (another mile or so) and the dramatic canyon turned to beautifully colored marble walls glistening around us. You could see the remains of a dried up waterfall, and how the powerful element carved it’s mark permanently into the earth. It was incredibly pretty, and the tall narrow canyon kept us shaded from the sun.
It was 75 degrees and sunny when we walked a mile out to the salt flats 282 ft below sea level- the lowest point in North America. There was no shade, and in the dead of winter- we were hiking in Death Valley, and for the first time- we felt it. I’ve seen salt flats in Bolivia, and they were miles and miles long.
But these were the first salt flats with water I’d seen, and it was an incredible sight (and another reason I FREAKING LOVE MY TEVAS). I walked out into the salty water expecting the lake I saw before me to get deeper as walked further out. The water never went above my ankle in depth- and from afar it looked to others as if I was walking on water. It was a magical experience.
If you’re looking for the best spot to catch a sunrise or sunset- this is it. The golden colored badlands make for an amazing backdrop to natures free shows each day. Start your day or end your day here- you won’t be disappointed either way you do it. We missed the point coming into the park at night, so we made sure we caught it on our way back out!
Day 2: Death Valley National Park North Side
Stone Pipe Wells Campground
We spent our 2nd night in this first come first serve campground that’s only open during the winter season; the campground has tent only sites everywhere, and a lot of private options; we had a beautiful view outside our tent of the mountains across the desert- there’s flush toilets and water, but no fire pits or picnic tables.
Hundreds of years ago, a massive volcanic explosion happened in Death Valley. Magma mixing with an underground spring caused the explosion that created this 600 ft deep crater. As we drove to the trail head you could see the landscape around us changing from light colored brown tones to dark volcanic black sand. You can hike the full rim of the crater (around 1.5 miles round trip) but we were short on time, so we hiked to see little ubehebe crater and enjoyed the views before heading back down.
This was the hike I was most excited about. The 4 mile hike took us through polished marble narrows, and required a bit of rock climbing (scrambling). It was beautiful walking through the labyrinth of smooth rock.. The colorful walls changed in color and texture along the hike, making for gorgeous photo opportunities.
We ended our day exploring the west side of the park. As soon as I saw their was a “rainbow canyon” I knew we couldn’t leave without seeing it. The drive takes a couple hours, so we stocked up on fuel and road trip snacks in Stovepipe Wells Village before heading towards the canyon. The drive to Father Crowley Vista was one of the most scenic drives I’ve ever done. A landscape of dark lava flows and volcanic cinders turns to rainbow canyon with an explosion of color. As you’re driving through the mountains you can see the colors start to pop the closer you get.
Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes
Hike to the largest dune field in the park for another great spot to catch a sunrise or sunset. You can walk as far out into the dunes as you want, the hike to summit the highest is about 2 miles roundtrip. We walked through the sand up and down the dunes until we found the perfect sunset viewing peak, all to ourselves.
Furnace Creek Campground
We spent our last night back on the east side of the park (where the only showers in the park were)- it was MLK Day, and the park entry and camping was free for the holiday! We were expecting a huge crowd but we had no issue finding a site on the first come first serve sites. It was our favorite campsite, we had a picnic table, a fire ring, and nobody around us. Of course the night we have furniture the clouds decided to be assholes- we didn’t see one star that night. Instead we were kept awake by the howling of the locals (aren’t they just adorable?!?).
Download your Death Valley Checklist of must see activities!
Showers are only available at the privately owned Furnace Creek Resort. It’s $5 per person for a pool pass that gives you access to their pool & showers/locker room. **These are the only showers in the entire park, and if you’re camping and hiking, you will want a shower.**
You can rent a 4×4 high clearance vehicle by the hour in the town of Furnace Creek from a privately owned company.
There is 1 restaurant (Stovepipe Wells Village) and a few small grocery stores inside the park (Stovepipe Wells Village & Furnace Creek).
It is a 2 hour drive to the park from Las Vegas and a 5 hour drive from Los Angeles. The park is located in both California & Nevada.