A couple of years ago we made a trip to Alaska and I would really like to go back but the cost of the fuel is just getting out of sight. The diesel for my pickup would cost about $4000 for that route trip from Texas to Alaska and back. So I have decided to look at spending several months in Michigan this summer. I will be leaving from Iowa after visiting some relative and I am looking for a route and that will take me to the UP in Michigan. Once there spending two 1/2 months in that area. So does anyone have suggestions on a scenic route from Iowa to UP Michigan? Then once in Michigan I would like to locate a place to stay for a month or so and do side day trips in the UP. Any RV park suggestions? The time period we are thinking about is June, July and part of August. The wife and I enjoy hiking, golf and local festivals. Oh yes, for the wife quilting and quilt shops.
The Mississippi River up to the junction with St Croix River is scenic.
The SW corner of Wisconsin is called the Driftless Area, because it is rolling hills that weren't covered in the last ice age. There is some old history of lead mining in the area, including a town that is as known for its Cornish Pasties as is the UP. In nearby Illinois, the town of Galena is named for a lead ore. The grandpappy of rail-to-trail conversions is the Elroy-Sparta trail, which passes through a couple of tunnels. I suspect hikers can share it with bikes. New Glarus is a Swiss colony.
Wisconsin Dells is a pretty spot on the Wisconsin River, but also over run with touristy stuff. South of that is Baraboo, with some sort of circus museum, and near that is Devils Lake St Park. Besides the lake there is rock climbing and hiking in these ancient quartzite hills.
To the north and east Wisconsin is pretty flat, with the notable exception a line of moraines, which make up various units of the Kettle Moraine St Park, and Ice Age trail.
On Lake Michigan shore, Door County is one of the prettiest parts, with major parks like Peninsula St Pk, and Rock Island. There's a car ferry to Washington Island, but only a passenger boat to Rock Island.
The state gets more forested the further north you get. Once in the UP, it would be worth your while to drive the Lake Superior shore (as close as you can get), both in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and even Ontario. The Lake Michigan shore of the UP is also nice. Porcupine Mtns have the longest hiking trails in the area. For even more hiking (and backpacking), there's a boat ride Isle Royal Nat Park.
If you return through the lower part of Michigan, you'll probably find the western shore most scenic. I believe there's some sort of fall cherry festival on the NW shore of the Lower P.
The two largest towns in the U.P. are Escanaba and Marquette. Escanaba, other than the water features, does not have as much to offer as Marquette. Marquette, being a university town, is more diverse and the lower harbor area has several festivals during the year. Being on Lake Superior, Marquette is cooler during the summer than Escanaba. I lived in Marquette back in the 80's and traveled extensively throughout the U.P. during that time.
As far as campgrounds go in Marquette, there are not many to choose from. Tourist Park, on the city's north side, has FHU's and is reasonably priced. There is a river there, but it's more of a base camp for checking out the area. I would not recommend Gitche Gumee campground, east of town along the lakeshore. On RV Park Review.com it has been bashed and all I remember about it is that it's along the highway and across from the lake.
About 15 or so miles west of Marquette is Ishpeming and Country Village RV Park. I've never stayed there, but the reviews are very good and it has FHU's, including cable & wireless (this is important since the U.P. is remote and you won't pick up either otherwise). This would be a good location for exploring the Marquette area as well as the Keweenaw Peninsula, towards Copper Harbor.
Munising, 43 miles east of Marquette, is a nice little town. There is a nice campground along M-28 west of town and is run by the city I believe. Good views of the lake, but you do get highway traffic. Pictured Rocks Nat'l Lakeshore is definitely worth a visit.
I would also recommend spending some time at the Porcupine Mountains State Park. There are 2 campgrounds, one north with electric and a rustic one south. We will be camping at the south park this summer. I prefer the hiking trails at that end of the park. It's a huge park with many spots to hike.
The Houghton/Hancock area in the Keweenaw Peninsula is also a great area. There are a couple of campgrounds right in both towns worth checking out.
A very good base camp is the U.P. State Fairgrounds in Escanaba. They have full hook ups. For a stay in Copper Harbor I'd go with Fanny Hoe Camp ground with nice sites and full hook ups. Going over to the Sue there are two camp grounds right along the water.
Regarding a route to the UP from Iowa, I'd take I35 to Duluth, MN and then US2 east to Michigan's UP. Lot's of places to visit all across the UP. You will probably need reservations in June, July, and August, most anywhere in Michigan especially over weekends and holidays.
Lots to do in the UP so you may want to consider several shorter stays so you're closer to the attractions you want to see. For those of us approaching from the east or south I consider the bridge at Mackinac to be the gateway to the UP. It's an impressive engineering achievement and worth spending some of your time in this area.
Coming from Texas and if you want something different perhaps consider driving north to Manitowoc, WI and taking the SS Badger across Lake Michigan. It's a bit pricey for us RVer's (and I know you're trying to keep your costs down) but it's a neat way to keep moving for 4 hours but get out from behind the wheel.
Somehow get over to I39/hwy51 in Wisconsin and head north to Hurley. Head up to Houghton/Hancock then down to hwy 28 east to the Sault Ste. Marie. Then down to the St. Ignace then west on Hwy 2 and back home.
There is lot's to see and do along that route, and you'll figure out what fit's you best quickly. Just remember the north western part of the UP can get pretty remote at times. Most the population is along the Lake Michigan shore and on the eastern part of the UP.
Break your trip down into 1-2 week stays. I think you'll enjoy it much more, and shouldn't cost that much extra then a monthly rate for a couple of months.