If you had told us while we were living in California or Colorado that someday a little spot on the Upper Penninsula of Michigan would make us feel like we were at the Ocean again and that it would become an eternally special place for our family, and that we would be riding bicycles here and having the time of our lives ~ well… we would never have believed you. But that was then, and this is NOW. And this is our happy place. ~ DeAnn & Kurt
Scouting Notes: Little Girls Point and Ironwood, MI:
Backstory: Kurt first came here in 2013 on a motorcycle trip searching for the end of the road close to home. Why the end of the road? It was an excuse to head out on an äventyr. It was on this trip that Kurt discovered Little Girls Point Campground and the beautiful beach that is now so close to our hearts, and Ironwood. Although this area can seem a bit rough around the edges, and struggling for survival in so many ways, we love our visits here and knowing that we are helping to support the local economy.
- Travel Time: 4-5 hours depending on how frequently you stop (again...ice cream), and if you are towing a camper, and if you have a puppy who wants you to slow down on the curves. Google will advise you to go through Duluth/Ashland, but we take the middle route that goes past Burnett Dairy (ice cream!), through Hayward, and then up to the UP. On our way home we usually go back through Ironwood on this route as the road is a bit less windy, and we have to stop and get Rigoni’s for the ride home (see ‘places to eat’ below)!
- Benefits: Scenic - Lake Superior views, Trees reaching peak colors in late September, Wildlife (Eagles, Porcupine, Merganser, Pileated Woodpecker, Turkey, Northern Flicker. *Black Bear (see route notes below).
Little Girls Point Campground:
Perched on the edge of scenic Lake Superior, Little Girls Point is a gem of a place away from the North Shore Crowds. If you are looking for solitude, this is the place.
The best sites are situated along the bluff with views of Lake Superior, there is a main road (not much traffic) going through the campground; across from the lake sites there are wooded sites. If you stay across the road, you will want sites with lake views (we have stayed in #31 and would recommend it). We always call ahead to make reservations (the only way you can do it) and try to get a site on the lake. Our site this time was #15, which we have stayed in before.
- On-site Campground Hosts.
- Bring cash to pay for your site when you arrive, no credit cards accepted.
- Our call for Best Sites: All sites along the lake, particularly the east end of the sites. Campground Map. 11, 13 and 16 are some better bets, but most of these sites are shared with a neighbor.
- Flush Toilet facility on main ground of park. While clean, the building desperately needs an interior upgrade. Some sinks have never worked in all our time coming here and are only cold water. To my knowledge there are no showers, we use our camper shower after our rides, or back when we tented just didn’t plan to shower during our stay.
- Water is located on site for drinking in a trailer near the host home.
- No Dump Station. We went to the Gogebic County Fairgrounds in Ironwood to dump on our way home. The Campground is called Curry Park. Dumping Fee is $10 cash left in a deposit box at the station.
- Skeeter Rating: 5 Skeeters most of the Summer. We have to be honest here. We have been here at different times during the Summer and it can be a mosquito and black fly hell, and there are also wood ticks on hiking trails. All of DeAnn’s worst nightmares and yes, she did have a breakdown one year while we were there at the wrong time. We schedule our trips for late September when bug count is low to non-existent and it is much more enjoyable.). 1 Skeeter after Labor Day - our favorite time to travel (Luckily, in late September we only saw the occasional mosquito, were able to be outside without bug spray, and although we set up our bug screen tent, we really only used it to sit in with our dogs).
- No cell signal at the park, you will need to go to Saxon Harbor or into Ironwood.
- Note that the campground closes at the end of September (which is a bummer because some October weekends would be great here!).
The smoothly paved roads and bountiful gravel in the area make this a great location for cycling in Autumn. There are climbs on the routes we took, but they are manageable (and good for goal setting if you are not a climber).
We went on two exploratory rides during our visit. We brought our Trek Crockett Bicycles which are the perfect travel bike as they are multi-terrain capable.
- Paved Route. This is a low traffic perfectly smooth road along Lake Superior with old school cabins along the lakeshore, lots of trees, and rolling hills. Saxon Harbor is a nice snack stop before you turn around and climb up that hill. (Note: There have been major improvements going on at Saxon Harbor after it was destroyed by flooding in 2016). Link to Strava route here.
- Gravel Route. This was THE ride of the weekend. We drove it the night before and knew it would be a perfect loop. The ride starts out on the same paved road we took to Saxon Harbor, but then you turn left onto the gravel at Powers Road. This is a gentle climb up to the midway point ~ a scenic overlook very few people likely know about. At the end of the gravel road you link back up with the paved road you started on, this time East of Little Girls Point. There is a fairly steep descent (DeAnn hit 32 mph when she dared to look, on the way down). The descent continues at less of an incline from there all the way back to Little Girls Point. (*Note: There were people hunting black bear in this area on our visit. Use caution for both bears and the humans who want to kill them). Link to Strava route here.
PLACES TO EAT & THINGS TO DO:
- Rigoni’s. This is an old school bakery.. The potato rolls here are exactly what they should be and make great sandwiches. We load up when we get into Ironwood, and again on our way home. If you have a sweet tooth, you will enjoy the donuts and other sweets.
- Northwind Co-op. How lucky Ironwood is to have a co-op that shortly after our last visit survived a fundraiser to keep the doors open, and they are still open! We do not only shop local at home, when we travel we are always looking for the local co-op to fulfill our needs. Although the selection is small, if you need something please stop here first and support a much-needed local business in Ironwood.
- Contrast Coffee. This is a new (2016) and much welcome addition to Downtown Ironwood. It’s a treat for us to get a cup of coffee here, sometimes for ‘here’, sometimes for ‘takeaway’, and sometimes with treats.
- Ben Franklin. Yes, there is still a Ben Franklin in Ironwood. Not quite a Ben Franklin anymore, more of a great spot to get some cabin-y gifts, t-shirts, souvenirs, etc. (Side note: DeAnn’s grandparents owned a Ben Franklin in Clear Lake, IA back in the day).
- Presque Isle River. The closer side of Porcupine Mountain State Park to Little Girls Point makes a nice afternoon. This is a beautiful spot with a nice loop hike option. You can drive to the Presque Isle Campground area, but turn right to the lot for the River, not left to the Campground.
- Porcupine Mountain State Park. If you are up for more driving and a good view, head over to the Lake of The Clouds Overlook area.
- Burnett Dairy. We talked about this in our Cable, WI Scouting Notes, and we will say it again… This is a must-stop on the way to and from the U.P.. We load up on our happy hour cheese and have an ice cream cone on the way up, and have to always get another ice cream cone on the way home. Restrooms and dog 'rest' area available.
ÄVENTYR GEAR USED:
- Essential Handlebar Bag. DeAnn finally made herself her own Essential, in Deep Auburn! Perhaps we will release more with our next batch release...
- äventyr Purist Water Bottles
- äventyr Socks
- Kurt's Medicine Bag (working title): After our September trips, we have some good ideas for the second prototype for this bag. Stay tuned...