Why Nature Lovers Should Visit This Northern Michigan City

Marquette offers hiking, biking, and leaf-peeping for visitors of all abilities.

Sugarloaf Mountain | Courtesy of Marquette
Sugarloaf Mountain. | PURE MICHIGAN

When it comes to natural beauty, Michigan’s diverse geography has it all. Bordered by the Great Lakes, the state has several national lakeshores (and a national park), stunning natural wonders like sand dunes and waterfalls, and seemingly endless forests and farmland. It’s worth traversing the whole state to see it all, but if you only have time to visit one city, make it Marquette. Located in the state’s picturesque Upper Peninsula, Marquette sits on the southern shore of Lake Superior, the largest freshwater lake in the world, and is home to lush forests, scenic mountains, and more.

Marquette thrives in any season and in any weather. In winter, skiers and snowboarders take on the snowy slopes of Marquette Mountain, while summer is the perfect time to hit the beaches of Lake Superior. The area might be at its best in autumn, when beautiful fall foliage is at its peak. With over 400 miles of hiking and biking trails (including many accessible options), as well as scenic overlooks and other natural wonders, Marquette is a must-visit destination for any nature lover — or anyone just looking to get a break from city life. We’ve compiled a guide to making this Northern Michigan city your next outdoorsy base camp.

View of the CR 510 Bridge | Courtesy of Marquette
View of the CR 510 bridge. | PURE MICHIGAN

It’s a top spot for fall leaf-peeping

Thanks to its forested landscape, you can see fall foliage just about anywhere you look in and around Marquette. But if you’re looking for the perfect view, try the CR 510 Bridge, accessible by car and located just outside of the city. The bridge hangs over the Dead River and offers views of a historical steel truss bridge that was erected in 1921. With the river, bridge, and fall-colored forest as a backdrop, you’ll create a picturesque, only-in-Michigan view. For panoramic fall views of Lake Superior, visit the Thomas Rock Scenic Overlook. There’s an easy trail that takes you on a short hike up to the top of Thomas Rock, where you can see the lake, the Huron Mountains, and the lush fall forests of Big Bay. Meanwhile, Sugarloaf Mountain (about six miles north of downtown Marquette) offers two half-mile hikes to the top of the mountain, giving you the option between an easy walk and a more intense trek. No matter which route you choose, you’ll be greeted at the top with views of Lake Superior, Presque Isle Park, and more of Big Bay’s forests.

Courtesy of Marquette

There are hundreds of miles of hiking and biking trails

Hikers and bikers of all abilities will find no shortage of trails in the area. The most notable is the Iron Ore Heritage Trail: a 47-mile, multiuse recreational and historical trail that spans several cities, including Marquette, Ishpeming, and Negaunee. The trail passes several unique Michigan locations, like 18th- and 19th-century mining pits, sandstone structures, and, of course, the Lake Superior shoreline. Walk, bike, ski, or snowmobile on the trail, and learn about the importance of iron ore mining in Michigan with informational signs along the way and at sites like the Cliffs Shaft Mine Museum. For more trail options (that also provide great views), try Marquette Mountain, a scenic outlook just five minutes from downtown Marquette. (Note that you must purchase a season or day pass to access the mountain's trails.) There are several trails on the mountain, ranging in difficulty from easy to expert. Aside from hiking, you can also enjoy activities like mountain biking and disc golf in the warmer weather or hit the mountain’s 20-plus ski runs in the winter.

Yellow Dog Falls | Courtesy of Marquette
Yellow Dog Falls. | PURE MICHIGAN

You’ll find plenty of scenic waterfall views

Unique water formations appear all over Michigan and Marquette, thanks to the large glaciers that carved out the topography of the area long ago — including the Great Lakes. Many of the area’s impressive waterfalls are easily accessible with a short hike. From the Yellow Dog River in Big Bay, it’s only a half-mile walk to Yellow Dog Falls. The falls are 50 feet wide with a 30-foot vertical drop and have a distinctive visual feature: one large, solitary boulder sits in the middle of the falls. About two miles south of Marquette, you’ll find Morgan Falls, a 20-foot-tall waterfall that thunders into the Carp River. If you’re itching for a more difficult hike, try Pinnacle Falls, located just southwest of Yellow Dog Falls on Yellow Dog River. After a 15-minute hike down a steep gorge, you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful view of the 25-foot falls.

Post-adventure, reward yourself with a hearty meal at one of Marquette's many cafes, bakeries, or restaurants, or go bar-hopping around the area's breweries and distilleries. It's the perfect way to cap an active and memorable vacation.

Visit this page for more information on Marquette’s natural attractions.