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Road Trip Series: Part Three...The Great Lakes Region

Road Trip Series: Part Three...The Great Lakes Region

Road Trip Series: Part Three...The Great Lakes Region.

“You are going on a road trip to Indiana, Michigan, and Minnesota?”

The glazed eye look is easy to spot in people.  And when I told others I was headed out on a 10 day road trip/wilderness adventure with my Dad this was the typical question I received when I told them where we were headed.

But yes we were headed out on an epic adventure and it’s true.  This adventure occurred primarily in the states of Indiana, Michigan, and Minnesota.  And it was more wild & rugged than most would ever believe.

That’s what I love about road trips, especially in America because I live here and it’s so big and open, but really anywhere in the world.  You can go on a trip somewhere and connect with people and a region that you would have never met nor began to understand unless you get in the car and push down on the gas pedal.

Road trips always change me for the better and shift my perspective in a positive way. 

In fact I have never gone on one and come back with some sort of “I wish I hadn’t done that feeling” inside of me.  Isn’t that with everything though? The fact that we hold ourselves back so much on leaning into adventure is baffling to me because when we do it we receive so much!  This trip was no exception.

The reason for the trip was my Dad’s quest to visit all the National Parks located in the lower 48 and my vision to visit all 61 of them.  It would include stops at three of these National Parks located in what I am calling the “Great Lakes Region” because we were constantly on or beside a great lake it seemed.  These are three of the least visited National Parks in the United States but I would say to anyone in the country or even abroad that this road trip I just went on is a sleeping giant for outdoor adventure.  It was simply beautiful, isolated, rugged, and so much more.

Let’s hit some high points real quick on the Great Lakes Road Trip

12 Great Lakes Road Trip Highlights:

  1. Total Days: 11 (for me.) 12 (for my Dad.) I took a one way flight home to Columbus via Minneapolis to get home for an event.  
  2. Total Mileage: 1,526 miles in the car plus 110 miles on a ferry.
  3. Main Destinations: Isle Royale National Park, Copper Harbor Michigan, Indiana Dunes National Park, Voyaguers National Park, International Falls Minnesota.
  4. Favorite stop along the way: The 3.5 hour ferry ride from Copper Harbor Michigan to Isle Royale National Park on Lake Superior. 4-7 foot waves led to about 40% of the riders being somewhat seasick.  I had to suck on ginger bites (known to relax the stomach) and do a 90 minute meditation to prevent me from throwing up over the railing and I have never been seasick my whole life!
  5. Top Outdoor Adventure: 22 Mile Solo Day Hike on Isle Royale National Park that included a summit of Mt Franklin and Mt Obijway.
  6. Biggest Surprise: How beautiful the sand dunes on Lake Michigan are in Indiana Dunes National Park and the variety of beautiful flowers and insects there.  This park is wayyyyyyy cooler than just “a National Park in Indiana, why?”
  7. Eat: The Island View Lodge in International Falls.  It was two days after Labor Day and they were shutting down for the season so we had the place to ourselves.  I had heard about this place from my wife’s family who had been going there for years so I finally got my own cheese curds there!
  8. Best Song on Road Trip Playlist: Farmhouse by Phish while sitting on a dock at three in the morning hoping to scope the Northern Lights.  They didn’t come out but shooting stars and the Milky Way were a good runner up! If you haven’t listened to this song Trey sings “I never ever saw the Northern Lights” in a verse.  I have but not this time!
  9. New friend: Casey and his son who run the amazing Voyaguer Park Lodge near Lake Kabetuwa Minnesota.  Disc golf, s’mores, and kayaks are included in your stay!
  10. Old friends visited: Aunt Maryanne in Pleasant Prarie Wisconsin and my Uncle and Aunt in laws Scott & Chris in International Falls Minnesota.
  11. Read: Fahrenheit 451.  A true classic!
  12. Best Wildlife Sighting: Bull Moose with a four foot wingspan antler right outside of our cabin in Michigan.

What did we do?

Indiana Dunes National Park was the first stop and the short trails, wildflowers, and dunes on Lake Michigan make this a truly underrated National Park.

We then stayed on the northernmost point of Michigan’s Upper Upper Peninsula in the charming small town (year round population of around 500) Copper Harbor Michigan.  They have a small yet tasty brewery, epic mountain bike/running trails, and was Michigan’s first official newspaper when it was a mining boom town in the 1840’s/50’s.  

The Isle Royale Ferry then took us on a 3.5 hour 55 mile journey into Lake Superior.

Why were we going there?

It was to spend four days at Isle Royale National Park.  The least visited National Park in the lower 48 of the United States.  Well what can I say? GOOOOOOOOOO!
It was my 2nd favorite National Park I have ever adventured in and I have been to 49 of them.

There are cabin options if booked a year in advance as well as backpacking/tent options and the season is short so plan ahead.  June thru mid September is all you get there! I wrote more about Isle Royale on my own site HERE.

It was then a ferry road back and a long drive to the Minnesota/Canadian border to explore Voyageurs & the Boundary Waters.  Simply magnificent and beautiful. Hiking trails, kayaking, islands, fishing if that’s your thing, and those Minnesota accents.

This is a gorgeous and kind part of the country that is hard to reach and forgotten by many who don’t live in the upper regions of Michigan/Wisconsin/Minnesota/Iowa, etc.  From kayaking to trail runs to disc golf to fab pizza/cheese curds this area had everything you needed for a fun road trip. I definitely want to go back!

You could turn each of these places into one road trip on their own or take on a few more stops but for 11 days this was not too jam packed nor rushed but we were on the move.  Which is kind of the point of a road trip.

I felt at peace and in love with new outdoor spaces I had never visited.  The next time you are planning a road trip think about one to the “Great Lakes Region”.
I am here to help the planning, comment below with questions.

Thanks for reading and supporting the One80Out family and community!

Because Adventure Travel Feeds the Soul,
Mike Rudd

Mike Rudd is a 3 Time Author, yogi & yoga teacher, outdoor & active events curator, nature junkie, world traveler, hiker, & trail runner. His outdoor adventure community can be found at Hashtag 59 or follow him on Instagram @TheMikeRudd. Spread good vibes.

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