Take A Road Trip to the Ghost Towns of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

The streets of the Upper Peninsula may not be heavily populated, but there’s an engaging storytelling aesthetic in desolate areas.

Courtesy of the Detroit Free Press

Need an escape from the chaos of city life? Ready for some ‘me time‘? Michigan’s Upper Peninsula could be your rescue. 

The streets are described as ghostly, a result of the sudden end to the mining that took place in the area for many years.

“When the jobs go away, everyone flees,” Free Press writer John Carlisle says. “There are these towns that were home to tens of thousands of people, that are now empty.” 

Nevertheless, there are still adventures to be had on this chill excursion. And according to Carlisle, it takes place in three main destination areas: Marquette,  Munising and Houghton, a cultural hub in the Keweenaw Peninsula (fun fact: Keweenaw is home to the oldest and largest lava flow known to Earth. See a map of destinations in the Keweenaw Peninsula below). 

“To me, Houghton is the coolest, it’s a great launching point,” Carlisle says. “Everything’s red up there because of the mining, the copper and iron that’s left in the soil. The buildings are 150-years-old.” 

Carlisle recently went on a reporting trip to the Upper Peninsula. Read that and watch a video documenting the experience here.

The streets of the Upper Peninsula may not be heavily populated, but there’s an engaging storytelling aesthetic in desolate areas. The barren spaces, abandoned buildings and landscape give clues as to the place’s past, which can also shed light on its present and future. Perhaps, that‘s an aspect as to why remaining residents still consider the low-key destination home. 

CultureShift spoke with Carlisle to learn more about the ghost towns, hidden gems and all the grit and beauty the Upper Peninsula has to offer.  

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Click the player above to hear WDET’s Amanda LeClaire talk with John Carlisle on the beauty and history of the Upper Peninsula.


  • Amanda LeClaire
    Amanda LeClaire is an award-winning host and producer of CultureShift on 101.9 WDET-FM Detroit’s NPR station. She’s a founding producer of WDET’s flagship news talk show Detroit Today, and a former host/reporter for Arizona Public Media. Amanda is also an artist, certified intuitive and energy healer, and professional tarot reader.