Iron County Attractions
Discover Fun Things To Do in Iron County
Iron County has a number of attractions for visitors to wile away a few hours or even an afternoon of exploring fresh delights. Visit our museums to learn about the area’s rich mining and logging eras, take in an art gallery show or theater production, view a stunning waterfall, or learn about our unique “humungus fungus”- the largest in the world!
Apple Blossom Trail & Heritage Trail
The paved trail (wheelchair accessible) starts across the road from the Iron County Museum in Caspian and weaves its way through areas of beautiful and historical Iron County. The bike path ends at Pentoga Park. It travels along the Iron River and near the site of the original railroad line that carried iron ore from the area. It travels through Caspian to Gaastra and along the original roadbed on 424 to Pentoga Park. The site of Harvey Mellen’s discovery of iron ore in 1851 is on the route. Among the scenic views are the abandoned mine quarry stocked with trout and a view of a small waterfall on the Iron River. There is also a sign at the trailhead speaking the “language” of dogs.
Be-Wa-Bic State Park
A leisurely drive around the 315-acre state park provides an opportunity to enjoy the beautiful natural scenery of the region. Interpretive signage on the upper level near the campgrounds affords the visitor a chance to see how the early settlers cleared the land for lumbering, mining, agriculture and tourism. The state park’s wonderful public log buildings were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s and includes fascinating stonework along the beach and parking lots. State entrance fee required.
Stateline Historical Site Trail
0.5-mile trail starts at the Ottawa National Forest picnic area and boat launch on the southwest end of Brule Lake, headwaters of the Brule River. The serene trail leads to the Historic Treaty Tree and Wisconsin-Michigan overland border, about a 10- to 15-minute hike.
Lake Mary Plains Pathway (also known as Glidden Lake Foot Paths)
Glidden Lake is on Lake Mary Road, south of M-69 about five miles east of Crystal Falls. There are three loops (3.4, 4.5 and 3.9 miles) to these well-marked trails with signs every half mile. The starting point is in the parking area adjacent to Glidden Lake. Cool off after your hike or bike with a dip in Glidden Lake. There’s a small sandy beach just off the parking area. The facility is part of the Copper Country State Forest managed by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment.
West of Iron River on Ottawa Lake Road, off M-73, one mile south of US-2. Ge-Che Trail begins at Lake Ottawa Park boat landing and meanders for 10.8 km between Lake Otttawa and Hagerman Lake. The Bennan Lake Loop (2 miles) and the Ge-Che Loop (2.5 miles) are the most popular. The Lake Ottawa Nature Trail is 1 mile in length.
Brule River Trail starts at the registration booth, crosses County Road 424 and continues to the Brule River a distance of 2.5 miles. The Indian Ceremonial Bowl is a short 1 mile long trail from the registration booth to the Bowl.
Iron County Courthouse
Enjoy an amazing vista of the surrounding area while listening to the chimes from its bell tower. The wealth and pride of the pioneers are revealed through the architecture and construction of their county courthouse. Located in the Historic District, it is the most architecturally significant building in the county. Due to the use of regional materials in its construction and the numerous and varied tributes to the area’s influential cultures, this building is an accurate reflection of the days when Iron was King. Restored and renovated in 2004, the site offers sightseeing tours to the bell tower observation deck with an amazing 150 foot elevation view of the surrounding landscape and provides a self-guided tour though time in the History Room. Listed on both the National and Michigan Registers of Historic Places.
Paint River Boardwalk
The Paint River rises in the west part of Iron County and flows easterly and southeasterly into the Brule River, finally joining the Michigamme River to form the Menominee River. Its bottom is gravel, sand and rock. Some of the feeder streams have trout and there are some trout in the Upper Paint, but the stream is generally known for Smallmouth Bass. The Paint River Boardwalk is located on the east side of the Paint River. Informative Kiosks line the boardwalk making this not only a scenic experience but an educational one as well.
Iron County Historical Museum
Relive the past as you explore the 10-acre outdoor museum on former mining company property. The grounds include 22 buildings that reveal the early pioneer, mining and logging days. Plan to spend the entire day to view Iron County’s largest collection of historic objects and information. Over 100 exhibits include the largest miniature logging display in the world, glass dioramas of underground mining, Native American artifacts, the home of composer Carrie Jacobs-Bond, the Wildlife Art Gallery of Lee LeBlanc, the Giovanelli Italianati Art Gallery and the Bernhardt Contemporary Art Gallery. Other buildings include the Toti Tavern, the Carrie Jacobs Bond House, the St. Mary’s Church, the Brandon Giovanelli House, the Stager Railroad Depot and many more.
Pentoga Park Indian Burial Grounds
Discover the site of a pre-European Native American settlement and permanent area headquarters where Ojibwa bands congregated. Wooden burial structures have endured over time to protect and mark the graves of these ancient bands. When Chief Edwards moved west in 1891, he disposed of these lands with their traditional burial grounds. The county purchased the land in 1924 to develop a Pentoga Park on the beautiful shores of Chicaugon Lake and to preserve the burial grounds as a tribute to Native Americans.
By Mikel B. Classen
“The drums pound out a steady irresistible beat that can be heard across the calm waters of the lake. Long shadows move and mingle with the tall pines and hardwoods. The huge ceremonial fire tinges everything around orange and yellow. The Ojibwa Indians dance in a circle around the fire. The humble village stands silhouetted along the shore where birch bark canoes sit waiting to be taken out on the water for fishing. The ceremony is in honor of one who has passed on to the realm of the Great Spirit. The body had been earlier put to rest in the burial ground on the far ridge. Occasionally mourning wails mingled with the drumbeats…” Read More About Pentoga Park & Indian Burial Grounds By Mikel B Classen.
Alpha Circle Historical District
Relive the early days of an Upper Peninsula village during mine exploration. See a wonderful example of early engineering on this 4 ½-acre site. All the significant public buildings were constructed around a traffic circle. Established in 1914, the same year as the village, the Alpha Circle contains several buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. Several small businesses have sprung up in the former Porter School.
Explore the feeling of early life as residents in a small rural mining town. Originally built in 1900, this Queen Anne Colonial Revival home has been restored and is now a museum. The first floor furnishings and decorations reflect the craftsmanship and culture available at the turn of the century. Six exhibit rooms on the second floor display artifacts of past area influences such as logging and mining, military veterans and the Ojibwa Indians. Be prepared to spend an afternoon exploring the unique gift shop and antique shops in Crystal Falls. Open June1 to Sept. 1, Tues – Sat, 11 a.m. – 4 p.m., or by appointment.( 906) 875-4341 or (906) 875-6026.
Mansfield Location & Pioneer Church
In 1893, the Michigamme River broke through and flooded the underground mine, dooming 27 miners to death. Enjoy the view as you take a stroll across the Michigamme River on the historic concrete-filled spandrel arch bridge built in 1915. Just west of the Mansfield mine disaster you can visit some of the original buildings from the community including the Mansfield Church which was completely restored in 1987 and serves as a landmark and reminder of the small mining settlement. Open all year.
Open Memorial Day for summer months. Tours in winter by appointment. Free admission. The Amasa Museum is located in the Main Street Historical District. The building, formerly the township hall, is a fine example of late 1800s balloon-style architecture. The main floor has many pictorial displays of the mining and logging industries that helped build Amasa plus Amasa School and Triangle Ranch memorabilia. An ongoing renovation of the second floor will result in a replica of “The Streets of Old Amasa.” The importance of Amasa as a majorh ub for logging and rail transportation can be seen in the old depot that stands sturdy against time.
This site is a wonderful example of the many mines that have been reclaimed by nature as she heals the scars of the miner’s pick. Imagine the pumps that worked 24 hours a day to keep the open pits and tunnels dry. This mine produced 1,316,905 tons of iron ore from 1953-58. It had one shaft with two drifts used to drain the 210-foot deep pit. The pit is 1,930 feet long by 750 feet wide. What was once a major mining operation now lends itself to a scuba diver’s and fisherman’s paradise.
Established in 1919, imagine the trip early road engineer Herbert Larson made as he toured around the area. Noting the lack of public rest areas along his way, he became determined to provide a stop for travelers where they could relax, rest and share information before proceeding on their journey. While not the original site, which was on Stager Lake, the State Register sign commemorates Larson’s efforts here as the first roadside picnic site in Michigan and perhaps in the entire U.S. Explore the giant trees in the old growth birch and maple forest surrounding the site.
Lake Ottawa Recreation Area & Campground
A 30-minute hike to “Orville’s Beach” on the Ge-Che Trail (primitive) in the Ottawa National Forest will introduce you to one of the most breath-taking natural views in the county. When you return, walk along the shore of this pristine lake, which archeologists affirm contain the remnants of some of the area’s earliest residents: prehistoric Indians dating back to at least 2,000 years. Several site reconstructions have been created from recent archeological digs sponsored by the U.S. Forest Service.
Mile Post Zero & Treaty Tree
Visit the site where Captain Thomas Cram placed the first marker of the survey point establishing the Wisconsin-Michigan state boundary in 1840. As part of the settlement of the “Toledo War” between Michigan and Ohio, most of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan was granted to Michigan for the “Toledo Strip,” which was granted to Ohio. He made a treaty for passage with Chief Co-Sha-O-Sha and his band of Ojibwa (Chippewa) near a large tamarack tree at the headwaters of the Brule River.
Camp Gibbs Recreation Area
This property was purchased by the U.S. from the Michigan Mineral Land Company in 1934. In 1935, Camp Gibbs was established as a Civilian Conservation Corp camp. Nineteen buildings were constructed consisting of barracks, kitchen, shower room, bakery, garages and storage for the CCC workers. It is a unique example of vernacular American architecture of the period. The material and methods of construction represent a time when frugality was critical to the survival of society. In the 1940s, the State of Michigan Social Welfare Commission used the camp to house indigent people from all over the area.
Harbour House Museum of Crystal Falls, Michigan
The Harbour House Museum is a “hands-on” museum where many activities take place during the summer season. The Harbour House Museum is open from the first Tuesday in June through the last Saturday in August
Split Rock is located near Crystal Falls. A seedling pine grew slowly in the crevice of a rock in which it eventually split. The tree is now dead, but a new seedling is now alive in a different area of the rock.
First Roadside Park
In 1919 the Iron County established the nations first roadside park. It was the first of its kind in America. Since then similar parks have been enjoyed by motorists in most states.
Iron County Waterfalls
Natural attractions can also be enjoyed in Iron County. There are many gorgeous waterfalls such as Bond Falls, Agate Falls, Horserace Rapids, and Canyon Falls which can provide excellent hiking.
Horserace Rapids (photo on right) is south of Crystal Falls, east on U.S. – 2, and is one of the premier destinations for hikers. Follow the road toward the Iron County Airport and south to the rapids. It is a short walk from the parking lot along a well-marked trail to these beautiful rapids.
Iron County offers an immense amount of Upper Michigan Skiiing activities. Down hill skiing, cross-country skiing, white water tubing, snow shoeing, snow boarding, and sledding are very popular in our area and at Ski Brule “Your Snow Resort!”.
Ski Brule will provide the best conditions for skiers and snowboarders at all times. Ski Brule will be the first to open and the last to close. The dedicated snowmaking team ensures this promise. Ski Brule offers a wide range of slopes from beginners all the way to the expert skier and snowboarders. From the moment you step on to the hill, you’ll feel right at home with the friendly family atmosphere that Ski Brule offers its guests. With a wide range of activities like snow tubing on Whitewater and Homestead, to Night Skiing and even a BBQ dinner at Homestead Lodge after a day of hitting the slopes. Ski Brule offers a little bit of everything to make your stay enjoyable and make you want to come back for more!
George Young Recreation Complex with 18 Hole Golf Course
The George Young Recreational Complex is located just off of Michigan Route 424 in the south central part of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula on 3,300 scenic acres bordering on three lakes. The Complex is a not-for-profit corporation, open to the general public, dedicated to recreation, education, and preservation.
It’s facilities include the longest 18 hole golf course in the Upper Peninsula, miles of trails for hiking, cross country skiing, and mountain biking, and a heated indoor swimming pool, with jacuzzi and sauna. Food and beverage are also available in it’s rustic timber and stone clubhouse and lounge for those who use the recreational facilities.
The Championship 18-hole Golf Course opened in May, 1984, and has grown in popularity with each passing year. One of the longest courses in Michigan, the course fulfills the dream of the late George Young to combine his favorite holes from courses around the nation. Golfers of all abilities enjoy this course known for its characteristic large greens. At 7,030 yards the Professional Course challenges even the most accomplished player. The Championship Course is 6,076 yards, while the Standard Course measures 5,388 yards. Each option plays a par of 72. Relax and enjoy a round of golf carved out of the wilderness.
Disc Golf Course
The Tailings is a new 18-hole disc golf course that’s drawn rave reviews since its opening. The course is set along the Apple Blossom Trail and the Iron River, with access in Downtown Iron River. Unique rock formations from the several mines that once thrived here play a role in the difficulty of the course. Start and finish points parallel the Iron River with easy access from the walking trail or the ORV trail. Located just south of the Iron River RV Park near South River Avenue. Check out the reviews on DG Course Review
Located in Iron County of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, the Iron County Heritage Trail is composed of a 36 mile loop connecting 14 premier sites that provide visitors the opportunity to discover the historic and recreation resources of Iron County.
Heritage Trail Locations:
Iron County Heritage Museum
Pentoga Park Indian Burial Grounds
Alpha Circle Historic District
Iron County Courthouse
Mansfield Location & Pioneer Church
Be-Wa-Bic (Bewabic) State Park
Apple Blossom Trail
Lake Ottawa Recreation Area & Campground
Mile Post Zero & Treaty Tree
Camp Gibbs Recreation Area
Explore the route:
Alpha: The Village of Alpha includes the historic Porter School and Alpha Museum, both in the Alpha Historic District. Several buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places. The Village of Alpha was incorporated in 1914, which also marked the opening of the K-12 Alpha Porter School. The last class to graduate from Porter School was in 1967. Several small businesses are now located in the former school, as well as a summer/fall farmer’s market that is hosted on the school grounds. As of the 2010 census, the population is 145.
Amasa: The unincorporated community of Amasa is home to renowned NBA and NCAA basketball flooring manufacturer, Connor Sports Flooring. The community began in 1910 as a Finnish iron mining and logging boom town of just over 1,000 people. Now with a population of just 283, Amasa residents are largely employed in the forest products industry. Attractions include the Amasa Historical Society Museum, which include replicas of a trapper’s cabin and old time barber shop.
Caspian: The City of Caspian’s development mirrors the expansion of the iron ore mining industry on the west side of Iron County at the turn of the century. At one time, six mines operated in the immediate area, including the Caspian from which the settlement took its name in 1913. Caspian was incorporated as a city with a commission-manager form of government in 1950. The city includes the Iron County Multi-Purpose Building/Ice Arena, Apple Blossom Walking and Biking Trail, Caspian Community Center, and an Industrial Park. Caspian is also home to the Iron County Historical Museum that hosts 25 buildings for visitors to explore.
Crystal Falls: Crystal Falls is the county seat of Iron County and was named for the falls on the Paint River. The city’s heritage includes early iron ore mining and timber exploration. The pride of downtown Crystal Falls is the 1890 Romanesque-style Iron County Courthouse, which sits on top of the hill and affords those who tour it a stunning vista of the county. The Harbour House museum is also located within the city. The city owns and operates its own hydro-electric plant and cable television system. Its industrial park is located one-half mile west of town. The local golf course overlooks the Paint River and offers 9-holes of challenging play. As of the 2010 census, the population is 1,469.
Gaastra: Gaastra is named for Douwe Gaastra, a building contractor and real estate speculator who bought the land in 1908 and platted the town. It was incorporated as a village in 1919 and as a city in 1949. As of the 2010 census, the population is 347.
Iron River: Iron River is the largest city in Iron County and is home to the Upper Peninsula Championship Rodeo, which is held in late July each year. Similar to other communities in the county, it owes its existence to the iron first mined here in 1879. In the 2000 election, the adjoining communities of Stambaugh and Mineral Hills were consolidated with Iron River, and together formed the first consolidated community in the State of Michigan. As of the 2010 census, the population is 3,029. The city has a new 18-hole disc golf course (The Tailings), which has already received great reviews. Ski Brule, one of the northwoods busiest ski complexes, is located just south of the city.