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Guide to Iron Mountain? Iron Mountain may be small but it is not to be missed when visiting Upper Michigan. The city has a lot to offer to tourists such as a unique landscape, water activities, and a great selection of museums and historic sites. Did you know Iron Mountain houses one of Northern America’s largest bat colonies? Or that the city has the largest reciprocating steam-driven engine in the United States?
Planning a trip to Iron Mountain and no idea where to start?
Make Iron Mountain your next weekend destination or the first stop on your Upper Michigan road trip. With excellent hiking opportunities and stunning nature, this city will give you a small-town feeling with plenty of things to see and do.
Complete Guide to Iron Mountain, Upper Michigan
Iron Mountain History and Facts
Iron Mountain gets its name from the large quantities of iron ore that were found in the nearby hills. The town was settled in 1879 and a popular location for underground mining until the 1930s. Iron Mountain developed very quickly as people from all around came to work in the mines. The town enjoyed economic wealth during these times as the mining business was very profitable.
After switching to open-pit mining most mining activities were retired in the 1980s when tourism started to develop in the area. Some parts of the historic mines can still be visited today with guided tours offered locally.
Today Iron Mountain has around 7,600 inhabitants and its main industries are tourism and winter sports.
Where is Iron Mountain?
What kind of a guide to Iron Mountain would it be without telling your where it is? Iron Mountain is located in south-western Upper Michigan close to the Wisconsin border. Its proximity to its neighboring state makes it a great first stop for your Upper Michigan road trip and the perfect place to spend a long weekend. It takes just under 1,5 hours to reach Iron Mountain from Marquette and 1 hour and 45 minutes to drive there from Green Bay, Wisconsin.
Why you need to visit Iron Mountain
While Iron Mountain is not actually located on one of the Great Lakes it does have its own smaller lakes close by. Lake Antoine and Fumee Lake are tourist favorites and perfect for swimming, water skiing, and hiking. The area also has some great opportunities for whitewater rafting which is an absolute must-do when visiting Iron Mountain.
Don’t miss out on the famous Millie Hill Bat Cave which is an abandoned mineshaft that now houses one of North America’s largest bat colonies (up to 1 million bats). You can take part in a self-guided tour and see the bats during specific times of the year.
Iron Mountain is home to one of the largest artificial ski jumps in the world, the Pine Mountain Ski Jump where world cup ski jumps are hosted. After all these outdoor activities make a note to visit the WWII Military Museum and Veteran’s Memorial to learn more about Iron Mountain’s history. Another important point of interest in Iron Mountain is the Cornish Pumping Engine and Mining Museum which houses the Cornish Pump, the biggest reciprocating steam-driven engine in the US.
How to get to Iron Mountain
The best way to get to Iron Mountain in Upper Michigan is by car. Since the city lies so close to the Wisconsin border it is easy to reach even if you’re coming from further away. Highway 2 runs right through Iron Mountain so it’s easy and convenient to drive to.
If you aren’t keen on a long drive or are coming from an international destination you can always catch a flight to Iron Mountain. Ford Airport is located within the city limits and offers a limited amount of regional flights as well as air taxis. If none of the available routes suit your needs consider catching a flight to a larger airport nearby such as Milwaukee, Minneapolis, or even Chicago and then renting a car on arrival for the ultimate Mid-west road trip.
Are you traveling on a budget? The cheapest way to get to Iron Mountain might just be by bus. Both Indian Trails, as well as Greyhound, offer regular services to Iron Mountain. Find out more on the Greyhound website.
How to get around Iron Mountain
Iron Mountain has next to no public transport. The city is quite small so you can get around on foot to see some of the main sights located close by. However, keep in mind that many tourist attractions won’t be within walking distance and you will eventually need a car if you plan to really explore the area. Definitely consider renting one when you arrive.
When is the best time to visit Iron Mountain?
The best time to visit Iron Mountain is without a doubt summer. Most tourists tend to plan their trip to the area in June, July, or August when the weather reaches temperatures of 77° Fahrenheit (25° Celcius). While you might encounter some rain it will be mainly dry and a great time for water sports or outdoor activities.
Michigan is known for its beautiful fall when you’ll get to see the forests in all their colors. The months of September and October can be a great time to visit Iron Mountain for some cooler temperatures and fewer tourist crowds.
Upper Michigan has very cold and harsh winters with lots of snowfall. Some tourist attractions might be closed during this time but you can still enjoy activities such as skiing or snowshoeing. Be careful when driving in icy conditions and always put your own safety first.