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Planning a trip to Ironwood, and don’t know where to start?
Ironwood may be one of the snowiest places in Michigan in winter but you’d be surprised how much this town can change during the summer months. Did you know that Ironwood has the only ski flying hill outside of Europe? This fascinating structure hasn’t been active since 1994 but is accessible to tourists who can take an elevator to the top to enjoy the highest 360-degree vista in the Midwest.
Ironwood is a tourist favorite for stunning hikes, skiing, and historic sightseeing. The area is rich in history and culture which makes it the perfect weekend getaway. So what are you waiting for? Add Ironwood to your bucket list and make your next trip to Upper Michigan perfect.
The Most Complete Guide to Ironwood, Upper Michigan
Ironwood History and Facts
Ironwood was settled in 1885 and named after the local mining captain James “Iron” Wood. The town was founded due to the large amounts of iron ore that were discovered in the area, making it a prosperous mining location. By the early 1920s, more than 15,000 people were living in Ironwood, three times as many as there are today. Many of the mineworkers were immigrants with a large percentage being from Nordic countries like Finland and Sweden.
The cost of underground mines became unsustainable over time and problems like collapsing ground in the area became an issue. After initial projects to resettle parts of Ironwood, mining was eventually ceased in the area, with the last iron mine closing in 1965. Ironwood is one of the snowiest places in Upper Michigan so winter sports became a popular activity and tourism quickly became the main industry.
Where is Ironwood?
The city of Ironwood is located on the western border of the Upper Michigan Peninsula on the Montreal River very close to Wisconsin. It lies 15 miles from the shore of Lake Superior and is a great first stop for your Upper Michigan road trip. You can reach Ironwood in around 3 hours from Eau Claire and 4 hours from Minneapolis. If you’re coming from the other direction of the peninsula it will take you around 2 hours to drive to Ironwood from Houghton and around 6 hours from Saint Ignace which sits on the other end of Upper Michigan.
Why you need to visit Ironwood
Ironwood is the perfect place to start off your Upper Michigan road trip. This little city is Upper Michigan’s worst-kept tourist secret with an amazing selection of attractions such as the unique Copper Peak, the only ski flying hill outside of Europe. If you are brave enough to go all the way to the top you’ll be rewarded with incredible views of the surrounding forests and will even be able to see Lake Superior.
Take a few days to truly appreciate the stunning nature and wildlife that Ironwood has to offer. Explore the many hiking trails with hidden waterfalls and swimming spots. You’ll come across sandy beaches, traditional bridges, and incredible views of the scenery. Why not make it a camping trip while you are there? You’ll find a great selection of campsites near Ironwood.
Once you’ve had enough of the great outdoors it’s time to enjoy Ironwood’s culture and history. You’ll find historic buildings, museums, art installations, and great photo spots in downtown Ironwood. All you need to make your trip perfect.
How to get to Ironwood
The best way to get to Ironwood is by car. Highway 1 runs to the city which makes it quick and easy to reach. Due to its proximity to the Wisconsin border, you can conveniently drive there with your own car if you’re coming from nearby.
If you’re coming from further away you could catch a flight to Ironwood. Gogebic-Iron county airport is just a 10-minute drive outside of the city and offers regular flights to larger cities like Chicago or Minneapolis.
Both Greyhound and Indian Trails have bus routes that will take you directly to Ironwood. Keep in mind that this could involve multiple stopovers and it might take you some time to get there. However, getting to Ironwood by bus will most likely be the cheapest form of transport. Click here to find out more about routes and prices.
How to get around Ironwood
There are some public buses available in Iron Wood but the routes are very limited and vary according to demand. You shouldn’t rely on these buses to see the surrounding area. The best way to see Ironwood and its attractions are by car. If you are unable to drive to Upper Michigan yourself definitely consider renting a car when you arrive so you can enjoy a flexible time schedule.
When is the best time to visit Ironwood?
The best time to visit Upper Michigan is in summer or fall when temperatures are mild and nature is at its most beautiful. Most people tend to visit Ironwood in June, July, or August when temperatures reach up to 75° Fahrenheit (24° Celcius). You could also choose to plan your trip to Ironwood during Spring when you’ll have great conditions for hiking or exploring. April and May could be a great choice as there will be fewer tourists and cheaper accommodation prices. Keep in mind that you might encounter some rain but you’ll hopefully still be able to enjoy a good number of sunny days.
The winters in Ironwood are cold and snowy. Don’t let this put you off from seeing the area during the winter months though. This is the best time for skiing, snowmobiling, or simply sitting in one of the many cafes and restaurants with a hot cup of coffee. Get cozy and enjoy the winter wonderland on your trip to Upper Michigan in the colder months.