Take In Breathtaking Lake Views On This Midwest Road Trip Route

The Midwest may not have mountains or oceanfront beaches, but it does have lakes — the Great Lakes, to be more specific. Though all five of these can be seen from space, by far the largest is Lake Superior. At 31,700 square miles, it is the world's largest freshwater lake and makes up 10 percent of the world's fresh water. If that is not reason enough to visit, its surrounding wilderness and rocky coastline make for an incredible and beautiful road trip around the entire lake.

The Lake Superior Circle Tour around the lake's border brings road trippers into Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and even Canada. You can begin the trip at any point along the highways that border the lake, but a beautiful place to start is Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (pictured above) in Michigan's upper peninsula. This place really has it all: cliffs, beaches, waterfalls, and forests. Each season also brings new sights and activities from camping to skiing, not to mention greenery which becomes gorgeous fall foliage. There are also boat and kayak tours which present wide views of the striking cliffs.

Hike near Marquette, Michigan for views of Lake Superior

Head west to the quaint town of Marquette, Michigan for a scenic, wooded drive on the Mount Marquette Loop and up to Mt. Marquette Overlook. Closer to the town is the Wright Street Falls, and additional easily accessible nature in Marquette is just five minutes away at the Noquemanon North Trails Trailhead on Big Bay Road, perfect for mountain biking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and hiking near the Dead River. Further north on this road is Sugarloaf Mountain. There is a parking lot near its trailhead and at the top (pictured above), there are beautiful forested views surrounding Lake Superior.

Wisconsin's section of Lake Superior features a unique art attraction in the city of Ashland. Less than one mile from the lake's shore is the Ashland Mural Walk. The murals along these streets showcase Ashland's history through depictions of railroad workers, lumberjacks, and beloved Ashland buildings. Artists Kelly Meredith and Susan Prentice Martinsen painted the murals and they are visible free of charge all day, every day. Start the walk at the intersection of Main Street and Ellis Avenue and head east on Main Street. The nearby Ashland Historical Museum offers more of the area's history, including women's military uniforms and model trains.

Head north to the Split Rock Lighthouse in Minnesota

West from Wisconsin along the Lake Superior Circle Tour takes road trippers to Duluth, Minnesota. This marks a starting point for the 154-mile-long North Shore Scenic Drive, a shortened version of the Lake Superior Circle Tour for those who do not want to do the full 1,300 miles. One of Duluth's claims to fame is that it is the birthplace of singer-songwriter Bob Dylan. Fans can visit Dylan's childhood home in Duluth. As for nature, some of Lake Superior's shores are rocky, but Park Point in Duluth has fine sand perfect for relaxation.

Follow Highway 61 along Lake Superior's north shore to Split Rock Lighthouse. This lighthouse is more than 100 years old and is perched at the top of a 130-foot cliff which drops straight into the lake. The nearby Pebble Beach gives wonderful views of the lighthouse, as does the overlook from Highway 61. Both the Minnesota section of the Lake Superior Circle Tour and North Shore Scenic Drive end with Grand Portage State Park. The trail leading to High Falls within the park is less than one mile and includes a boardwalk for easier access.

Pukaskwa National Park is perfect for paddling

Past Grand Portage State Park is the section of Lake Superior which borders Canada. While the terrain may not change too significantly, you will notice that some local radio stations are in French on this side of the border. The largest Canadian city on Lake Superior is Thunder Bay. This city blends its early 1800s fur trading history with that of the Anishinaabe indigenous people at the Fort William Historical Park. While learning about such history, be sure to check out the park's massive telescope at the David Thompson Astronomical Observatory.

Just as the Lake Superior Circle Tour begins to head back south toward the United States, Pukaskwa National Park comes into view. A significant highlight of the park is the White River Suspension Bridge Trail, which offers 360-degree views of the park, including Chigamiwinigum Falls. Back down to the water of Lake Superior, this national park is popular for canoeing or kayaking. However, backcountry paddling is recommended only for experienced paddlers. For a more relaxing end to your Lake Superior road trip, paddlers of all levels of expertise can enjoy canoeing and paddleboarding in the calmer waters of Hattie Cove. Pukaskwa National Park even has rental equipment.