There’s a lot to see on the other route up the Keweenaw Peninsula, Michigan 26. This route provides access to postcard-worthy Eagle Harbor Lighthouse, and the charming towns of Eagle Harbor and Eagle River, a couple of nice waterfalls, and some delicious sweet treats baked by monks. Oh, and one stunning view of Lake Superior after another.
Eagle Harbor is located on the north side of the Keweenaw Peninsula. From Copper Harbor, take M-26 west along the coast. Before you get to the town of Eagle Harbor, you’ll be able to see the Eagle Harbor Lighthouse, and it will be pretty obvious which way to go to get there. Instead of making a big left curve to stay on M-26, turn right and drive towards the lighthouse.
To reach Jacob’s Falls and eventually the town of Eagle River, stay on M-26 westbound along the coast.
Just before you get to the town of Eagle Harbor, you pass the actual harbor of Eagle Harbor. From the side of M-26, you’ll have a postcard view across the water towards the Eagle Harbor Lighthouse.
Make your way onto the grounds of the lighthouse, and you’ll discover there’s much more to do than just climb the lighthouse stairs. There are several buildings on the lighthouse grounds that have been turned into museum space.
In one of those buildings, you’ll find an unlikely shipwreck survivor — a 1927 Chrysler. The City of Bangor, a ship carrying 220 of them bound for Duluth, ran aground in November, 1926. The ship’s crew was rescued by a team from Eagle Harbor, and the cars ended up here.
Eagle Harbor Lighthouse
Inside the Eagle Harbor Lighthouse itself, many of the rooms have been restored to what they would have looked like when a lightkeeper lived here. The current lighthouse was built in 1871 (replacing one built in 1851). It was electrified in 1930 and automated in 1980.
It looks like the lightkeeper had some comfortable living quarters!
You’ll find a Fresnel lens on display here. The light in the tower was replaced in 1968 with the kind of beacon you’d find at an airport.
You can climb the spiral staircase, but during my visit, the top of the tower was closed.
Outside the lighthouse, there’s more to see — like this wood-stock “common anchor”, raised from the water of Great Sand Bay (just west of Eagle Harbor). It’s believed to be from a shipwreck from either 1894 of 1898.
This buoy would have been equipped with a bell when deployed on the water. It weighs about 50,000 pounds.
Once you’re done learning about Lake Superior’s nautical history, get back in your land-based vehicle and head west on M-26. The next stop is…
One of the Keweenaw’s more impressive waterfalls is located right by the side of M-26 — you can’t miss it as you drive by.
Jacob’s Falls was surrounded by just a splash of fall colors during my visit in the first week of October 2017. A week or two later, and it would probably be exploding with Autumn beauty.
When you stop to check out Jacob’s Falls, you’ll also want to pay a visit to the monks at the Jampot, a heavenly bakery run by the local monastery.
You’ll find the bakery filled with amazingly delicious muffins and brownies, as well as hundreds of jars of jams — made from everything from grape to gooseberry.
Eagle River Falls
Eagle River is a pretty small town — just a couple of blocks wide and deep. But there’s one attraction you should check out here — Eagle River Falls. Turn into the parking lot just before you cross the river, and walk across this historic bridge (now open to pedestrians only)…
… for the best view of Eagle River Falls. There was just a slight hint of fall colors in the first week of October. I would have loved to have seen it a week or two later.
As far as I know, there’s no way to get closer to the falls, so you’ll probably have to be satisfied with the view from the bridge.
From Eagle River, M-26 curves back inland, and reconnects with US 41 – the main road off the peninsula. Instead, I decided to follow the coastline a bit further, on Five Mile Point Road.
Sand Hills Lighthouse at Five Mile Point
There isn’t a whole lot to see on Five Mile Point Road. The coastline is mostly filled with private residences. And, I soon discovered that even the Sand Hills Lighthouse is also private. A sign at the driveway greets visitors but advises them that you’re only allowed to visit during certain hours. The rest of the time, the lighthouse serves as an inn, with rooms available starting at $165. Not wanting to intrude, I took a couple of pictures and then headed back to Eagle River.
Because my earlier drive up US 41 was rainy, I made another loop out to Copper Harbor and back around again on M-26.
I was trying to find a good spot to watch the sun set. This spot, somewhere along M-26, was pretty nice, but I kept going…
… and I ended up in Eagle River again. I found a beachfront spot near the outlet of Eagle River (the actual river, in the town of Eagle River). It was pretty, but the wind was howling, and I could barely open my car door, let along get out and take pictures. So, I decided to call it a night and drove back to Hancock/Houghton.
Here’s a look at the drive through Eagle Harbor and Eagle River on M-26:
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The Bottom Line
You definitely need to include a drive along M-26 as part of your visit to the Keweenaw Peninsula, even if it’s nothing more than a return loop route, after taking US 41 out to Copper Harbor. If you have more time, visit the Eagle Harbor Lighthouse, as well as the waterfalls. And be sure to get something delicious at the Jampot!