The Great Northern Route

The westernmost UP town is Ironwood (pop. 5,387), which, along with sleepy Bessemer and rough-and-tumble Hurley over the Wisconsin border, was the center of the Gogebic Range iron-mining district. The area’s population now is about a fifth of what it was during the 1920s peak, and these mountain towns have moved on from mining to a more leisurely occupation: downhill skiing. Within a few miles are some of the Midwest’s largest ski resorts, all benefiting from the vertiginous topography and the average 200 inches of annual snowfall. Most of these ski areas, like Indianhead (906/229-5181 or 800/346-3426), Double-As summer mountain biking centers, and rental shops line US-2.

The center of Ironwood is easy to miss, but it’s worth the quick trip along the US-2 Business Loop to see the old-fashioned business district, which fills a few blocks around the art deco Ironwood Theatre movie palace. In a small hillside park just south of downtown, don’t miss the absolutely huge 52-foot-tall statue of Hiawatha, the fictional hero of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s famous poem.

The place to eat in Ironwood is Joe’s Pasty Shop (116 W Aurora St., 906/932-4412, daily breakfast and lunch), two blocks off US-2, serving pasties since 1946. For breakfast, try the pasties filled with eggs and cheese.