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The Iron Ore Heritage Trail traverses 47 miles across the Marquette Iron Range in Michigan’s beautiful Upper Peninsula. The rail-trail, which was designated as a National Recreation Trail in 2018, shares and celebrates the area’s rich mining history with interpretive signage, artwork and connections to museums along the way. On your journey, you’ll see many relics from a bygone era: mining shafts, forges, furnaces and other historical structures.
The trail follows several former railroads, some dating back to the 1850s, built to carry the iron ore from the mines to the Lake Superior harbor: the Marquette and Western Railroad; the Duluth, South Shore and Atlantic Railway; the Soo Line; and the Lake Superior and Ishpeming Railroad.
Currently, more than half the trail—28 miles from Ishpeming east to Chocolay Township—is fully complete, about half paved and half crushed granite and/or limestone. This section is non-motorized in warm weather and a snowmobile trail from December 1 to March 31 each year.
From Ishpeming west to Republic, the route is an unimproved dirt trail open for hikers, equestrians, mountain bikers and ATV use. This section of the trail travels west from Ishpeming through the townships of Clarksburg, Humboldt, and Champion. In the community of Republic, the trail follows along the northern edge of a pond to its endpoint at a parking lot off Republic Ave.
The western terminus of the upgraded section is the ski town of Ishpeming. The trail is paved through town and a short spur takes trail-goers along Lakeshore Drive up to the Cliffs Shaft Mine Museum, a former mining site featuring buildings and structures from the early 1900s, as well as artifacts, photographs, and mineral collections.
From Ishpeming, the paved trail continues 2.5 miles east to Negaunee, crossing an area that was fenced off by a mining company for decades. This area has the very first iron ore mine of the Lake Superior region, the Jackson Mine, dating back to 1845. On the east end of town, be sure to take the spur to the Iron Industry Museum, which overlooks the Carp River.
As of fall 2022, the trailhead in Negaunee has a wonderful new picnic shelter, bathrooms with running water, and a filtered water refill station. A part of Jackson Mine Park, the trailhead's improvements also included the Jim Thomas Pavilion—named after a Negaunee native who was a dedicated advocate for the Iron Ore Heritage Trail.
From Negaunee, the trail continues its eastward journey 12 miles to Marquette, connecting with the Marquette Multi-Use Path, which offers an additional 19 miles of paved trail to explore the city. This section of the trail includes Pete's Pass, which is a paved, multi-use underpass that takes the Iron Ore Heritage trail under US-41 and provides a safer highway crossing. Marquette is the largest community on the trail and a major port on Lake Superior. The trail continues southeast along the waterfront to end at Kawbawgam Road in Chocolay Township.
Parking is available at a number of locations along the trail. View the TrailLink map for all options and detailed directions. From west to east, parking locations include:
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