Michigan : Safety by City
- Ann Arbor
- Battle Creek
- Farmington Hills
- Flat Rock
- Glen Arbor
- Grand Rapids
- Mackinac Island
- Mackinaw City
- Port Huron
- Sault Ste. Marie
- Sterling Heights
- Traverse City
If you ever want a job that soothes your soul, become a travel safety writer for the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
Exploring cities like Ironwood truly makes you crave the fresh air and rugged landscape of the Western UP, far away from text messages and overflowing email inboxes.
To be clear, you’ll really need to like the outdoors to enjoy all Ironwood has to offer.
Ironwood is four hours from Minneapolis and nine hours from Detroit.
It sits right on the Wisconsin border in Gogebic County.
Ironwood visitors are less than 30 minutes from the Lake Superior shores with superior outdoor activities by land and water.
This small town of 5,000 people doesn’t leave anything missed.
If you forget something or don’t want to carry a bunch of outdoor gear, you have some of the most rugged and durable sporting goods stores possible.
The downtown offers plenty of belly-filling and carb-loading options with cold brews or hot drinks after a day in the wild.
Ironwood has some important in-town places to see, like a park memorializing a mining disaster from the 1920s and the “World’s Tallest Indian” statue.
Warnings & Dangers in Ironwood
OVERALL RISK : LOW
There's a great chance you'll run into a wolf pack than a criminal here, with an incredibly low crime rate. Just three violent crimes were reported in 2021, and all of those were in private homes. With the abundance of outdoor activities, there are inherent risks, but enough safety training and guidance to help novices and experts.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
You're really going to need a car here. There's a small public shuttle that goes between two nearby towns, but taxis and rideshares are going to be hard to find. You won't be able to get to the shore or mountains without a vehicle. Be sure it's an all-wheel or four-wheel drive with snow tires in the winter.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW
This is a very low risk. You're more likely to have a poorly packed backpack with food inside stolen by a bear than a person. Pack for safety against humans and wildlife.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : LOW
This is one of the snowiest places in Michigan, getting almost 17 feet of annual snowfall. Cold weather, including dangerously cold temperatures, can happen from October through May. Avalanche and flooding risks are other factors. The risk is higher for those who aren't familiar with outdoor weather, but everyone should respect the powerful risks of winter weather.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
Ironwood has seen two robberies since 2011, so the risk is low. Even across Gogebic County, there has only been one robbery since 2011.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
This is another low risk. I can't emphasize enough how rural this location is, which is part of the appeal for outdoor lovers. It's also one of the safety features that keep terrorists away. The real Lone Wolf risk here is an actual lone wolf separated from its pack.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
Phone, email, and snail-mail scams are the only risks here, and those will only impact locals. If you aren't staying at one of the many hotels in town, confirm any rental home has the proper license. Never wire money to reserve a rental. Book campgrounds through the park service, as no private vendors will offer that service legally.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
There's a low risk provided the women know about outdoor safety. I consider myself a pretty rugged outdoor-loving female, but even some of these wilderness areas would prompt me to take a few safety courses in this unique terrain.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
The 2021 Water Quality Report shows no violations and full compliance in all required categories. Michigan has a statewide concern about lead in pipes with a robust replacement plan. The city of Ironwood details its plan in that report. To avoid lead exposure, let a stagnant faucet run for up to two minutes before consuming or using it. Boiling water won't remove the lead content.
Safest Places to Visit in Ironwood
TravelIronwood.com is the official tourism site luring you to “Find Your North.”
Look for the Pure Michigan logo on Michigan travel sites for authenticity.
To get in the U.P. mood, check out the webcam section – you might even be lucky enough to catch the Northern Lights.
For what it’s worth, U.P. is said as “You-pea” and not “Up.”
You can also look at the Ironwood Chamber of Commerce website.
Let’s start in the town. Most of the hotels are along U.S. Route 2.
If you pass the fairgrounds heading west, you’ve left Ironwood and are likely in Wisconsin.
Downtown is near Lowell and Ayer streets.
You have several historical places to visit:
- Ironwood Theater: This ornate theater was built in 1928 and still has shows year-round. Be sure to look at the ceiling to see the intricacy of this masterpiece.
- Ironwood Depot Museum: Bringing the railroad to Ironwood meant the mining industry boomed as products could be shipped out while more workers could be brought in. A history of railroad and industry can be found here, along with the Chamber of Commerce.
- Miners Mural: Stop by the intersection of McLeod Avenue and Suffolk Street to see the mural that pays homage to the miners who worked below ground in challenging conditions.
Miners Memorial Park was once the site of the mines.
Nature filled in the holes, and the community built up this park with 165 trails for hiking, biking, snowshoeing, skiing, and sledding.
This is a great starter pack for novice adventurers.
In 2023 and beyond, a $300,000 grant will lead to more expansion and connectivity to the rest of the town.
Arts events are held here, and community events, like a candlelight snowshoe trek, are offered throughout the year.
If you aren’t familiar with Stormy Kromer, you have even more of a reason to tour the factory in Ironwood.
Just about everyone wears a Stormy Kromer wool hat in Michigan, and the factory with the attached store will show you how it’s done.
A great story rests under the hat design, but let’s save that for the tour.
We have one more stop before we leave town.
The Hiawatha statue standing 53 feet tall is a great Instagram moment and a slice of roadside attraction in America.
The recently-restored statue is a symbol of peace and unity.
Let’s hit the slopes, shall we?
Within 20 minutes of Ironwood, you have plenty of options.
Here they are in order of closest to farthest:
- Mt. Zion Ski Hill
- Wolverine Nordic Tracks
- Big Powderhorn Mountain Resort
- Black River Snow Basin
- Snowriver Mountain Resort
If you make it to Snowriver Resort, stop in Wakefield to see the Root Beer Falls.
Cooper Peak gets its own paragraph because this place takes snow adrenaline to a new level.
It will soon be (or might be by the time you get there) the largest ski-jumping hill in the world.
A $20 million infusion will create a year-round snow jump attraction.
You can’t be afraid of heights for this.
It’s an 800-foot ascent to the elevator, which then goes up 18 stories to an observation deck.
You still have eight more stories to go before getting to the ski jump.
Ok, I’m dizzy just writing that.
Let’s move on.
Black River Harbor takes you to where the river meets the lake.
If you want to access Lake Superior, this is the place to be.
Don’t let the odd coloring scare you off – that’s from the tannin in the woods, which you’ve likely already sipped in a glass of wine or a beer.
This is a great place for wilderness views, beaches, camping, boating, or kayaking.
Don’t miss Rainbow Falls on your way to the harbor.
View the Waterfall Guide on the tourism website to choose from dozens of options.
Little Girls Point, Park & Beach is a must-see for rockhounds.
You’d be well served to study yooperlite to harvest this glowing rock (under fluorescent light).
Other beautiful rounded rocks worn down by lake water are abundant here.
Camping is allowed, but this is a very rural area with few amenities.
An hour from Ironwood is the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, aka “The Porkies.”
I hope you have that waterfall map because there are 90 of them to see here across 60,000 acres.
The park has several lakes and peaks throughout.
This is a backcountry, remote area, so plan your path ahead of time – and bring bear spray.
Porcupine Mountains Ski Area is on the east side of the park.
You can also take a Superior road trip by tackling the Lake Superior Circle Tour.
This trail around the lake’s rim goes through three states and two countries (bring your passport and visa).
Ironwood also offers some of the best places in the country to see the Northern Lights.
You should plan to stay overnight, but you can’t plan too far ahead of time since the forecast for the lights happens no more than 48 hours out.
Places to Avoid in Ironwood
You won’t have to worry about dangerous neighborhoods or bad parts of the town.
Even if this was a dangerous town, it’s not big enough to have a bad part.
Visiting a safe place doesn’t mean you should let your guard down.
Always practice smart personal safety.
With so much backcountry and so many rural spaces, it’s important to research each location before you go.
Look for things like:
- Admission Fees
- Camping Fees/Reservation Requirements
- Cell Phone Coverage Map (for your own provider)
- Seasonally Scheduled Trail Closings
- Sources To Get Updated Trail/Slope Info
- A Printed List of Emergency Service Contacts
If a park or preserve has a visitor’s center, use it. Stop by, introduce yourself, tell them where you are going, and ask all the safety questions you can think of.
Also, look for social media pages for each location to get advice from others who’ve made the treks.
Most locations will have daily updates on trail conditions.
When in doubt of your own skills, hire an adventure company to be your tour guide.
Using a company like Fox Hill Adventures in Ironwood, you can tell them what you’d like to do, your skill level, and your concerns, and they’ll put together the perfect trip for you in any season.
Near “The Porkies,” check out Hamilton’s North Coast Adventure Rentals.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Ironwood
- Ironwood has a Public Safety Department, which includes the police and fire departments. The Gogebic County Sheriff oversees the areas beyond the city limits. Park Rangers are considered law enforcement in Michigan state parks.
- Download the Ironwood GO app for dining, lodging, and activity information. You can also search for weekly deals and discounts.
- Use the CodeRED app to get emergency alerts in this region. It’s critical you stay aware of weather risks, storm damage, and road closures. You should also bring a battery-powered NOAA weather radio with you into the wilderness. Make sure you get it programmed at the Public Safety Department, EOC, or sporting goods stores.
- Michigan State Parks requires a recreation passport for entry. You can pay $11 a day or $39 for an annual fee. The annual option can be purchased online, but the daily pass can be purchased at the park. Check the Department of Natural Resources website for other passport-issuing locations.
- Presque Isle is a very common name, and that’s before you leave Michigan. While the Presque Isle River runs through the Porcupine mountains, it’s also the name of a county and a township. Then there’s Presque Isle, Maine. To avoid confusion, use “Porcupine Mountains” in any search you do for “Presque Isle,” otherwise, you might be making reservations on Lake Huron, on the lower peninsula of the state.
- Michigan State Park & Harbor Reservations is where you’ll make campground reservations. That goes for even backcountry sites. You can’t just show up and camp.
- In general, you can take up to 25 pounds of rocks or stones from Michigan State Parks, but you can’t take anything from a park under the National Park Service umbrella. Check with the county rules before you head out. At Little Girls County Park, you’ll likely want to take some of the great agates and yooperlites, but just confirm you’re compliant with the laws.
- Gray Wolves inhabit this area, with as many as 600 across the UP. Wolves aren’t likely to be seen by humans and can smell you from miles away. If you go into the woods with a dog, keep them on a leash. Wolves have killed more than 70 dogs since 2009. Five of those were in Gogebic County. Hunting dogs are most likely to be attacked.
- Black Bears are also in this region, but they tend to stay away from humans too. If you do encounter a bear, back away slowly, speaking in a normal voice. Should they keep coming toward you, make as much noise as possible. You can also bring bear spray, which is only deployed when a bear attack is imminent.
- Gogebic County is one of four in Michigan in the Central Time Zone. Any place north of the county is in the Eastern Time Zone. The other three counties are the southernmost in the UP. This could impact reservations and tour schedules, so pay attention to the time zone, listed as EDT, EST, CST, or CDT.
So... How Safe Is Ironwood Really?
Ironwood is a safe, albeit very rural, community.
You can count violent crime counts each year on one or two hands.
There has been just one homicide since 2011, and that was a murder-suicide of an elderly couple in poor health.
Theft rates are low, with just three car burglaries and 25% of the thefts being shoplifting.
The wilderness risks are the biggest concern here.
Even those who love winter could find the bitterly cold winter temperatures challenging, especially when skiing down a hill.
You truly need to layer up and take frequent breaks.
Don’t explore beyond your ability to stay warm, hydrated, and moving.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has plenty of information about wilderness, wildlife, and extreme weather safety.
You should spend several hours studying the unique elements of the U.P.
The department offers several resources for “Wilderness Wisdom,” including rental guides, outdoor skills classes, “Becoming an Outdoors Woman” class, and water safety guidance.
Even if you aren’t a hunter, you should still know the seasons since you might be exploring a hunting region.
You must know signs of weather-related health issues, from heat exhaustion to hypothermia.
The DNR also has a guide to Lake Superior safety, including swimming guidelines and how to use GPS.
Knowing the coordinates of a location will help when mapping systems can’t find rural locations.
If you’re an avid outdoor person, you’ll love the abundance of activities to do here, but only go as extreme as the least experienced person in your group.
How Does Ironwood Compare?
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- Visas - The park passport is really just a park pass, so don't get that confused with the actual passport you need to enter the United States if you're an international traveler. You'll also need a visa, which can take a long time. Start planning now. For those going to Canada from Michigan, check the requirements with the Canada Border Services Agency.
- Currency - You'll only be able to use the U.S. Dollar here. You should exchange currency before you arrive to pay the lowest fees, but certainly, take care of it before you get to the small town of Ironwood. You should have some cash in case credit card machines go down or for parks that only take cash.
- Weather - Not to beat a frozen snowman, but you really need to layer up in the winter. You can bring your own layers or warm clothing and buy more when you arrive, or pack extra (which could lead to higher baggage fees). Summers are warm, but rarely above 80º(F). You'll want supportive hiking boots and break those shoes in before you arrive to avoid swollen and blistered feet. Always plan to dress in layers and then peel them off as needed. Bring bug spray and sunscreen.
- Airports - Gogebic-Iron County Airport is just seven miles north of Ironwood, with service to Minneapolis, Chicago, or Denver. You can also use the Rhinelander–Oneida County Airport in Wisconsin, about 90 minutes south. If you want to choose a major airport, Minneapolis-St. Paul International is the closest at four hours southwest.
- Travel Insurance - Consider visitor medical insurance and travel insurance to cover any accidents, delays, or cancelations along the way. Some companies offer ski insurance since you'll waive liability with the paperwork you sign at any resort.
Ironwood Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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