Opinion: What ‘Up North’ Really Means

My first year at Albion was a whirlwind of new things — a new town, new friends and despite being from Michigan, eight hours from home. Being a Yooper I’d never spent much time “under the bridge” with the “Trolls” as we refer to them in the Upper Peninsula.

The more time I spent down under, I’d hear my friends talking about their exciting journeys “up north.” Getting excited, I’d ask them where in the U.P. they went. I’d get blank stares and replies such as, “Uh…Traverse City” or “Gaylord.”

Dumbfounded, I started asking around more and more and came to realize that a lot of these people thought “up north” meant just going further up in the mitten. Conferring with my Yooper friends, they were just as shocked as I was to realize that these people thought “up north” was anything other than the U.P. And worse, many of them had never even been to the U.P., couldn’t name one town, or most shocking of all – weren’t even sure what the U.P. was (seriously).

As I finish my last semester here at Albion, I still hear many people refer to “up north” as just moving along up the mitten and never crossing into the U.P. So I thought I’d help set the record straight on what many believe “up north” to actually be.

While moving up the mitten, you are indeed going north, however, truly being able to say you were “up north” is when you cross the magnificent Mackinac Bridge, pay your $4 entrance fee and pass the “Welcome to Michigan’s Upper Penninsula” sign.

As I said before, you can move north in lower Michigan, however, that should be referred to as “Northern Lower Michigan” or “going up north in lower Michigan.’ Simply stating that you are going “up north” refers to the, sometimes neglected, U.P.

The website Yooper Steez attempted to put this matter to rest back in 2008 by finding the latitudinal points in Michigan. After a lot of calculations, which you can read about here, they came up with the following map divided into northern, central and southern Michigan based on their findings.


According to their extensive calculations and the map above, the only county in the Lower Peninsula that could even claim to be “up north” would be Emmet County at the very top of the mitten.

There’s even a Facebook page dedicated to making the meaning of “up north” clear stating, “Up north is the Upper Peninsula! It means crossing THE bridge. So if you want to go up north, be sure to cross the Mighty Mac!”

With tons of reasons to visit Michigan’s true North, like viewing the Northern Lights above Lake Superior, watching the dog sled races in February, going to Pictured Rocks, watching gorgeous sunsets over the lake and more, you should really consider going to the real “up north” of Michigan — the Upper Peninsula.

About Erin Mahaney 7 Articles
Erin Mahaney is a senior at Albion College from Michigan's Upper Peninsula. She is pursuing a Dual Bachelor of Arts in English with a Professional Writing Emphasis and Communication Studies. She spent a month in Costa Rica in May of 2015 teaching English to elementary school children and college students. Her hobbies include fly fishing, being in nature, knitting, and managing her rescue cat's Instagram.


  1. This is true of a lot of people. I have been to the UP many times as a kid and alumnus. St. Ignace, Whitefish Point, Isle Royal, Tahquamenon Falls(worth the trip, second biggest falls east of the mississipi). I started going up north with my Dad when he would give lectures at Michigan Tech as a kid and me and my mom would explore Copper Country. Oswald’s Bear Ranch is pretty cool too

  2. I feel like all of the upper peninsula should be confused up north, on the map Menominee, the most southern city in the U.P isn’t included in Northern Michigan

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