Harmony. Connection. Awe. The Keweenaw calls to people who yearn for these elements.. For some, they’re found in the ancient halls of Estivant Pines, in the clarity of Lake Superior… others yet draw them out from moments with friends over a lakeside meal, hurtling down the mountain bike trails, or cresting through miles of untouched snow.
As we are drawn to explore and recreate in the Keweenaw, there is much we can do to make sure the confluence of people in nature and our local communities remains harmonious:
By air or by road, we understand that it was no small feat to arrive in the Keweenaw! The thrill of excitement when you know you’re almost there… a favorite landmark, a beloved pit stop with a secret waterfall… we get it. Even those that live in the Keweenaw feel that thrill when their favorite season has arrived. They just know that right now is the time to make the most of it.
But take a breath. And take your foot off the gas. We aren’t going anywhere. Lake Superior will still be perfect when you arrive. Slow down and drink in the weight of history as you explore our main streets. You might miss a great spot for lunch, or a cool museum you haven’t stopped at yet! The highways to your destination wind (quite literally) right through communities flush with everyday hustle and bustle plus the added vibrancy of visitors.
It’s a good self-care practice to “unplug”, and there’s no better place than the Keweenaw to do just that. But it’s not uncommon for visitors to unexpectedly lose cell service when they really need it. So be sure to plan ahead.
Around the major hubs (like Baraga, Houghton, Hancock, Calumet), cell phone connectivity is widely available. Begin venturing towards the periphery, and things can get a bit dicey. Unexpected places can have low-to-no cell phone service. For example, stretches of M-26 north of Calumet can be dead zones, as are areas towards Freda and Agate Beach in Toivola. While some areas are getting connected to the world at large (Misery Bay now has AT&T), be sure to be savvy! Good safety practices include occasionally checking your phone and noting the last place you had service. Always double back in an emergency, pressing ahead doesn’t guarantee service. Find yourself in dire straits? Most cell phones are able to make an Emergency 911 call even if it appears your phone has zero service.
Cell phone service isn’t the only amenity you should plan ahead for. As you travel outside the city limits, fuel stops can be limited. Be sure to eye that gas gauge and ensure you’re topped off before you pass Calumet/Lake Linden to the north, and South Range if you’re headed south. Adventuring around the Keweenaw is an excellent chance to stop at general stores and restaurants that you’ve never experienced before - some are seasonal and a bit historic in their own right, like the Phoenix General Store (or The Genny)! But while remote destinations like Copper Harbor have a bevy of food options, snacking can be sparse in between, so be sure to leave prepped with a few munchables.
Your mom has been saying this for years - “Pick up after yourself!” Even in the 21st Century, this is a reminder that bears repeating. We are absolutely and unequivocally lucky to be able to enjoy the Keweenaw, but her clean waters, fresh air, and sprawling landscapes don’t just clean themselves. Every year, local volunteer environmental groups like Keweenaw Outdoor Recreation Coalition and the Keweenaw ATV Club pick up as much as 1 TON of trash from trafficked areas like High Rock Bay and the extensive ATV/snowmobile trails. Small actions so basic as making sure your trash makes into a bin on-site or packed in have a HUGE positive impact on the environment. Even as a visitor, being a good steward of your space will go a long way with keeping the local community at ease. We agree that Lake Superior sunsets sipping a KBC make for core memories, but be sure that Widowmaker can makes it back to the recycling bin.
Staying on public property and respecting posted signage is a universally understood priority, but in the great expanse of the Keweenaw, that can be a bit harder than one would expect. With miles and miles of nature, not all locations are clearly marked. An innocent hike could unintentionally land you on private property. Be sure to research your destination and make sure it’s open to the public. Reach out to us via email or social media if you’re unsure, or download apps like OnX for detailed access information. Stay on marked trails, and respect signage on even normally public destinations.
For those of you that like to get gritty in the backcountry, be sure to prioritize your safety prep ahead of time. Make sure that you’re outfitted with the safety gear appropriate to your sport/outing, tune up your equipment, make sure that someone in your circle knows your adventure itinerary if venturing to the wilds, and mentally mark where your cell/GPS availability.
If this your first time adventuring in the Keweenaw (or your hundredth!), consider partnering with a local guide. They know how to safely reach many of the best Keweenaw experiences and can help you get the most of your outdoor adventure by land or water.
Gitchee Gumee Outfitters (Chassell)
Downwind Sports (Houghton)
Rhythm Bike & Board (Houghton)
Hancock Bike Shop (Hancock)
Cross Country Sports (Calumet)
Powder North Skis (Allouez)
Some of the most fun you’ll have in the Keweenaw, like mountain biking, comes with its own accepted level of risk. But shredding the gnar too hard or making irresponsible choices far outside of civilization come with some serious repercussions. A sobering reality is that due to the vast distance between emergency care providers, EMS availability, and even the rugged nature of the landscape, requesting emergency support can take hours (if they can find you).
Those that monitor the trails are largely volunteer (like the Copper Harbor Trails Club trail monitors, snowmobile trail groomers, etc), and will always lend a hand, but it is our responsibility as explorers to behave in a manner that doesn’t potentially stretch thin available resources.
Michigan State Highway Patrol
Aspirus Keweenaw Hospital
Portage Health Hospital
906 483-1000 or 800 573-5001
Copper Harbor Welcome Center
Superior Search and Rescue
Experiencing the joys of the Keweenaw isn’t truly a solo experience. In your time here, you’ll interact with many folks who genuinely care about providing pleasant experiences for their local community and those who visit. From the cashier at the gas station to your kayak tour guide, each person here provides a valuable role to the flow of the Keweenaw. The Keweenaw welcomes all who visit with open arms, and the richness of people, ideas, and activities that a visitor brings to this area is essential to its blossoming. No one type of visitor is responsible for the economic well-being of this community, it is all our privilege to play here and be supported by our local businesses and volunteers.
Navigating the Yooper Loop can be confusing - being nice isn’t. In your time here, express kindness and patience in your interactions with those working to make your Keweenaw escape enjoyable. Your waitress, the hotelier, the historic tour guide are all real people who have a stake in this community. That special feeling you get here has a foundation in its people. When the recreational community and the local community are symbiotic and supportive of each other, it creates the foundation for that warm and inviting spirit that will always call you back to the Keweenaw.