The Keweenaw is blessed with amazing natural wonders almost everywhere you look.  From the old growth forests at Estivant Pines to the spectacular beauty at Hungarian Falls, you’re never far from a wonderful place to hike and explore.


Many of our favorite places to visit here in the Keweenaw were protected by a wide variety of conservation organizations keen on keeping our shared landscape intact for future generations to enjoy.  These natural treasures are hotspots for recreation, critical habitat for countless species of plants and animals, and free for the public to visit.  Read on to find out more about the best nature area hikes in the Keweenaw!

Mary Macdonald Preserve at Horseshoe Harbor

The Nature Conservancy

aerial views of the volcanic rock outcroppings along the lake's shorelineThis preserve highlights the incredible and ancient volcanic rock formations along Lake Superior.


Located just outside of Copper Harbor, the Mary Macdonald Preserve at Horseshoe Harbor protects five miles of craggy Lake Superior shoreline across 1,200+ total acres.  The bedrock here is some of the oldest you’ll find anywhere, including 1+ billion year-old stromatolites sandwiched between sandstone and conglomerate rock outcrops.  Offshore islands and a cobble beach add to the intriguing shoreline, making it a must for a hike on hot summer days.  A 0.8 mile moderately difficult hiking-only trail leads to this secluded spot.


Getting to Horseshoe Harbor is relatively simple.  Head to Copper Harbor on either US-41 or M-26, then keep heading east on US-41 until you reach the end of the pavement.  Follow Mandan Road for another 0.9 miles, then hang a left onto Horseshoe Harbor Road (there’s a big sign).  Keep in mind that this two-track often is muddy.  After 1.2 miles you’ll reach the small parking area and trailhead.


Established in 1982, this TNC preserve is a jewel in Copper Harbor's crown. Other great hikes at preserves managed by TNC can be found at Mount Baldy and Bete Grise.  They’re also key players in the much larger Keweenaw Heartlands project to protect over 32,000 acres in the Keweenaw Peninsula, including several current and future trail systems.

Redwyn’s Dunes Nature Sanctuary

Michigan Nature Association

two figures sit in the shade of a tree's exposed rootsThe interplay of shifting dunes and rooted trees creates fascinating places to snag some shade.


Although they protect land across the state, nearly two dozen of the Michigan Nature Association’s (MNA) 180 nature sanctuaries can be found right here in the Keweenaw!  That speaks to how special our landscape is and how important it is to protect it from development.  It’s tough to choose our favorite here, so we went with a family-friendly hike that’s got tons of scenery to check out: Redwyn’s Dunes along Great Sand Bay.


This MNA nature sanctuary features a 1-mile hike that’s gentle to moderate in difficulty.  It snakes around and over some of the biggest sand dunes in the Keweenaw, although they’re mostly forested with red pines and other species that thrive in dry soils.  Nestled at the base of the dunes are marshes full of an abundance of wildlife.  Expect to see plenty of birds and hear the sounds of frogs as you hike around.  A portion of the trail dips into the adjacent George Hite Dunes & Marshes Preserve, a collaboration between Eagle Harbor Township and the Keweenaw Land Trust.


Redwyn’s Dunes is located along M-26 about 0.75 miles west of the main Great Sand Bay parking lot.  It’s easy to pair these two scenic sites together for a fun afternoon spent exploring the Eagle Harbor/River area! 


Other excellent MNA hikes in the Keweenaw include Estivant Pines, Black Creek (read our guide!), and the Robert T. Brown Plant Preserve south of Houghton near Lake Perrault, as well as several other scenic sites along the M-26 & Brockway Mountain Drive corridor.

Paavola Wetlands

Keweenaw Land Trust 

three figures walk ahead on a wooden boardwalk laid across a lush wetlandsBoardwalks through Paavola allow for easy, accessible nature viewing for all!


The Keweenaw Land Trust (KLT) works to protect lands across the Western U.P., with a particular focus on the Keweenaw itself.  They steward places both big and small, and each of their nature areas has a human element to it that’s rare in the land trust world.  KLT really wants to see people engage with the outdoors!  Nearly all of their nature areas have trails and most are close to towns for quick access.


Nowhere is this more true than at their Paavola Wetlands Nature Area. Found just north of Hancock, Paavola Wetlands has a network of easy, family-friendly trails that explore an ever-changing landscape of beaver ponds and forests.  An ADA accessible trail leads out to a floating boardwalk on the pond and a historic farmstead that has been stabilized for interpretive purposes.  Additional hiking trails lead through different habitat types and explore more of the Keweenaw’s farming history.  This is a fun spot to check out if you want to stretch your legs after hanging around town for the day.  Find directions here.


Other great day hikes at KLT protected lands include Hungarian Falls, Churning Rapids, Lily Creek, and the Pilgrim Community Forest.

Conglomerate Falls

Keweenaw Natural Areas 

Working primarily to preserve the landscape outside of Ahmeek, Keweenaw Natural Areas (formerly North Woods Conservancy) has a handful of natural areas open to the public.  This includes Conglomerate Falls, a rocky rapid-like waterfall on the Gratiot River.  While there are no big drops or cascades at this location, the shimmering water as it passes over the textured conglomerate makes for a beautiful scene.  The hike is fairly short and manageable by most.  Conglomerate Falls can be found off of Farmers Block Road, an offshoot of Five Mile Point Road.

Gratiot Lake Preserve

Gratiot Lake Conservancy 

a wooden plank lays across a marshy area connecting the path in a nature area

I spy the trail, can you? Some trails like this one at the Gratiot Lake Preserve are rustic, so watch your step!


The Gratiot Lake Conservancy (GLC) is the smallest of the conservancies on this list and sticks to what it knows best: the Gratiot Lake area just south of Central.  The Gratiot Lake Preserve encompasses over 680 acres of high-quality landscape along the eastern half of the lake.  The Noblet Research Station is situated at the heart of this preserve, along with nearly two miles of trails to explore along the shoreline.  It’s a wild and quiet corner of the Keweenaw to check out!  The trails are generally rolling and rustic.  Find maps and directions on their website.

Know Before You Go

two figures walk on a forested trail alongside a large informational board

Don't forget to read the information boards provided at these preserves. Full of history and trailside notables!


Many of the nature areas on this list are fairly remote and unlikely to have cell service.  Download a map before you head out and always let someone know where you are going.  Bring water and snacks in case you find yourself outside longer than expected.  As these are protected areas, be sure to stay on the trail to avoid damaging any sensitive plants or ecosystems.  Leave what you find for others to enjoy and pack out any litter (both yours and anything else you find along the way).  If you do happen to encounter any wildlife, keep your distance and leave them alone.


It sounds like a lot to keep track of, but most Leave No Trace guidelines are common sense and will keep you and others safe in the outdoors.  Love the Keweenaw as if it were your own backyard!