Between every two pines there is a doorway to a new world. – John Muir
Explore the Keweenaw’s countless pristine natural areas, wildlife sanctuaries, and preserves scattered across the peninsula. From breathtaking views and serene escapes to heart-pounding climbs, the Keweenaw’s wildlands are vast and inspiring all year long. Read on for local recommendations on making the most of the Keweenaw experience.
There are so many options to choose from, but here are four “can’t miss” hikes in the Keweenaw:
GREENSTONE RIDGE TRAIL
Consistently rated as one of the top hikes in Michigan (and across the country), the Greenstone Ridge Trail in Isle Royale National Park checks off all the boxes for hiking enthusiasts. If you follow the Greenstone Ridge all the way from Windigo in the west to Rock Harbor in the east, you’ll have covered 43 miles. Unless you’re a marathon hiker, it’ll take about four days to complete it. So be prepared to filter your own water and pack a tent. But the Greenstone Ridge promises breathtaking vistas of northern Lake Superior: thick white pine forests, granite outcroppings, broad expanses of the Big Lake and, if you’re lucky, a few moose.
Distance: 43 miles (one way)
Stewardship: U.S. National Park System
How to get there: Take the ferry from Copper Harbor or jump on a seaplane departing from Houghton to reach the National Park. Head east out of Rock Harbor on the Rock Harbor Trail. Hike 0.2 miles east of Three Mile Campground and head north on the Mount Franklin Trail for 2.0 miles to the intersections with the Greenstone Ridge Trail.
CANYON GORGE TRAIL
If you’re driving along US 41 between Houghton and Marquette, the Canyon Falls Roadside Park is ideal hike to see an impressive waterfall and unique geology. The easy trail, complete with some boardwalk areas, allows you to view the “Grand Canyon of the Upper Peninsula”: the 15-foot Canyon Falls along the black Sturgeon River and gorge.
Distance: 4 Miles out and back
How to get there: Drive south from Houghton on US 41. Seven miles south of L’Anse, turn right at the rest area. Follow signs to the trailhead.
ESTIVANT PINES WILDERNESS NATURE SANCTUARY
Estivant Pines make up the largest tract of old-growth Eastern White Pine preserved in the state of Michigan. Walk among 300-year-old giant pines that reach 125 feet in height and 3-5 feet in diameter! The two-loop trail offers a gently rolling and leisurely hike, and the dense old-growth forest canopy provides habitat for 85 species of birds. One pine on this loop was determined to have germinated around 1695 after a wildfire swept the ridge. Near the trail, there are several aboriginal copper mine pits dug 3,000-4,000 years ago, worked with stone hammers by indigenous peoples.
Distance: 3-mile loop
Stewardship: Michigan Nature Association
How to get there: Follow US-41 east through Copper Harbor and turn right into 2nd Street at the Community Center (also called Manganese Road). Follow 2nd Street for 1.2 miles, bearing left onto Clark Mine Road (look for signs for Estivant Pines). Travel another 0.65 miles to the parking area on the right and the trailhead and more parking on the left.
BLACK CREEK NATURE SANCTUARY
The Black Creek Nature Sanctuary offers 4.8 miles of gentle trail through varied landscapes like sand dunes and mixed forest featuring giant white birch, conifers, and lowland hardwoods. While not as well known as the first two recommendations, this nature sanctuary will not disappoint. Located near Calumet, the jewel of the hike is the picturesque lagoon formed by the convergence of Black Creek and Hills Creek near 1,500 feet of spectacular Lake Superior shoreline. Visitors with a keen eye will likely spot beaver dams, along with other local wildlife like whitetail deer.
Distance: 4.8-mile round trip
Stewardship: Michigan Nature Association
How to get there: From US-41 on the north end of Calumet, turn west onto M-203, and travel about 1.25 miles to Tamarack Waterworks Road and turn right. Travel 2.5 miles on Tamarack Waterworks Road to Cedar Bay Road and turn right again. Follow Cedar Bay Road approximately 2.5 miles until reaching the Black Creek parking area and trailhead on the right.
MOUNT BALDY – HELMUT & CANDIS STERN PRESERVE
Towering 730 feet above Lake Superior in northern Keweenaw County near Eagle Harbor and Lake Bailey, this hike offers spectacular panoramic views of Lake Superior and the Keweenaw Peninsula. The hike up Mt. Baldy is a steady, uphill 3-mile climb, so it’s not for the faint of heart. It can take 2 hours to reach the summit, but the views of Lake Superior and the Keweenaw Peninsula are well worth it! With a watchful eye and binoculars, you may spot local inhabitants such as black bear, snowshoe hare, peregrine falcon, ruffed grouse, golden-crowned kinglet, black-throated green warbler, and yellow-rumped warbler.
Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult
Distance: 6-mile round trip
Stewardship: The Nature Conservancy
How to get there: From Calumet, MI follow US-41 north approximately 17 miles and turn left onto the Eagle Harbor Shortcut Road in Mohawk, MI 49950. After 5.2 miles, turn right onto the gravel parking lot on Eagle Harbor Township property. Please park in the established parking lot (coordinates: 47.4504444°, -088.1613056). From here, hike 1.6 miles to the preserve boundary. It is another 1.4 miles to the top of Mt. Baldy.
TIPS FOR PLANNING YOUR KEWEENAW HIKING EXPERIENCE
Unlike many outdoor recreation activities, it doesn’t take any particular skill set or equipment to enjoy a memorable hike in the Keweenaw. But like most things, a little planning goes a long way to avoiding some rookie mistakes and maximizing your experience. Here are a few tips before setting out on your Keweenaw hiking adventure:
Get to Know Your Options: We gave you a few great recommendations above, but there’s really no shortage of great trails and nature areas in Copper Country. But if you’re looking for some details to help select the perfect hike, be sure to grab your copy of Walking Paths & Protected Areas of the Keweenaw. You’ll find it an invaluable resource!
Check the Weather: Take a look at the forecast before you head out and dress appropriately. You can still have an amazing hike even if it rains, but it’ll go a lot better if you brought a rain jacket!
Protect Your Feet: Okay, so there’s at least one essential piece of gear you need: a good pair of worn-in hiking boots. You don’t want blisters halfway through the hike and you’ll need that extra traction if you walking over rocks along the trail. Throw in a pair of good socks too. Hats and sunglasses are optional, but welcome on a sunny day.
Beware of Bugs: Yeah, those mosquitos and black flies can be pesky in late spring/early summer. If you’re going through forested areas or near rivers and streams, do yourself a favor and bring some bug repellant.
Stay on the Trails: In may be tempting to stray from the trail as you explore a new area, but please don’t. Besides reducing the risk of getting lost, it’ll also protect everyone’s access to some of the most scenic areas in the Keweenaw. Many of our trails cross private lands, and we jeopardize losing this access if visitors mistakenly trespass onto private property.
Recreate Responsibly: Always practice responsible recreation and Leave No Trace. Help us keep the Keweenaw a pristine and wondrous place.