In the early 1870’s when the copper rush started, Copper Harbor quickly became a well-known entry to the peninsula. Home to Fort Wilkins, which was built for the Army to occupy and keep order, the village was an outlet for copper leaving the Keweenaw. Today, you’ll find this small town brimming with energy and Pacific Northwest vibes thanks to mountain bikers and outdoor enthusiasts seeking respite in one of the Midwest’s last undiscovered special places.
This sleepy town is located literally at the end of U.S. 41 and is as far away from an interstate as you can get in the lower 48. So what keeps bringing visitors back to Copper Harbor?
With more than 37 miles of the gnarliest, most scenic singletrack trails around, Copper Harbor is an IMBA Silver Level Ride Center (that’s pretty elite). Ride through forests, mountains, and along Lake Superior as you ride downhill tracks, flow trails, traditional cross country, and burly technical options. Need some advice on which trails to explore? Reach out to the Copper Harbor Trails Club for more info. Find equipment rentals and guides here.
Offering unparalleled views of the Keweenaw wilderness and Lake Superior, Brockway Mountain is one of Copper Harbor’s most beloved attractions. Visitors can opt to enjoy a scenic 9.5 mile stretch off M-26 between Eagle Harbor and Copper Harbor to enjoy the views (up to 1,300 feet above sea level), or climb the peak by bike and enjoy incredible downhill singletrack trails. In the spring, Brockway Mountain serves as a key stop along the annual North American hawk migration pathway. Visitors can enjoy viewing dozens of raptors soaring on upward thermals which help rest tired wings as the birds seek prey to power their journey. Constructed in 1933 through a federal work program, the road is named in honor of Daniel Brockway, one of the original residents in this region of the Keweenaw Peninsula.
Built in 1844 and abandoned just two years late, Fort Wilkins was once an active U.S. Army post constructed to keep the peace in Michigan’s Copper Country. Today, Fort Wilkins State Park reminds us of the challenges men and women went through to survive the Keweenaw’s wilderness and winters before the advent of modern-day conveniences. Through exhibits, audiovisual programs, and living history interpretation, visitors can explore the daily routine of military service, experience the hardships of frontier isolation, and discover the lifeways of another era. Don’t be surprised to run into a frontiersman, laundress, or military captain as you stroll the fort’s grounds.
This 570-acre sanctuary protects one of the last old-growth white pine stands in Michigan. Located just outside of Copper Harbor, visitors can explore some of the largest and oldest giant white pines, growing more than 125 feet tall and dating back 300 years. One pine was determined to have germinated around 1695 after a wildfire swept the ridge. Established trails help you explore this precious conservation site.
Visitors seeking transport to Isle Royale National Park can enjoy a 3-hour ferry ride from Copper Harbor on the Isle Royale Queen IV. The family-run ferry service has been in operation since 1971. Originally built in Louisiana in 1980, the ferry came to Michigan in 2005 after operating for years as a tour boat in the New York harbor. Be sure to grab a thimbleberry doughnut from Jamsen’s Fish Market & Bakery for the journey across Lake Superior.
At the tip of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, stunted shrubs and trees cling to ancient bedrock created by Lake Superior’s fierce winds, you’ll find Horseshoe Harbor at the Mary Macdonald Preserve. A site more popular with the locals than visitors, it’s a bit off the beaten path, but well worth the effort.
Brickside Brewery is Michigan’s northernmost craft brewery. After a long day on the trails, visitors can enjoy a pint in this local hangout. One of four Keweenaw breweries to enjoy, you’ll find this destination as low-key as gets and packed with bikers (the human-powered kind) all summer long.
The Keweenaw Mountain Lodge was built under the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in 1934, when FDR was the president of the United States and the country was going through the great depression. Today, you can’t miss it as you descend into Copper Harbor on US-41. Take the time to stop at the Lodge and enjoy a fine dining experience or grab some gourmet coffee from the Little Cabin Cafe before you explore their hiking and singletrack trails (free and open to the public). Or, if you’d prefer hitting the links, try their nine-hole course with fantastic views of Brockway Mountain.
The world’s newest International Dark Sky Park is in Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula. In June '22, the Keweenaw Dark Sky Park, with its headquarters at the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge in Copper Harbor, was certified by the International Dark Sky Association. There are around 100 certified dark sky parks around the world, and the tip of the Keweenaw is now one of them. The Keweenaw Dark Sky Park is the first International Dark Sky Park in the Upper Peninsula, and the third in all of Michigan, joining the Headlands International Dark Sky Park in Northwest Lower Michigan and Dr. T.K. Lawless International Dark Sky Park in Southwest Michigan.
The park includes over 550 acres of land, including areas around Brockway Mountain Drive and the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge property. The Keweenaw Dark Sky Park' low light pollution, northern latitude and geography, and limited daylight hours all contribute to the excellent stargazing and dark sky viewing opportunities.
Keweenaw Mountain Lodge offers unique dark sky and northern lights experiences during special stargazing events. These events include Astrophotography Workshops, New Moon Parties, Moonlit Snowshoe Hikes, and light management workshops. A Telescope Lending Program is also available to lodge guests. Maps of night sky public viewing areas are available here: https://keweenawdarksky.com/maps/
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