After 6 weeks of exploring the UP, we finally made it to the tip top known as Copper Harbor. I call it the upper peninsula of the upper peninsula. I believe it could be technically called an island. In order to reach this upper portion one must cross a bridge over Portage Lake. This body of water runs from one side of the Keweenaw Peninsula to the other creating a channel for boats to pass through to Lake Superior on the other side. Larger vessels must go around the tip of Copper Harbor.
Upon arriving at our campsite in Copper Harbor I knew this area would be special. Trails End Campground is rustic with 78 sites and 13 cabins and is first come, first serve. There are no hook-ups or showers, only vault toilets and a water spigot. However, this campground is situated at the base of Brockway mountain and to it’s north Lake Superior. You cannot see Lake Superior from the campground but we could certainly hear it during our stay. At $15 a night it’s a great deal. Many mountain bikers use this place as base camp because there are numerous mountain bike trails in the area.
We arrived on the Tuesday after Labor Day and had no trouble finding a fantastic spot with views of the mountain. I will say many of the spots are smaller, best suited for tents and small campers with some sites able to accommodate larger RVs such as our Ralphie. We had a whole section to ourselves and it was glorious. Note: the campground is still under construction in some areas but otherwise quiet and peaceful and near to everything that is Copper Harbor.
The one downside (or it could be an upside depending on how you look at it), no cell service in this area. None! Even with our cell booster we had nothing. This was a first for us in the UP. Up until this point we’ve managed to pick up some sort of signal, not always the best, but something. Now if you are looking to get away from it all, unplug and have an excuse not to answer your boss this is the place for you. However, we are not retired and need the ability to do some work from the road. Shane especially needed some internet (not a lot) to handle some remote tunes.
Our solution for internet, go to the local bar borrow their Wi-Fi while enjoying a local brew and getting some great tips from the staff on where to go exploring. Plus an added tip from Hannah (the server) not to be confused with Hannah (the bartender) and apparently 2 other Hannahs that work there. Hannah, the server told us the insider tip, “go to the top of Brockway Mountain and you will get cell service there”.
Second solution for internet, grab our chairs, Wi-Fi router, and laptops and drive to the top of Brockway Mountain for the office with a view. Not a bad way to get some work done and enjoy the “commute” along the top of a mountain. Sure enough as we drove along no signal and then suddenly there it was. We could handle any business we needed to with only a short 10 minute mountain drive.
Third solution which is really the best solution. Do a quick check-in once a day and otherwise take 3 solid days to explore all of the beauty and history around Copper Harbor. That is just what we did. We did not stay our typical week here only because of time critical business items that needed tending to. However our 5 days spent here were truly special.
We explored some of Hunter’s Point, very near our campground. I planned to go back later in the week but we never made it. Walking out onto the beach you are greeted by mighty Superior’s waves crashing against rocks and the most beautiful red/pink/salmon colored rocks. We walked along and traversed rocks trying to catch a glimpse of the sunset. Up here you are actually pointed north, so no beach sunset but stunning nonetheless.
No Name Trail
On a tip from Hannah, the bartender, we ventured out to a brand new mountain bike trail. This trail is still being made but she told us the views from up top are fantastic. She was kind enough to write down instructions to find said trail. Off we went for another day of exploration. This trail is near Point Trail and is accessed by driving until 41 ends and becomes a dirt/gravel road. We actually ventured past it to explore further thinking we might get all the way to High Rock Bay. That was not going to happen. Remember we are driving a 1996 Volvo 960, no 4WD and certainly not enough height clearance for this section. We got to a point and made the call, not worth getting stuck here, so we turned around and headed back to the trail.
The trail is amazing, great mountain bike trail. Although we hiked it, as we don’t have our bikes with us plus we have Josie and I’m not that coordinated to ride while keeping an eye on her. This trail is not for the faint of heart because a lot of it is riding/hiking along an edge. It is a single track with very little room to get out of someone’s way. Along the way I could almost feel myself riding my bike, it has wonderful flow. For mountain bike riders you know what I’m talking about. As we neared the top, a clearing gave way to an incredible view. From up here you can see Lake Superior from both sides of the Keweenaw Peninsula, they may only be small slivers but breathtaking for sure. I’ll admit I would not ride my bike up there, the endurance needed alone would be tough but the drop offs next to the trail, no thank you for this girl. I prefer walking in this case.
We continued on until we noticed the dirt was fresh. Finally reaching a point where we could go no further as there was trail making equipment blocking. They had worked on the trail earlier in the day and this was the end of the line for now. What a trail! And a first for us, being on a trail in the making.
Note: We stopped back in The Lake Effect to thank Hannah the bartender for the tip on the new trail. She said she wondered if we found it and hiked it.
Bare Bluff + Montreal Falls
We spent one whole day hiking both of these on the southern side. Both offered views of Lake Superior but from different vantage points. Bare Bluff is a hike up to the top where one is treated to majestic vistas overlooking Lake Superior. This one can either be quite easy or challenging depending on the route you take up. We opted for the challenge and did the entire loop, 3.1 miles. We hiked counterclockwise, a wise decision as I would not want to come down the steep section but instead go up it. This route is well worth the work as you traverse along from below. At times you are looking straight up at a rock wall. Then you must climb up a steep incline littered with rocks and roots all assisting in your ascent to the top. Once at the top the view is, well I’ll let my cell phone photos try and give you an idea.
From the top the hike back down is pretty easy. For those feeling a little less adventurous, you can opt to go to the top the easy route (clockwise or the left part of the loop and come back down the same way. Skipping the loop does make it easier, however you miss out on a truly fantastic trail.
I loved the hand carved wood map at the entrance.
The Montreal Falls trail gives you an entirely different experience, as this trail follows along the edge of Lake Superior for quite some time. With drop offs to the lake below and old growth forest all around, it’s a real treat. There are areas in the old growth forest that feel almost magical, like you are in a fairy tale or some imagined place. This trail is 3 miles or could be longer depending how far up the Montreal River you go. The lower falls are right at the mouth of the river where it meets Lake Superior. We continued on to the Upper Falls and there was nobody along this portion of the trail. A beautiful trail along the river, in some places slowly moving and in others rushing over rocks. We stopped at the top of the Upper Falls before heading back due to the time of day. But I would go back and continue on further just to see what’s around the corner.
Stepping Back into History at Fort Wilkins
One day was dedicated to exploring some of the history of Copper Harbor. We toured historic and restored Fort Wilkins and felt like we took a time machine back to the mid-1800’s. I won’t go into all of the history here but basically the US Government took (they called it a treaty) this land from the native’s to mine for Copper. Then built a fort to defend against any “hostile natives”, which subsequently the natives were never violent despite having to give up their land. My opinion, what a load of crap! Take land from the native people and then build a fort to defend against them in case they get pissed off at you. Oh and did I mention the soldiers that were stationed here had to deal with the harshest of conditions in the winter months with very little pay (for the enlisted).
It was interesting to tour the Fort but it grinds my gears a bit to know the history.
I want that bread oven in the 2nd photo. Shane goes to jail, for a brief moment, in the 4th photo. Can you imagine this “hospital” room during today’s pandemic (6th photo)? I would love to find a general store just like the 7th photo in our modern world.
Touring the Historic Delaware Copper Mine
This was a neat experience. It’s a self-guided tour down into level 1 of an old Copper mine. Josie was allowed to go with us, as an added bonus. We were greeted by two smaller dogs and the guy in the gift shop along with his pet baby skunk. Yep a skunk. I wonder if Josie had flashbacks to her skunk incident at Brimley SP. 🙂
We watched a short video, donned our hard hats and in we went. At the base of the stairs, Josie showed some trepidation but eventually decided it was ok to proceed. There were lights throughout, however they are dimmed to try and recreate what it was like for the miners. Very interesting tour of a mine from 1846! My photos down below did not turn out, however we toured the grounds above ground. Again I felt we were transported back in time.
The short time we spent in Copper Harbor was truly special. There is so much we did not get to explore and we will be back someday to explore more, with a 4WD vehicle. We both felt such a connection to this place and it was hard to leave. Our last day we found a spectacular sunset spot atop Brockway mountain and we returned in the evening for some brief stargazing before it became overcast.
The Jam Pot has the best homemade jams and the place is run by monks. Worth the stop! Copper Harbor, you are a special and unique place. We will return.