19 Stops for a Historic Road Trip Through Keweenaw Peninsula
The Copper Country Trail National Byway is a scenic drive through history. The drive itself will take you about 2 hours to complete, but with so much to do and see along the way, you'll want to schedule out plenty of time for exploring. A few of the major features showcased along this route include lighthouses, lush parks and thirst-quenching local breweries.
Begin your drive through Copper Country in Houghton County, a gorgeous area with stunning Baroque Revival architecture, including the Houghton County Courthouse. Then head to the Quincy Mine Properties tours, where you can take a guided tour of their extensive copper mines, which were in use from 1846 until 1945. Head to Keweenaw Brewing Company to try the Pick Axe Blonde. This brewery is renowned for their laid-back atmosphere and delicious craft ales-- plus, their beers pay tribute to Copper Country's unique history. Houghton's A.E. Seaman Mineral Museum, the official mineral museum of Michigan, is another site within the park that is worth checking out.
2. McLain State Park – Hancock
Then, head to McLain State Park for two miles of sandy beach along Lake Superior. This 443-acre state park is located on the Keweenaw Peninsula, on M-203. If you want to spend the night there are many campsites and a few cabins. Also, if you're a history buff, visit the Finnish American Heritage Center at Finlandia University while you're in Hancock.
Then explore Calumet Township, where thousands of years ago, Native Americans mined copper. By the time the township was established in 1866, Calumet was home to three mining villages. Soon, Calumet had 60 saloons, 33 churches, and 30 schools. Large-scale mining took place all the way until the 1920s, so this is a great area to stroll around and soak up history.
4. Coppertown USA Mining Museum – Calumet
A historical site worth visiting is the Calumet Theater, built around the turn of the century. Today, it shows plays and concerts in a beautiful vintage building with murals painted all around it. Nearby, you can also find the Copper Country Firefighters History Museum, which is housed in a repurposed fire hall that was originally built in 1898, here. Lastly, you can visit the Coppertown USA Mining Museum, another place to learn more about the tools used for mining over the years.
5. Keweenaw National Historical Park – Calumet
The Keweenaw National Historic Park contains 19 other heritage sites across the Keweenaw region. The area has been a copper mining site for more than 7,000 years. Native peoples would use copper for tools and also for trade. Here you can learn about Keweenaw heritage sites, and the ancient history of copper mining in the area.
6. Black Creek Nature Sanctuary – Calumet
Then head to the 242-acre Black Creek Nature Sanctuary, located just off Cedar Bay Road. This sanctuary is a special piece of the Keweenaw that contains more than a thousand feet of Lake Superior shoreline with miles of trail, lush woodlands, a lagoon, and lots of wildlife.
7. Side trip to Central, MI
Step back in time to the Central Mine Historic District, just off US 41 in Keweenaw County. In 1958, the mine was designated a Michigan State Historic Site, and in 1974 the district itself was also designated as a Historic Site. Today the 38-acre site is owned and maintained by the Keweenaw County Historical Society. You can walk around this abandoned mining town and see over 20 frame structures, buildings, and ruins. The houses have gable roofs, porches and other lovely features. A major focal point is the Central Mine Methodist Church, a beautifully maintained church in nearly perfect condition. There's a Central Mine Visitor's Center where you can learn about the history of the abandoned town and the mine.
8. The Jampot – Eagle Harbor
Next up is the Jampot, an absolutely fantastic bakery and jam shop north of Eagle River...and it's run by Byzantine monks! The monks wanted to establish a monastery in an area that promised solitude, and the Upper Peninsula was the perfect spot. The bakery sells house-roasted coffee, and eco-friendly specialty foods. It's a must-stop in Copper Country. Foodie tip: Copper Country's only boutique winery is also just off M-26. Carrousel Winery in South Range not only has a wide variety of wines, but you can also make your own special wine blend as well.
9. Eagle Harbor Lighthouse and Museum – Eagle Harbor
You can also roam the absolutely charming Eagle Harbor Lighthouse and nautical museum. Keeping watch over Eagle Harbor for over 150 years, this octagonal, red brick light station is still a working lighthouse, helping to guide mariners across the Keweenaw Peninsula.
From Eagle Harbor Lighthouse, head to the Brockway Mountain Drive Sanctuary. Here you can take a stroll down the Oren Krumm Trail, which starts right at the parking area. The best time of year to visit is definitely fall, when the foliage provides for amazing views atop Brockway Mountain overlooking Lake Superior. Be on the lookout for the Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary, where you'll find ancient stands of virgin white pine forest.
11. Copper Harbor
Keweenaw County's Copper Harbor is a small community situated along the Keweenaw Peninsula, which extends into Lake Superior. Enjoy the fresh air, natural beauty, and small town charm of this vibrant village! Pro tip: If you're lucky, you might be able to spot the Northern Lights once the sun sets.
When you're ready for something to eat, head to Brickside Brewery in Copper Harbor. This tiny brewpub is famed for their beer, as it is Copper Harbor's first (and only) microbrewery. You can also buy a growler that you can fill up with your favorite beer and take home with you.
12. Copper Harbor Lighthouse Tours – Copper Harbor
Copper Harbor Lighthouse Tours takes participants on a 15-minute boat ride to Hayes Point and provide tours of the historic Copper Harbor Lighthouse and surrounding island.
13. Isle Royale National Park Ferry – Copper Harbor
One of America's best under-the-radar national parks is also located in Copper Country. Isle Royale National Park is surrounded by Lake Superior, and provides an escape from the ordinary. It's accessible by a ferry, which you'll board in Copper Harbor. But, once you get to Isle Royale you'll experience an amazing natural wonderland of kayaking, hiking, and solitude. This is backcountry adventuring at its finest.
14. Windigo Ranger Station – Isle Royale National Park
The Windigo Ranger Station serves as Isle Royale's docking and refueling port on Lake Superior's largest island. Windigo and Rock Harbor are the only two accessible ports for visitors. To reach Windigo, which is located at Isle Royale's southwest end, you need to board the Voyageur II, Seahunter III, or Wenonah ferry, or charter a seaplane or boat. There's a general store, interpretive center and visitor's center at the station.
15. Rock Harbor Light – Isle Royale National Park
The Rock Harbor Lighthouse is a stunning white brick and stone lighthouse with a black lantern. Built in 1855, the light is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. If you're going to visit Isle Royale National Park, you might want to plan to spend at least a night on the island. If you do, there's no better place to watch the sunset or spot the Northern Lights than at this lighthouse.
16. Manganese Falls – Copper Harbor
Take the ferry back to Copper Harbor. Make a point to take a detour to Manganese Falls, a beautiful cascading waterfall that flows down a narrow gorge. To access the falls, go south on Lake Manganese Road for just under a mile, and the falls will be on the left.
17. Fort Wilkins Historic State Park – Copper Harbor
While in Copper Harbor, visit Fort Wilkins Historic State Park. This state park is a restored 1844 military outpost, which features campsites, picnic areas, and six miles of hiking trails and biking paths. The 700-acre state park also boasts a gorgeous view of Lake Superior and a beautiful shoreline. Plus, it's home to one of Lake Superior's first lighthouses.
18. Russell and Miriam Grinnell Memorial Nature Sanctuary (locally known as Bare Bluff) – Copper Harbor
For incredible, sweeping views, tackle the Bare Bluff Trail. It's only 2.6 miles, but since it's up and down a bluff, it's a little more moderate of a hike. But the payoff, that incredible view from the top, is completely worth the effort.
Another side trip in Copper Country is the Helmut & Candis Stern Preserve at Mt. Lookout, which is a 1371-acre protected site. Here, you'll also find thousands of feet of Lake Bailey shoreline, and a 200-acre glacial lake. It's a great place to get amazing views of Lake Superior and Keweenaw.
19. Copper Country Shipwrecks, Trails and Beaches
One of Copper Country's coolest and best-kept secrets is the Keweenaw Underwater Preserve, which stretches along Lake Superior. The preserve was established in 1991 to protect the Keweenaw Peninsula's waters. There are loads of shipwrecks along this stretch of lake and you can scuba dive to see these haunting vessels submerged in their watery graves. Get more info on visiting the wrecks for yourself from A Superior Divers' Center.
There are also several great hiking trails in Copper Country, including Swedetown Trails, Keweenaw Trails, the Keweenaw Water Trail, Michigan Tech Trails, the Western U.P. Water Trail, the 1.6-mile Horseshoe Harbor Trail, and the 2-mile Estivant Pines Loop. Or, if you're more in the mood for some hardcore biking, there's the Superior Ride Trail that clocks in at 21.6 miles (it's one of the world's top-ranked mountain biking trails!), the Keweenaw Classic Trail, which is 62 miles, or the Copper Harbor Challenge, which is respectable 48 miles long.
The Hancock Recreation Area is located on Portage Lake, and is a great place for boating, swimming, camping, fishing, or picnicking. There's 300 feet of sandy beach, a playground, volleyball courts and loads of hiking trails (as well as a fantastic berry-picking season). Open from May 15 until October 15, this is a great place to relax after a long day of driving.
Lastly, if you visit Copper Country in summer, another can't-miss spot is Seven Mile Point beach, a 32-acre beach on the north shore of Keweenaw.