Perched on the remote Keweenaw Peninsula jutting into Lake Superior, the small town of Copper Harbor, Michigan offers access to incredible scenic beauty and outdoor adventure. Surrounded by thick forests, Lake Superior’s shoreline, and steep ridgeline cliffs, Copper Harbor serves as the gateway for exploring the peninsula’s rugged wilderness.
1. Go Mountain Biking on the Copper Harbor Trails
Copper Harbor is renowned as one of the premier mountain biking destinations in the Midwest, with an enormous network of exhilarating single-track trails winding through surrounding hills and woods.
Local favorite trail systems include the Brockway Mountain Trails with epic vistas from Mount Lookout and Mount Carmi, the technical Village Trails across highway US-41, and the remote Copper Falls State Park trails over rock gardens and drops.
Rent a quality bike from shops like Keweenaw Adventure Company and hit the trails for thrilling downhill runs, challenging climbs, and peaceful forest riding along Lake Superior’s shore. The variety of expertly maintained trails offer world-class mountain biking for cyclists of all abilities.
2. Paddle the Keweenaw Water Trail
The protected coves, shoreline sea caves, and sandy beaches around Copper Harbor provide idyllic settings for paddling the Keweenaw Water Trail. Launch your kayak or stand-up paddleboard from Hunter’s Point or Friske’s public access sites to explore rock islands and inlets while watching for local wildlife.
Paddle out to see the historic Copper Harbor Lighthouse and the iconic Great Sand Bay beach with its scenic dunes. Float inside sea caves and around the cliffside Brockway coast dotted with waterfalls.
On nice days, paddling along the Keweenaw shoreline provides a breathtaking perspective from water level. Keweenaw Adventure Company and Mariner North offer rentals and guided tours.
3. Drive up Brockway Mountain Drive
One of the most popular Copper Harbor attractions offering awe-inspiring vistas is the scenic drive up Brockway Mountain. This steep, winding 8-mile road climbs to the top of Brockway Mountain, reaching an elevation of 1,320 feet.
From several roadside pullover lookouts, you can take in absolutely stunning panoramic views of Lake Superior, Copper Harbor’s village and marina far below, and the surrounding verdant Keweenaw wilderness.
Near the top, you can park and hike a short distance to the Brockway Mountain hawk watch, where volunteers help identity migrating raptors. Driving this remote ridge-top road immerses you in the rugged splendor of the Keweenaw highlands.
4. Tour Historic Fort Wilkins State Park
Address: 15223 US Highway 41, Copper Harbor, MI 49918
History buffs will love exploring the perfectly preserved Fort Wilkins Historic State Park situated right alongside Copper Harbor. This former 1844 military outpost today contains restored historic stone buildings to wander through.
Tour the commanding officer’s quarters, enlisted barracks, hospital, and more while learning about fort life during Copper Harbor’s early mining heyday. Kids love investigating the blacksmith shop, bakery, and cannons.
Be sure to visit the visitor center exhibits on the area’s Native American and frontier history. The expansive Lake Fanny Hooe grounds offer scenic hiking trails and lake views.
Guided fort tours provide more in-depth stories. Discovering Copper Harbor’s pivotal role in Keweenaw settlement makes Fort Wilkins a must-see.
5. Practice Stand Up Paddleboarding on Lake Superior
Paddling upright on a stand up paddleboard has become a favorite way to experience Copper Harbor’s magnificent Lake Superior setting in recent years. Local outfitters like the Keweenaw Adventure Company provide rental boards along with helpful quick lessons for first-timers.
Head out to explore the shoreline cliffs and rock formations from a unique on-the-water perspective. Paddling around the haunting Jakie’s Rocks or towards Hunter’s Point feels serene and peaceful.
More experienced paddleboarders can join a downwind run along the Brockway coast to float back leisurely. SUP is a fun way to appreciate Lake Superior’s beauty that’s easier than kayaking.
6. Look for Hawks & Eagles at Copper Harbor Hawk Watch
Birding enthusiasts will love heading up Brockway Mountain each fall to observe migrating raptors at the Copper Harbor Hawk Watch.
From a scenic overlook platform over 1,000 feet high, volunteers and visitors can spot hawks, eagles, falcons and more gliding along the shore far below on Lake Superior’s famous “Hawk Highway.” Daily counts are reported and visitors are shown the best techniques for identifying distant birds of prey through scopes and binoculars.
The best action is usually from late August through October. Witnessing the huge numbers of raptors passing through gives you a new appreciation of Michigan bird migrations.
7. Go Snowshoeing & Cross Country Skiing on Area Trails
Once snow blankets Copper Harbor’s forests and rugged ridges, outdoor enthusiasts have even more ways to explore the winter beauty. 8-10 miles of groomed cross country ski trails start right in town or at Hunter’s Point and Fort Wilkins State Park for all skill levels.
Follow the lighted trails at night for a magical experience. The area’s mountain biking and hiking paths also transform into pristine showshoeing terrain.
Rent gear from local shops like Keweenaw Adventure Company and ski or snowshoe through hushed snowy woods or on the icy shoreline along Lake Superior on a sparkling sunny day.
8. Relax at a Lakefront Cottage Rental
Visitors who truly want to unwind and enjoy Copper Harbor’s tranquility should consider booking a rental cottage stay right along the lakeshore.
Several scenic vacation rental properties like Brockway Mountain Cottages, Lakeside Cottages, and Keweenaw Adventure Company Cabins offer private cottages with fireplaces, full kitchens, and living spaces just steps from the waterfront.
Picture mornings sipping coffee on your own deck overlooking the steel blue expanse of Lake Superior and evenings grilling local trout. A peaceful cottage stay lets you fully embrace the laidback Copper Country lifestyle amidst stunning beauty.
9. Charter a Fishing Excursion on Lake Superior
Anglers will be in paradise fishing the deep, cold waters of Lake Superior off Copper Harbor for trophy-sized lake trout, coho salmon, steelhead, and more. Join an expert local guide like Central Lake Superior Charters who knows the best spots and techniques to hook huge fish.
Troll for salmon and trout copper waters 100-200 feet deep jigging or using downriggers. Expect to catch lake trout over 20 pounds!
Clean and pack your catch on ice to enjoy a coveted Keweenaw fish fry. Drift fishing the open lake for Superior lakers and salmon makes for an unforgettable fishing adventure.
10. Enjoy the Night Sky at a Dark Sky Park
Copper Harbor provides some of the best stargazing opportunities in the Midwest as an International Dark Sky Association-certified Dark Sky Park. The Keweenaw Peninsula’s remoteness far from major light pollution, plus clear air off Lake Superior, means incredibly dazzling night skies.
Gaze upward from Brockway Mountain or Hunter’s Point after sunset to observe meteors, planets like Jupiter and Saturn, the Milky Way, and of course beautiful starry constellations wheeling overhead.
Join a guided astro-tour, attend a solar viewing party, or photograph the majestic night sky during your trip’s newer moon phases. From the Keweenaw’s dark parks, the heavens shine bright.
Copper Harbor sits in a truly spectacular natural setting along the remote Keweenaw Peninsula, making it a paradise for outdoor recreation and accessing raw wilderness beauty. No matter what time you visit, Copper Harbor lets you access quintessential Upper Peninsula splendor.
After your stay enjoying nonstop outdoor recreation, local history, and small town hospitality, you’ll understand why so many travelers fall in love with Copper Harbor.