Is Copper Harbor, Michigan, Worth Visiting?

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View of Copper Harbor State Harbor lighthouse

Few have visited Copper Harbor, Michigan, due to its remote location in the Keweenaw Peninsula. Experience everything from dark skies and waterfalls to wildlife and hiking trails. But Copper Harbor has much more to offer. If you haven’t made a trip to Michigan for the summer yet, put this place on your bucket list to explore for a few days.

Let’s learn more about this beautiful town.

Where Is Copper Harbor?

Copper Harbor is at the intersection of Highway 41 and Highway 26 at the northern tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula. Lake Superior surrounds the Keweenaw Peninsula and separates the mainland from Isle Royale National Park. The park lies about 58 miles away and only accessible by ferry. The Canadian border runs through the center of Lake Superior. Heron Bay in Ontario is a little over 100 miles from Copper Harbor.

What Is Copper Harbor Known For? 

The name Copper Harbor came from the copper rush in the 1840s when several small towns popped up in the area. Copper Harbor is the gateway to Isle Royale National Park from the Upper Peninsula. Ferries traveling to this national park take about three hours from the town. The Isle Royale Line travels routinely during the peak season. But always check the schedule because it doesn’t operate on certain days.

Additionally, Copper Harbor is known for its stellar trail system. It includes 4,020 miles of hiking trails, 1,375 miles of rail trails, and 2,085 miles of biking trails. And it has thousands of other water, equestrian, and winter-recreation trails. You can go on a bike ride or book a guided tour. Copper Harbor is about five hours from any interstate highway. You’ll find this remote location exactly what you need to explore the outdoors. Additionally, most visitors claim to have no cell service in town.

Best Things to Do in Copper Harbor

Only about 100 people live in Copper Harbor, which increases in the summer. Even though far from an interstate, this town still has plenty of restaurants, hotels, and attractions to keep you busy. However, many places only operate during the summer. So when you visit, you’ll support local small businesses that rely heavily on tourism.

Copper Harbor State Harbor

Copper Harbor State Harbor isn’t just a marina. The lighthouse complex features a restored 1848 lightkeeper’s dwelling, an 1866 lighthouse, a 1933 steel light tower, and an interpretive trail. Additionally, shopping is just a few steps away. Bring a picnic lunch and enjoy the scenery one afternoon.

View of Copper Harbor State Harbor lighthouse

Brockway Mountain Drive

Brockway Mountain Drive, a scenic route in Copper Harbor, provides visitors with epic views of Lake Superior. In fact, it’s the highest above-sea-level drive between the Rockies and the Alleghenies. From mid-April to mid-June, you can also watch the annual bird migration. As an official Michigan Wildlife Viewing Area, you’ll want to take the Brockway Mountain Drive.

Manitou Island Light Station

Manitou Island Light Station, located off the eastern tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula, has stood since 1862. In 1930, a modern fog signal building was constructed. The light station is still an active aid to navigation today. During the spring migration, thousands of birds stop on the island for rest. Although the public can’t go inside the light station, you can explore the grounds.

Delaware Copper Mine

The Delaware Copper Mine operated about 12 miles south of Copper Harbor from 1847 to 1887. It’s now a Heritage Site of the Keweenaw National Historical Park. Ten levels and five shafts dove 1,400 feet into the Earth.

The Delaware Copper Mine shows visitors pure veins of copper exposed in the walls. It’s now open for tours from June to October. Additionally, it has a petting zoo, gift shop, model train, and numerous displays.

Pro Tip: Make an entire camping trip out of your visit to Michigan. Here are some of The Best Camping Spots in Upper Peninsula, Michigan!

Explore the Trails

If you want adventure, rent an ATV, go mountain biking, or explore the rails on the thousands of miles of trails in Michigan. Hike or bike the four miles of the Fort Wilkins Foot Trail. You can also stay in campgrounds within the Fort Wilkins State Park. If you’d rather take an off-road vehicle exploring, you’ll find several routes running through the Keweenaw Peninsula. The Copper Harbor area is full of outdoor recreational opportunities.

View of Keweenaw Peninsula nature area in Copper Harbor

Visit Isle Royale 

Finally, you can’t visit Copper Harbor without taking the ferry ride to Isle Royale National Park. About 25,000 to 26,000 people visit the park each year, making it one of the least-visited parks in the country. But it’s not because it lacks beauty or intrigue. The remoteness of Isle Royale and the winter closure limits the number of visitors. It’s a destination of rugged wilderness and pristine beauty unaltered by urbanization or civilization.

View of Isle Royale National Park near Copper Harbor

How Long Is the Boat Ride from Copper Harbor to Isle Royale? 

The Isle Royale Queen IV passenger ferry transports visitors from Copper Harbor, Mich., to Isle Royale National Park. Lake Superior is the largest freshwater lake in the world, so traveling across it takes a few hours. Isle Royale National Park is only about 55 miles from Copper Harbor, but the ride takes around three hours. It’s heavily trafficked in the summer as it’s Michigan’s only national park.

The national park has no road signs, and visitors relish the rugged, natural wilderness. However, there is a small town at Rock Harbor where the ferry drops off passengers. You’ll find a lodge, marina, store, and other amenities.

How Many Days Do You Need in Copper Harbor?

If you visit Michigan for the summer, spend about a week around Copper Harbor. You’ll have time to explore the trails, visit the attractions, and take a ferry ride to Isle Royale. You’ll probably want at least two or three days to visit the national park.

But then you can enjoy the Brockway Mountain Drive and see the other attractions. Of course, if you want to spend more time in Copper Harbor, you’ll have plenty to do. Or you can simply relax and enjoy nature.

Keep in Mind: You need to add these Michigan National Parks to your bucket list! Let’s take a look!

Is Copper Harbor Worth Visiting? 

Michigan is one of the more popular summer destinations in the United States. The harsh winters keep the snowbirds and visitors away, but once warmer weather appears, Michigan comes alive. The Great Lakes area has stunning scenic beauty and endless outdoor recreation opportunities.

Make Copper Harbor a summer destination the next time you consider venturing north into the Wolverine State. Explore the trails, learn about maritime navigation and copper mining, and bask in the beauty of Isle Royale. Does Copper Harbor, Mich., sound like a place you’d like to visit?

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2 comments
  1. We were just there yesterday! Very beautiful place to visit. We toured the Fort then drove to Eagle Harbor. The road between Copper Harbor and Eagle Harbor has several pull offs to view the rugged coastline. We are staying in Baraga State Park so it was a nice day trip.

  2. You failed to mention Estevant Pines , Michigan’s largest stand of virgin white pines , this is a must see out of Copper Harbor.

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