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Copper Harbor,Keweenaw Peninsula,Michigan

How Far Can You Go?

There is no higher “Up North” than Copper Harbor – and it’s worth the trip

Extending out into the deep waters of Lake Superior at the very tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula sits Copper Harbor, the northernmost permanently populated community and northernmost point of mainland in the state of Michigan.

Here, snow falls 80 days out of the year between October and May, with annual accumulations averaging 22 feet.

Over 230 miles of pristine trails link riders to an additional 2,500+ miles through the Upper Peninsula.

It is a snowmobilers or ATV enthusiasts dream come true.

With seemingly endless incredible side loops and backcountry jaunts, no two rides are ever the same. And the unique and fun attractions, breathtaking views and cozy one-of-a-kind stops make it hard to narrow down what the next ride will be.

Here are just a couple examples of the many great excursions the Copper Harbor area has to offer.

Copper Harbor,Keweenaw Peninsula,Michigan

Take Trail #3 from Mohawk up and over Brockway Mountain. This beautiful route offers plenty of places to stop and stretch your legs. Enjoy a Vollwerth’s footlong hot dog grilled to perfection at The Cliff View Bar & Cabins, head further north and stop by The Phoenix General Store, a Copper Country landmark. The Phoenix General Store serves up ice-cold beverages and a wide variety of snack foods. Check out the old coolers, over a century old.

Trail #132 is a popular trail that treats you to spectacular overlooks of Lac La Belle. It’s arguably one of the best trails in terms of unparalleled views and beautiful terrain. While in Lac La Belle don’t forget to grab carry out at the  Bear Belly Bar & Grill. They have an amazing Steak Caesar Salad and delicious two-handed sandwiches.

Copper Harbor,Keweenaw Peninsula,Michigan

The Keweenaw snowmobile trail system is made up of state-owned and privately-owned trail segments.  It’s through many years of passion, dedication, perseverance and grueling hard work that Copper Harbor is able to offer world-class snowmobile and ORV experiences in the first place.

We spoke to Donnie Kauppi, owner of the Mariner North Resort and native Copper Harbor resident who’s been heavily involved with the trails for over forty years about the history, and how the trails came to be.

Copper Harbor,Keweenaw Peninsula,Michigan

In the early 70’s Copper Harbor’s major industry – copper mining – had been dead for some time, there was a population of 34 winter residents/136 summer, and the harbor needed a certified sewer system and a proper water drainage to survive. It was determined that the land and the trails the area had to offer – and promoting snowmobiling and snow – were the keys to injecting life into the economy. Proper trails would need to be built, well maintained and promoted to bring the tourism industry.

“It was certainly a nuts and bolts start. Much of the land did not have formalized trails it certainly wasn’t a connected trail system,” said Kauppi.

The state bought some of the land and three snowmobile clubs were organized.

“We literally didn’t even have stop signs for the trails – we had to go buy them,” Kauppi said with a laugh.

“Little by little we became more organized. We limped along. We organized fundraisers and events. We did everything we could.”

Copper Harbor,Keweenaw Peninsula,Michigan

In the early years the trails were maintained by state groomers who groomed twice a week. That was not the answer, so grooming was turned over to the clubs and Kauppi himself ran it out of the Mariner North.

Eventually the area received a grant and funds to integrate the drainage and water system, which Kauppi pitched in to build as well. Work on the trails and promoting the trails continued.

By the 90’s the area boasted a 235 mile trail system – the largest in the state of 68 systems. Eventually there was funding for groomers to be hired and more and more people came to ride and explore.

Copper Harbor,Keweenaw Peninsula,Michigan

Also in the 90’s the area adopted mountain biking and bike trails were created, which brought more adventurers and thrill-seekers in.

Five years ago for the first time in history, all of Copper Harbors businesses were open in May and people were now coming from all over.

“My son was working serving food, and called me and said, ‘dad you are not going to believe it – I just served five mountain bikers who came from Connecticut.’ This was a big deal. People were now coming from out of state,” said Kauppi.

Through constant stewardship, hard work, dedication and promotion, Copper Harbor is now a huge destination for snowmobiling, off-road riding and mountain biking.

Put this beautiful, unique, majestic town on your bucket list of riding destinations and see for yourself!

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