Top 10 Hard to Reach Copper Country Gems That Are Totally Worth It

Another edition of the Copper Country Top 10, and this time we concentrate less on industrial history and a bit more on natural history. The Keweenaw offers a plethora of great scenic landscape, but some take a bit more effort to enjoy. These are places that challenge those wishing to see them for themselves, taking adventurers into the most remote and inhospitable stretches of the peninsula. Long hikes, tough climbs, and long boring drives are just a few of the obstacles awaiting those wishing to experience these great finds for themselves. You’ve been warned.

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10. Bete Grise South

Hands down the best beach in the Keweenaw (spoiler alert for future top 10) is Bete Grise. But while spectacular Bete Grise’s popularity can sometime damper its charm, especially when throngs of people cover its white sands and a virtual parking lot of cars lines the neighboring roadway. Thankfully Bete Grise has a less known twin, sitting just to the south of man-made Mendota Canal cutting through the bay. Bete Grise South – as it is known – features the same great vistas, the same great sandy beaches, and the same great remote feeling as its northern sibling but without the crowds, the noise, or the calamity. The only drawback is getting to it is not nearly as convenient, requiring a short hike through the woods and when the water is high (as it is now) some wading through shallow water to reach it.

DIRECTIONS: From Lac La Belle follow the Gay-Lac La Belle Road south for 6 and a quarter miles. The trailhead will be on the left. Follow it over and alongside a small stream until the lake can be seen. With high water the trail will abruptly end at the lakeshore, requiring a wade along the shallow waters until the beach proper can be accessed. 

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9. White City

Sitting at the extreme east end of the Keweenaw Waterway, this remote piece of land was once home to one of the region’s largest amusement parks, complete with a small roller coaster. Its remote setting required boats to bring patrons, but today only a long drive along miles of featureless landscape will get you there. The largely boring trip is worth it, however, once you arrive to the old resort’s sprawling white sand beach nestled at the base of the south entry breakwater. The view across Keweenaw Bay is awe inspiring, featuring the lush green Abaye Peninsula sprawled out to the horizon and the soft silhouette of the soaring Huron Mountains far in the distance. The highlight is breakwater itself, a large concrete pier that sprints a half mile out into the bay capped by a wonderfully art-deco inspired light house.

DIRECTIONS: From Lake Linden, take Bootjack Road east out of town. Follow this road for 7.5 miles until arriving at the Dreamland Bar, and then turn left onto Upper Dreamland Road. Follow this road an additional 8.5 miles until you arrive at a “T” junction. Turn right and follow this road past the “seasonal road” sign until it ends. The beach and park will be straight ahead.

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8. Copper Falls Sands

While the Gay Sands may be a must-see attraction, these older mill tailings are just as impressive but require a more laborious journey to find. With no lake to fill, the old Copper Falls Mill simple dumped its tailings into the marshy landscape found at the base of Petherick Hill.  Those tailings were extensive, and today those marshes are largely gone and in their place is what looks to be an oasis of desert in the center of a sprawling forest. Its a jarring juxtaposition that is also quite the sight to behold, especially from the high perch of the old mill site itself from where the sands seem to be devouring the lush green forest around it.

DIRECTIONS: The Copper Falls sands are located deep within the wetlands west of Eagle Harbor. From along M26 in Eagle Harbor follow the highway around the corner until you reach the beach. Continue until the highway makes a sharp turn to the left and instead turn right onto Pine Street. Continue along the road for about 2 miles until it makes a sharp turn up the hill to the left. The sands will be on the right, down a short hill.

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7. Carp Mill

Abandoned deep within the Porcupine Mountains lies a collection of wonderfully preserved Victorian age machinery that was once part of the Carp Mine’s small stamp mill. Finding the rusting iron machines are like stumbling across some long lost plane crash site – a time portal into a forgotten age. A pair of boilers, an old steam engine, and the remains of several Cornish style stamps lie in exposed and naked for anyone to find and explore. But there’s a reason these pieces remain and the scrappers never removed them, getting to the site requires a laborious hike up a mountain and down its other side deep into a neighboring valley.

DIRECTIONS: The Carp Mill sits along the Carp River just down the hill from the road to the escarpment in Porcupine Mountains State Park. Follow the road to the Lake of the Clouds overlook for several miles until massing a picnic area and old mine adit leading to the Mead Mine. Just past that there will be a trail head on the left. Take this to the Escarpment trail and head east,  which point you will see ruins and what looks to be an old mine entrance off in the woods to the right (south). Follow the trail that heads down the hill from there, the mill remains will be at the base of the mountain near the river.

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6. Quincy Gorge

The awe-inspiring landscape found along the Hungarian Gorge and the Douglass-Houghton falls are well known to most Copper Country visitors, but the rugged escarpment found along Torch Lake’s western shore is home to dozens of similarly impressive rocky gorges that are not so well traveled. One of the more incredible can be found behind the old Quincy Mill complex, framing the rather inconspicuous waters of Quincy Creek.  The creek itself is rather uninspired, but the gorge though which its diminutive waters travel is something else entirely. Lined by soaring cliffs and basked in an enchanted green glow, the cathedral-like gorge is punctuated by the remains of an old dam over which the creek topples in an unnamed waterfall.  Its all an incredible site, especially from the gorge’s deep depths.

DIRECTIONS: Quincy Gorge sits up the hill from the Quincy Mills along tM26 just north of Mason. From Hancock follow M26 towards Lake Linden for six miles until you pass Mason. The first mill will be right along the road to the left. Just before that mill there is an old two-track on the left, follow that road on foot up the hill to the old Copper Range right of way (now a snowmobile trail). The trial will cross the gorge just north of the mill ruins. 

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5. Bare Bluff

Easily the hardest to reach of all our hard to reach places, Bare Bluff stands miles from any semblance of civilization and is reached only after a steep and strenuous mile and a half hike. Yet the final destination provides a stunning view from atop an exposed outcropping some 300 feet above the surrounding landscape – and what a landscape it is. The serpentine shoreline of the peninsula stretches out far ahead of you, covered by a thick blanket of lush foliage. A rugged and rocky shore gives way to the lake itself, which heads out to the horizon in all its sparkling blue magnificence. The brilliant white beaches of Bete Grise outline the rest of the peninsula’s shoreline to the south.

DIRECTIONS: From Lac La Belle, turn left onto Bete Grise Road and follow it for three miles. Just before the road makes a large curve to the right, turn left onto a dirt road and immediately make a right onto a road marked “private” (Smith Fisheries Road). Follow this road for 2.5 miles until the road makes a split. Take the right fork and you’ll almost immediately come to the trailhead, marked by a sign.

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4. Cliff Lookout

Most visitors to the region have already stared in awe at the soaring rocky outcroppings of the Cliff Range, several hundred feet of sheer rock face rising high up above the surrounding forest. Yet a more spectacular view is yet to be had for those willing to work for it, from an incredible vantage point up along the cliff’s highest point. There a rocky outcropping brings adventurers out over the edge of the cliffs themselves, and provides an unobstructed 180º view out across the surrounding landscape sprawled several hundred feet below them.

DIRECTIONS: The Cliff Lookout sits along the top of the Cliff Range just before the old mine site. After leaving Ahmeek along US41 turn left onto Cliff Drive. Follow Cliff Drive for 5 miles until you see an old logging road to the left. Take this road up the hill for about a mile, taking each right turn as you reach them. The lookout will be up a short bluff at the end of the trail.

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3. High Rock Bay

The most remote location on our list, this popular camping spot sits literally at the end end of the road – as far east as you can go within the Keweenaw itself. From its far-flung location can be seen Manitou Island and the ghostly outline of Gull Rock lighthouse sitting all alone and unprotected atop its sliver of rocky outcropping. While the view is impressive, the bay itself is the true star of the show. An extended outcropping of  bulbous conglomerate rock lines the bay, rising several dozen feet up from the turbulent waters (thus the “High Rock” moniker). Atop the rocks is a cleared plateau that makes for a perfect perch from which to take in the natural wonders surrounding it.

DIRECTIONS: From Copper Harbor follow US41 north to its terminus. Continue straight onto Upper Mandan Loop Road and follow the dirt road for another 4.5 miles. Turn left onto High Rock Bay Road and continue for 2.3 miles until arriving at a fork in the road. High Rock Bay is a half mile down the right fork.

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2. Mt. Baldy

Brockway Mountain provides some of the peninsula’s greatest scenic vistas, but with little to no effort needed to enjoy those views the results can be somewhat unfulfilling. Luckily similar – if not better -views can be obtained just down the road along neighboring Mount Baldy, its just takes a bit more effort to obtain them. That effort takes the form of a rather exhaustive three mile hike which takes adventurers nearly 700 feet above the surrounding countryside. Steep and long, the hike’s payoff comes when one finally reaches the sprawling peek swept clean of any foliage or trees that could ruin the view. What a view the is too, providing an almost unobstructed 360º all across the peninsula’s lush landscape and the gleaming waters of Lake Superior next door. Brockway Mountain itself is visible to the north – its top littered with cars of onlookers. Atop Mt. Baldy its just you and the incredible view.

DIRECTIONS: From along M26 in Eagle Harbor continue straight south onto Eagle Harbor Cut-Off Road instead of making the left turn to follow the highway out of town. Continue along this road for just a quarter mile. The two-track to the trailhead will be on the left, marked by a large sign. Drive down this short section of dirt track to the trailhead. No camping, fires, or mechanized vehicles are allowed in the preserve.

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1. Horseshoe Harbor

The conglomerate outcroppings found along the Keweenaw’s northern shore provide for some incredibly scenic landscapes, the bare rocks scattered along the shore and half submerged in the lake itself. No where are these outcroppings as impressive and awe inspiring as they are within the narrow confines of Horseshoe Harbor. Remote and difficult to reach, the protected harbor sits several miles west of Copper Harbor accessible only after a hike along a rather steep and rugged trail. Once there the harbor’s true brilliance isn’t readily apparent, as it presents initially as only a pebble strewn cove bordered on one end by a high rocky outcropping.  Yet its that high rock outcropping that steals the show – as it extends several hundred feet along the shore and is soon joined by several parallel lines of similar outcroppings. The result is a maze of waterways, coves, and inlets boarded by soaring conglomerate outcroppings peppered with small caves and tunnels. Exploring this odd landscape is like exploring some alien planet with surprises and wonders around each corner.

DIRECTIONS: From Copper Harbor, follow US41 east to its terminus (about 2.5 miles). From there continue on the seasonal Mandan Road for another mile until you come across a narrow two-track branching off to the left. Turn onto the two-track and follow it for another mile until you come to the marked trailhead and small parking area on the right. The trail to the lakeshore is on the left.

Discuss…

  1. some good ones in here i havent been to yet

  2. Ok, Mike… Make me cross-eyed crazy and start planning road trips before the snow flies!

  3. Bare bluff looks like a place I could just sit for hours with a notebook and pen, listening, watching, not thinking of much anything at all :). These are all fantastic though!

  4. I like the remote ones.Remember the Carp Lake boilers being a little bit of a challenge to find but I was surrounded by the most blood thirsty mosquito’s I’ve ever come across.

  5. I’m not sure how I feel about you sharing some of these places with the entire world, but I will say that there’s evidently more than one Mount Baldy in Copper Country. At first I thought you were talking about the one where I live, but you weren’t. My husband bear hunts by the old Carp Mill. It’s quite a hike, one of those “up hill both ways” deals, and considerably less strenuous when you’re not lugging a bear out.

  6. Naomi…

    You’re not the only person to question my sharing this information with the world (though to be fair my readership isn’t nearly that large, but I appreciate the optimism) and your concerns of these special places being overrun by the masses is understandable. Yet from my point of view these special places don’t belong to just one group of people, but instead belong to all people. Every spot on this list lies on land owned either by a government entity or are open to the public as a privately owned preserve or sanctuary. Their purpose is to be enjoyed, and I’m only trying to help other people enjoy them like I and you have.

    As far as Mt. Baldy, the one I list is not actually that mountain’s official title, though that’s the name of the preserve which sits atop of it. The mountain’s official name is Mount Lookout, but local people have always called it Mount Baldy. I suspect the Mt. Baldy you know gets its name similarly, as its just what local people call it. Either way I probably should have labeled where it was in its title like I did last time.

  7. White City is also very easily reachable by water from the North Entry launch just before Chassell. It’s literally a 5 minute boat or jet ski trip up the waterway to the breakwall once you launch. Beats the heck out of that long drive you mentioned :)

  8. Its nice to share. There are those that would never see these if it were not for pictures. Thank you.

  9. New places to explore definitely have to come back soon.

  10. Mike, might you or any of your readers know with certainty just exactly how the Copper Falls stampsands were deposited over what I would guess might cover maybe a 100 acres, and average perhaps 8-10 ft. deep? Long time ago someone with unverified “credentials” told me all that sand from the mill’s stamps had been sluiced or laundered from the mill to vast numbers of sandpiles, and at ever-increasing distances from the mill. Then time and weather flattened and spread the piles to what is seen today. Sounds like a monumental and laborious task over 50-some years if it occurred as such. Today it would take dumptrucks and bulldozers and earthmovers ! So, anyone know for sure?

  11. the original mine way up on top of the hill was closed due to too much water filling it up (costly) later they hired petherick to solve the problems. he had them drill horozontaly to let water out naturaly and drilled more shafts near there, then with natural springs and runoff from the old mine shafts put in a stamp mill at the overlook area of said stampsands to the N/E is a grade to get down there seems to be where a machine shop area was. this was bought-up several years back with the owner wanting to build a castle back there out of the sand, time will tell!

  12. Mike G — you’re basically right. Sluices are comparatively easy to build and move. In addition, that whole area was low-lying swampland before it was filled in. As the sands filled in the swamp around Owl creek, Copper Falls mine (and its successors) would just build a slightly longer sluice, or move one around a bit, or build a new higher on up on some let. Either way, that would dump the sands into a new bit of the swamp that was slightly farther away.

    I would expect that the sands were more or less flat when they were deposited, not in piles. The sluices would deposit sands up to whatever the height of the sluice itself was, leaving everything flat at that level.

    It also helped that the sluices were coming down from the level of the mill (which was a bit up on Petherick hill), so it would be easy to let gravity do the work of moving sands with help from flowing water.

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