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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.